March 22, 2007
Carona puts the brakes on toll road moratorium

Well, this is a surprise.

The chairman of the Senate's transportation panel, despite being one of more than 125 legislators co-sponsoring legislation to shelve private toll road contracts for two years, said Wednesday he won't give the measure a vote in his committee.

"I don't intend to move it," said Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, chairman of the Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee. Carona has repeatedly criticized Texas Department of Transportation policy and officials in recent months and is among 25 Senate co-sponsors of SB 1267, the moratorium bill by state Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville.

Carona is trying to work out a large compromise transportation bill with toll policy supporters and has struck a more conciliatory tone in recent days. Carona aide Steven Polunsky said that although Carona thinks that some sort of controls on private toll road contracts are in order, a two-year freeze might remove the only option available to get some badly needed road projects done.

Carona and his committee, which includes Nichols, spent most of Wednesday afternoon listening to -- and sometimes debating with -- local elected officials from the Dallas-Fort Worth area concerned that a moratorium on such toll road arrangements might delay by several years road work nearly ready to begin.

"To put a moratorium on these projects is like a stake in the heart for many of us," said Tarrant County Commissioner Gary Fickes. "We feel we're going to be very, very damaged."

Sen. Carona has been one of the most vocal proponents of reining in TxDOT this session, so to say the least this turnaround is stunning. I can sympathize with the concerns from Dallas and Tarrant Counties, but isn't that what amendments are for? When more than two thirds of the Lege agrees on something, it usually manages to get done. I really don't understand what Carona is thinking. The fact that his story has changed as well as his position makes it all the more suspicious. Eye on Williamson, Corridor Watch, and Sal Costello have more.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on March 22, 2007 to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles