Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

Joe Pickett

We got those bad road blues

So many bad roads, so little funding to maintain them.

Issues including traffic congestion, damage to vehicles from roads needing repair and costs incurred in accidents caused by insufficient safety features on roadways cost drivers in Texas $23 billion annually, according to a study released Tuesday by a national transportation research group.

“Texas has fallen behind in relieving traffic congestion on its major roadways and maintaining pavement conditions on these roads,” said Frank Moretti, director of Policy and Research at TRIP, the group that conducted the study.

The study suggests the condition of Texas roads could be costing individual motorists as much as $2,000 a year.

It also says the condition of Texas roads will worsen without increased funding, a difficult prospect given the state’s budget challenges.

[…]

Lawrence Olsen, executive vice president of Texas Good Roads, an advocacy group that wasn’t affiliated with the TRIP study, said the costs of improving roadways is just the tip of the iceberg. Olsen warned of a “looming fiscal cliff” coming for statewide transportation projects. According to Olsen, many of these are funded by bond proceeds or other short-term funding sources. “Very few of these projects are funded out of pure highway funds,” which Olsen said are not adequate at current levels to maintain road quality, let alone take on new projects.

Olsen noted major revenue sources for the highway fund haven’t been update to reflect increased road usage. Olsen cited the vehicle registration fee, which was last increased in 1985, and the motor fuels tax, which was saw its last bump in 1991.

In a statement released Tuesday, the Texas Association of Business said it would push for a $50 increase in the fee motorists pay to register a vehicle in Texas during the upcoming legislative session. It suggests the revenues raised by this increase could be leveraged to raise $16 billion in bonds for road improvements.

The study is here. You would think if there’s a consensus to spend money on one thing in Texas it’d be roads. That Lyceum poll, crappy as it was as electoral information, did find that people were willing to have their taxes increased for things like education and water infrastructure, but alas it didn’t ask about the much-maligned gas tax. I’m willing to bet there’d be a solid majority in favor of raising it, but good luck finding enough legislators despite the support from Senate Transportation Committee Chair John Carona and then-House Transportation Committee Chair Joe Pickett. We can borrow money to pay for roads, but we can’t fix the badly underfunded revenue source for them, even though we’re all paying for the bad and congested roads we do have indirectly. Go figure.

By the way, we have no money for roads

Just another issue we won’t be dealing with this session.

During the next 20 years, the Texas Department of Transportation will need $315 billion to spend on the state’s roads and freeways for maintenance and construction just to keep traffic from getting worse, according to a report commissioned by the Texas Transportation Commission.

The gasoline tax, federal dollars and other fees, which provide almost all of TxDOT’s road funding, are expected to generate only about $160 billion during that same time.

The Center for Transportation Research at the University of Texas predicts that the lack of money for road construction and repair will lead to a significant deterioration of Texas’ roads — by 2025, only 21 percent of Texas’ roads will be in good or better condition.

This issue, however, is not likely to get much attention during the current legislative session.

“There’s not going to be a lot focus on transportation because of the budget crisis, which has really no effect with TxDOT,” said Rep. Joe Pickett, D-El Paso, a former chairman of the House Transportation Committee.

I don’t know if that’s the same study from a few years ago that I criticized a few times for overstating the need – at the time, it was a pretty transparent ploy to generate leverage for Governor Perry’s various privatized toll road schemes – but it doesn’t really matter. No one will argue that there is a need for more transportation funds, even if we argue over how big the gap is. And the two obvious solutions – raising the gas tax and indexing it to inflation, and allowing for local options on taxation for transportation funding – aren’t going anywhere this session. We’ll just kick the can down the road a little more, and hope it doesn’t get lost in a pothole.

On the road to nowhere

Use your own favorite cliche for this.

Texas soon will be shelling out more per year to pay back money it borrowed for road construction than it spends from its quickly vanishing pile of cash to build new highways.

Legislative leaders characterize the state’s transportation funding as a crisis. Most Texans, they say, are unaware of its severity and must be educated before the state can find new ways to finance new roads.

The gasoline tax pays for road maintenance and construction but has not increased in 20 years. Gas tax revenue peaked in 2008 and likely will decline as vehicles become more fuel-efficient.

“It’s not a crisis until everybody agrees that it’s a crisis. Right now, people who don’t understand it are saying, ‘You’re crying wolf,'” said House Transportation Committee Chairman Joe Pickett, D-El Paso. “Yes, it’s a crisis.”

Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee Chairman Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, agrees.

“The gravity of the situation is that in the absence of further action by the Legislature this session, we will literally be out of money for new construction in 2012 in the fastest-growing state in the country and in one of the largest states in the country,” he said. “We need to begin to have a discussion about it.”

[…]

State lawmakers still have $3 billion left to authorize from a $5 billion road bond issue approved by Texas voters in 2007. Williams said he will push for that in the coming months.

The state began borrowing money in 2003 to pay for roads and now owes $11.9 billion. It will cost more than $21 billion to repay those bonds, Pickett said.

“We are trying to warn people,” Pickett said, “Is this the way you really want to go? If you could get everybody around the table and put politics aside, common sense would say the conservative thing to do would be to limit borrowing capacity and put more cash in.”

Naturally, an increase to the gas tax is off the table, because it might actually help solve the problem. And if someone would like to explain to me why issuing bonds like this is not the same as deficit spending, I’m all ears. To be clear, I’m not against spending borrowed money on infrastructure. It’s just that I don’t see why we need to be borrowing money, which will need to be paid back with interest, when we have a less expensive alternative available to us. Clearly, I just don’t get it.

By the way, while it is true that these funds are separate from general revenue and thus not directly related to the budget shortfall, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a connection. There are no enterprise funds at the state level that don’t get raided for other purposes. The gas tax is also used to fund the Department of Public Safety, and a portion of it is taken off the top for education. There’s been talk for awhile about doing something to stop all these redirections and have the gas tax be used fully for transportation, but doing so would then add to the shortfall. One way or another, it all comes back to a lack of revenue. PDiddie has more.

Raising the gas tax

This is long overdue.

Members of the Texas Senate’s Transportation Committee said Tuesday that an increase in the 20-cents-per-gallon state fuel tax may be necessary to overcome a drastic shortage of money for new roads.

“We are in the critical position in this state where we are growing and will need more roads. But we have no money to build them and no more debt that we can issue,” the committee’s chairman, Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, said during a meeting in El Paso.

“The fuel tax has been the same since 1991, and that’s frankly one of the best solutions to the funding shortage we have in our hands.”

[…]

“For 20 years, the fuel tax has been the same no matter what. The state is not making a killing on the higher gas prices,” said [State Rep. Joe] Pickett, who chairs the House Transportation Committee. “No matter how much each gallon costs, we still get just 20 cents. That’s why things need to change.”

Pickett said bipartisan support exists for the tax increase, and that could make a campaign to pass it in the Legislature smoother.

I’ve talked about this a lot before, and it’s really simple. If we want TxDOT to be able to meet the state’s transportation needs – building new roads, maintaining existing ones, and now doing some non-road things like high-speed rail, it needs to have a funding source that keeps up with inflation and the growth of the state’s population. A tax that hasn’t increased in 18 years isn’t cutting it, and a statewide network of private toll roads was a lousy alternate solution that has finally died a justifiable death. This is what’s left. I will have a lot more faith in that “bipartisan support” that Pickett speaks of if we have a different Governor in office the next time the Lege meets – Hank Gilbert has explicitly called for a gas tax increase plus an indexing of the tax to inflation to cover our transportation needs, while Tom Schieffer and even KBH would be better on the issue than Rick Perry. It’s a simple choice – do we want to pay for the things we need or not? – but getting there isn’t nearly so simple. Click on for a statement from Hank Gilbert that shows some of that bipartisan support we can hope is still there in fourteen months’ time.

(more…)

Special session starts tomorrow

The special session everyone knew was coming to address the disposition of several state agencies begins tomorrow. So far, at least, the agenda hasn’t changed from the original call.

Gov. Rick Perry is being pressed to add issues ranging from children’s health care to voter identification to the agenda of the special session that begins Wednesday, but his answer is still no.

Perry, a Republican, made clear when he called the session last week that he wants lawmakers to take just a few days to complete must-do business left undone in the regular session, then be gone.

He hasn’t changed his mind, spokeswoman Katherine Cesinger said Monday: “The governor has already announced what will be addressed during the special session and at this time doesn’t have any intentions to expand the call.”

“At this time” certainly leaves wiggle room for him. There have been plenty of other bills filed for the session in the event the Governor uses that wiggle room, including a CHIP expansion provision that already has majority support in the House. Unfortunately, what it doesn’t have is Perry’s support, so I wouldn’t hold my breath. As for voter ID, the best assurance we’ve got right now is this sentiment:

Rep. Betty Brown, R-Athens, said she has asked Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and House Speaker Joe Straus for a commitment to address voter ID in the special session.

Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, said he hasn’t – and won’t – ask Perry to add the issue: “I want to get in here and get it over with and get back home.”

Amen to that. House Speaker Joe Straus has a vision for how that will happen.

[Monday], three House bills [were] pre-filed that correspond to Gov. Rick Perry’s agenda: The Sunset scheduling bill for the transportation, insurance, racing and two smaller agencies; authorization of $2 billion in transportation bonds and creation of the Texas Transportation Revolving Fund, and extension of comprehensive development agreements to build roads.

On Wednesday, the Legislature will convene at 10 a.m. Those House bills will promptly be assigned to three House committees — Appropriations, State Affairs and Transportation— for the required public hearings.

On Thursday, the House is expected to have its first calendar for consideration. Committees are expected to have approved the bills the previous day, if everything goes on schedule.

On Friday, “if it is the will of the members to do so, we will conclude our business.”

According to the Straus memo, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, will author the transportation bond bill; state Rep. Carl Isett, R-Lubbock, chairman of the Sunset Advisory Bill, will carry the Sunset bill, and Transportation Committee Chairman Joe Pickett, D-El Paso, will carry the so-called CDA bill.

To expedite the three-day express schedule, a special briefing for House members and their staffs will be held at 1:30 Tuesday in the Capitol Auditorium to answer questions about the bills.

The question is what happens if one item on the call doesn’t get swift approval?

arried a bill that would have extended by six years the legal authority for TxDOT and regional mobility authorities to sign what have usually been 50-year contracts with private companies to build and operate (and profit from) tollways on public land. Authority for such leases expires Sept. 1.

The general understanding was that the legislation’s final passage was dependent on approval of a separate bill by state Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, that would put limits on such contracts. Both bills passed the House and Senate, either with their original bill numbers or as part of the main TxDOT bill that died late in the session.

The question is, will that linkage still be the case in the special session? Nichols said Monday that it had better be, or the toll road item could end up in the ditch.

“I feel very strongly about it, and so do many” other senators, Nichols said.

Carona said Monday that he could see eliminating at least some of what Nichols had in mind if a toll road lease extension were passed that applied to only a handful of projects for which officials have already decided who — TxDOT or local toll authorities — will be in charge of the projects. That list reportedly includes extending the Texas 130 tollway north from Georgetown to Hillsboro, building the new Interstate 69 from south of Refugio to the Rio Grande Valley and adding toll lanes in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

However, even in those cases, Carona said, “you’d have to have at least put some protections in there.”

[…]

So, what would Perry do if something close to [Nichols’ bill] were attached to the extension legislation in the special session? Some officials said that such an amendment could be determined to be outside the scope of Perry’s call. Nichols disagrees with that.

Perry spokeswoman Katherine Cesinger said Perry’s staff is talking with Nichols’ office to discuss his concerns.

Carona said, “One source in the governor’s office indicated that any bill that contained the Nichols language would be vetoed. Another said that’s not necessarily so.”

Yes, well, we know how good Perry’s staff is at communicating the Governor’s intentions in these matters. I feel reassured, don’t you?

Budget heads to the Governor

In the end, thanks in large part to the stimulus package and its infusion of funds that prevented the need to dip into the Rainy Day Fund, the budget process was relatively uncontroversial. Yesterday, it was passed by the House, and is now on its way to Governor Perry’s desk.

With just three days left in the 81st Texas Legislature, the only thing certain was the state’s $182.3 billion budget, which, among other things, increases spending for the mentally disabled, correctional officer salaries, college financial aid and pre-kindergarten programs. Most of the money, which includes $12.1 billion in federal economic stimulus dollars, is dedicated to education and health care.

The vote in the House was 142-2, after unanimous passage in the Senate. Perry is certain to do some line-item vetoing, if only to remind us that he can. Odds are he’ll pick something that no one will see coming. We’ll know soon enough.

Of greater interest at this time is the handful of bills that are still struggling to stay alive.

The House kept the debate on windstorm insurance reform alive by agreeing to seek a compromise on the bill in a joint conference committee. Perry has told lawmakers he will call a special session if the windstorm insurance reform does not pass.

At issue is how to keep solvent the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association, which provides insurance for homeowners who cannot find private coverage — without pushing insurance rates up. Hurricanes Ike and Dolly busted the association with an unexpected $2 billion in payouts.

Rep. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood said they hope to reach a settlement so as “not to have a special session.”

Here’s the conference committee information. They have till midnight tonight to work it out, get a bill printed, and distribute it to members. Tall order, but doable.

Also Friday, Sen. Kip Averitt, R-Waco, said he was still trying to revive the Children’s Health Insurance Program. An effort earlier this week to piggyback CHIP on a bill for newborn disease screening did not comply with House rules that subjects be “germane.”

Although a coalition representing 70 groups called on legislative leaders to “take all necessary means” to pass the bill, the prospect is dim.

Apparently, the measure to which the CHIP bill had been attached as an amendment, which had originally been sent back by the House because author Paula Pierson didn’t think it would concur, has now been approved for a conference committee, but that’s to remove the CHIP amendment so the original bill, having to do with newborn screening, can pass. There’s still the original House CHIP bill by Rep. Garnet Coleman, which hasn’t been approved by the Senate but still could if they agree to suspend the rules to bring it up. I’m not holding my breath on that one. The Chron editorializes today in favor of taking action, while Rick Casey took Lt. Gov. Dewhurst and Sen. Steve Ogden to task for not getting this right the first time.

Disputes also were holding up a bill to renew the life of the Texas Department of Transportation for another two years. Portions of the bill call for a local option gas tax, supported by business leaders and elected officials from North Texas and San Antonio.

In Harris County, officials are keeping an eye on a provision that could limit or ban new cameras being placed at intersections to catch red-light runners.

That one could get ugly. Rep. Joe Pickett has called out lobbyists who are agitating over the local-option tax, which has both strong support and strong opposition. More from McBlogger and EoW, both of whom are in the latter camp. On a tangential note, the Chron rails against the attempt by the state to meddle in local affairs regarding red light cameras.

Finally, one bit of bad news.

At the stroke of midnight on Friday, House Bill 1243 turned into a pumpkin and a fairy godmother was nowhere to be found to save it or the electric cooperative measure attached to it.

Provisions to improve accountability in the electric cooperatives, including Pedernales Electric Cooperative, had been tacked on to the bill in the Senate. And Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, challenged whether that amendment and others belonged on the bill.

A lengthy confab at the dais followed by a postponement delayed a vote on whether to send the bill to a conference committee, called for by Turner, until shortly before midnight. That vote failed 48 to 90.

But by the time Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Alpine, stepped to the microphone to save the bill, it was too late.

Another half-hour of parliamentary hand-wringing ensued. But, in the end, the glass slipper didn’t fit.

That unfortunately means that SB545, the solar bill, is dead as well. Major bummer about that.

Anti-Metro amendment officially dead

Good.

State lawmakers today voted unanimously to kill a provision that could have complicated the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s light-rail plans.

The House removed language from a local transportation bill for Austin that would have put limits on Metro’s authority to acquire property through condemnation.

Rep. Joe Pickett, D-El Paso, quietly placed the provision in the bill, apparently at the request of rail critics who contend that a 2003 referendum didn’t specify that a portion of the planned University Line would run on Richmond rather solely on Westpark.

Technically, it was one critic, though as has been suggested to me I’m sure there were others behind him. Way to operate in the daylight, y’all. But then that’s been the hallmark of rail opponents around here, going back to Texans for True Mobility in the 2003 referendum, and no doubt much farther than that. No surprise there at all.

Would-be Metro killer outs himself

I had wondered who was behind that anti-Metro amendment from the weekend. Now I know.

A local light rail opponent claimed credit Tuesday for working with an El Paso legislator to try to block Metro’s ability to build the University Line along Richmond Avenue.

Don Hooper, who owns property along the thoroughfare, said he persuaded Democratic state Rep. Joe Pickett to amend a bill involving Austin’s transit agency last week.

The amendment would prevent Houston’s Metropolitan Transit Authority from using condemnation powers to acquire land needed for the proposed line running from the University of Houston through downtown to near Westpark and U.S. 59.

Pickett, who chairs the House Transportation Committee, did not return calls for comment Tuesday. But other legislators and Metro officials confirmed that the amendment — which now looks unlikely to pass — would have posed a big threat to Metro’s plans for four new lines.

[…]

Houston-area lawmakers and Metro lobbyists worked over the weekend to block the amendment.

State Rep. Ellen Cohen, D-Houston, said Tuesday that Pickett had agreed to pull his amendment, which had been attached to a bill allowing Austin’s transit agency to hire officers to catch fare evaders.

By late Tuesday, the bill still contained Pickett’s amendment, but it hadn’t been placed on the local and consent calendar — a crucial step in getting the bill to a floor vote. As a backup, the part affecting Austin was added to a separate Texas Department of Transportation measure, so if the bill fails Austin’s agency can still hire fare enforcement officers.

I reported that on Monday. SB1263 is on the Local, Consent, and Resolutions calendar for today. The bill text still has the offending amendment in it, but that likely doesn’t mean anything at this point. Still, vigilance is called for, so keep making those phone calls.

So what we had here was one dude laying a bunch of baloney on a legislator from outside Houston who didn’t know any better, and in the process nearly sinking a huge project that had been approved by the voters. I suppose the fact that it won’t happen should be a sign that the system works, but that’s pretty cold comfort. And in the irony department, a Metro Solutions News Flash that touted the Saturday days of wine and roses editorial hit my inbox yesterday afternoon, with nary a mention of Hooper’s assassination attempt. Way to communicate, guys! Though I suppose there are days when the head-in-the-sand approach has its merits. The idea is that if you do that, whatever’s bothering you will go away, right? Maybe they’re onto something after all.

Anti-Metro amendment removed

I’m pleased to report that the anti-Metro amendment that was in SB1263 has been removed. I am told that Rep. Ellen Cohen discussed the matter with Rep. Pickett, who agreed to remove the Houston-specific language. This is great news, not just for the fate of the Universities line, but as Christof notes, for the rest of the system:

Item (1) [of the original amendment] does not actually apply to the University Line, since there was no route set for the University Line before the referendum. But it does apply to the North Line (which was shifted from Irvington to Fulton at the request of neighborhood groups) and the Southeast Line (which was shifted from Scott to MLK, again at neighborhood request.)

Item (2) applies to every single one of the lines. METRO’s ballot named lines and described end points; it did not call out every street a line would run on. It was not required to, and METRO had not yet done studies on all of the lines.

So this legislation would [have stopped] all property acquisition on all 5 new lines immediately.

Fortunately, that is no longer the case, and for that I thank Rep. Cohen for taking the lead and to Rep. Pickett for listening to reason. (The text of SB1263 has not been updated on the Texas Legislature Online site, but I have been assured that the offending will be removed.) What this shows to me – again! – is that there’s never been a difference between the anti-rail-on-Richmond forces and the opposition to the 2003 referendum. The only constituency that could credibly claim to be anti-Richmond-but-pro-Westpark, and only interested in that, were the people in Afton Oaks, and they got what they wanted. Everyone else involved in this has been dedicated to doing whatever it takes to stop rail in Houston. The will of the people doesn’t matter to them. Clearly, we can’t rest easy till everything has been built.

Anyway. Even without Rep. Pickett’s change of stance, it’s possible this bill won’t make it onto the calendar before tomorrow’s deadline for the House to approve Senate bills, so one way or another this crisis will be averted. I’d still like to know who it was that got to Rep. Pickett and filled him full of lies, but I suppose we never will learn their identities. I do plan to hold this incident up as a shining example of the anti-Metro forces’ hypocrisy the next time I see someone complain about the agency acting in a secretive manner. I’m sure it won’t be long before that happens.

Westpark zealots try to pull a fast one

Just yesterday, the Chron wrote an editorial about how everything was coming up roses and daffodils for Metro lately, thanks to some federal funding (with more in the pipeline) for the light rail expansion and a generally favorable political climate. So naturally, what do we see today but this article about a sneak attack in the Lege on the Universities line.

The proposal, which still faces an uphill battle in the final days of the legislative session, was quietly attached last week to a loosely related bill by House lawmakers.

“It effectively kills the light rail program,” said George Smalley, Metro’s vice president for communications and marketing.

The new restrictions, if enacted, would limit the agency’s eminent domain authority, needed to buy property for the rail lines, if a route differs from the 2003 referendum that authorized the light rail program.

The restrictions mirror the rhetoric of rail critics, who say the location of the controversial University Line down Richmond and Westpark doesn’t conform to the referendum.

“If you lose a line like the University Line because you lost the power of condemnation, then the whole thing is at grave risk,” Smalley said.

[…]

State Rep. Joe Pickett, who chairs the House Transportation Committee, said he added the new restrictions at the request of rail critics by amending another bill, which regulated fare enforcement by mass transit agencies.

The El Paso Democrat said they convinced him that the transit agency hadn’t complied with the referendum. He said he hadn’t talked with the agency, though, before adding the language.

At issue is whether it’s lawful to build a line partially on Richmond when the ballot described it as being on Westpark.

The agency says the largest share of the line would, in fact, be on Westpark, adding that the ballot referred to a general location, the details of which should be based on federally required cost and ridership studies. Those indicate that a segment should be on Richmond.

Pickett said he is open to changing the language.

“If … they intend to meet their promise that they made, then they shouldn’t have a problem,” he said. “It was pretty clear that there was a referendum that did state where (the line) was going, and we were just asked to ratify that.” The legislation came to light just as agency officials were hopeful that, after years of debate and uncertainty, they would have the funding and political support to move forward.

So once again, the people who lost the election and whose lawsuit is currently going nowhere have shown that they will do anything to overturn the will of the people and stop light rail in Houston. I’m amazed that they were able to influence Rep. Pickett, and appalled that he couldn’t have been bothered to at least ask Metro for a response. I’m sorry, but that’s just ignorant. Clearly, Rep. Pickett needs to hear from some people who are not anti-Metro crusaders. Feel free to give his office a call and tell him – politely! – that you support light rail in Houston, that you support Metro’s current expansion plans as they now stand, and that you oppose any effort by the Legislature to affect those plans. His Austin office number is (512) 463-0596 and his district office number is (915) 590-4349. If you do make a call, leave a comment here and tell us what kind of response you got. Thanks very much.

The bill in question is SB1263. Here’s the committee substitute version of the bill. The relevant text is the underlined section that begins “This subsection applies only to an authority created under Chapter 451, Transportation Code, that operates in an area in which the principal municipality has a population of 1.9 million or more.” You could mention that you oppose this amendment that’s been added to the committee substitute version of SB1263 when you call Pickett’s office.

By the way, there’s a real irony here in a sneak attack, made behind closed doors with no public input or notice, on an agency that’s often criticized for not operating in a transparent manner. I daresay some of the people who are behind this covert operation have been quoted in the Chronicle at one time or another berating Metro for not being more open about what it’s doing. And yet here they are, skulking through a back door, without the rest of us even having any idea who’s behind it. Way to go, y’all.

The good news is that Houston lawmakers are not going to take this lying down.

The bill had been planned for a local and consent calendar reserved for non-controversial or limited measures that draw little debate, perhaps on Wednesday. But the controversy appeared likely to force the measure to be considered like any other complex legislation.

With only a week left in the session, and with hundreds of bills in line for consideration, the bill might never get a vote.

Several lawmakers have also said they would fight any attempt to tie the agency’s hands.
“I’ve got my eye on it,” said state Rep. Wayne Smith, R-Baytown, who predicted that the bill wouldn’t survive in its current form.

State Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, also planned to investigate the issue, saying that prohibiting the agency’s eminent domain powers “would prevent the common good.”

“I’ll get after it with all my might,” he said. “I’m a great supporter. Rail is a vital component of our future and our transportation system.”

That’s nice to hear. It would also be a good idea to call your own Rep and Senator and tell them you oppose Pickett’s amendment that removes Metro’s eminent domain power in the committee substitute for SB1263. Especially with all that’s going on right now in the House, let’s take nothing for granted.