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Legislators propose TxDOT changes
Wednesday, April 1, 2009 by Kimberly Reeves
Rep. Carl Isett (R-Lubbock) presented the sunset recommendations for the Texas Department of Transportation in the House Transportation Committee Tuesday afternoon.
The House Transportation Committee has taken TxDOT to task before, about the agency partnering with foreign corporations to build Texas roads or the cost of tolls. Yesterday’s discussion focused on how the agency spends its budget. Isett said that regions in Texas had no way of knowing when roads would finally get built.
“We have to beg and hope and, mercifully, the commission finally gives in and builds your project,” Isett said. “We want significant certainty in the process, that they know how much money is there and they align their money to our projects.”
The sunset bill, being carried by Isett, is House Bill 300. During his testimony, Isett outlined 13 recommendations, both large and small, to improve TxDOT, from moving to a system of a one appointed commissioner to transparency in project selection and completion. The bill also recommends pulling non-road construction services – such as vehicle registration and permitting – out of TxDOT and putting them into a separate agency.
Isett said the Sunset Commission was cautious about giving lawmakers such an active role in the agency, but said it was necessary to make sure the agency moved forward with the progress suggested under the bill. “We have the complete right to establish the course and speed and direction of an agency,” he said.
In public testimony, Dick Kallerman of the Sierra Club supported the concept of a single commissioner, saying one might be more responsive to citizens’ concerns.
Ross Milloy of the Austin-San Antonio Corridor Council said he would support the idea of creating a rail division. The department needed a legislative mandate to address the issue of moving freight and passengers across the state, he said. The Council supports the Austin-San Antonio commuter rail line, which has seen little tangible activity since it was created by then-Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos (D-Austin).
Various associations were supportive of the creation of a separate Department of Motor Vehicles for non-transportation functions. The one exception was the Motor Carrier Association.
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