June 06, 2005
Attorney General says no toll roads secrets

This is a victory for transparency.

The Texas Attorney General's Office agrees with the Chronicle that citizens have a right to know how a private development group plans to build and finance a toll road from Dallas to San Antonio.

On March 11, the Texas Department of Transportation and the consortium Cintra-Zachry signed a comprehensive development agreement for TTC-35, the first leg of the Trans-Texas Corridor. Eventually, the route could extend from Oklahoma to Mexico and include rail, utilities and other facilities.

The pact was signed with a good bit of fanfare, and except for two key parts it was made public. (See it at www.keeptexasmoving.org.) But TxDOT withheld the financial and development plans, saying they contained proprietary information.

Officials said releasing these details could harm Cintra-Zachry competitively and discourage companies who might seek to develop other legs of the corridor, such as TTC/I-69, proposed to run from Texarkana to Mexico past Houston.

The attorney general's opinion says TxDOT failed to show how revealing the plans would cause harm. It also says that because the agreement has been signed, the deal being negotiated is no longer protected by law from disclosure.

TxDOT and Cintra-Zachry may sue to overturn the ruling. Both are reviewing the ruling but have not decided what action to take, spokespersons said.

Good on the Chron for pursuing this, and good on AG Greg Abbott for making the right call. This is exactly the sort of thing that Corridor critics have been worried about. It's a lot easier to tell when fully public projects exceed cost estimates or otherwise don't meet their projections. We need the same sort of openness from the private firms who will be doing this kind of construction.

You can find the full AG's opinion at CorridorWatch.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on June 06, 2005 to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles | TrackBack