The Texas Department of Transportation has changed its mind about testing speed cameras. The use of cameras to catch speeders will be postponed until June 2009, Texas Transportation Commission chairman Ric Williamson told state Rep. Vicki Truitt of Keller in a letter this week. READ THE LETTER
Truitt passed a bill earlier this year prohibiting cities -- including Rhome, northwest of Fort Worth -- from using speed cameras. She was incensed when the state agency then initiated a $2.5 million pilot project to use speed cameras on Texas 6 between Bryan and College Station, and Interstate 10 in Hudspeth County, east of El Paso.
The idea was to photograph license plate numbers of speeders and send them a warning by mail. Many transportation technology experts believe camera systems will someday be widely used to issue tickets. Today, many cities are using cameras to issue tickets for red light violations.
"Our method of justice has always been innocent until proven guilty." -- Truitt.
"We are constantly looking for new ways to reduce accidents on our highway system." -- Williamson.
Read about the speed camera issue in the U.K. HERE ...
Four finalists are competing for the Texas Department of Transportation executive director's job, including two with Fort Worth ties.
Katharine "Katie" Nees
Vice president of transportation for the Fort Worth-based firm Carter&Burgess. Nees is a longtime advocate of toll express lanes, which give people the choice of using freeways without a toll or paying a premium to get out of gridlock. Nees also planned Southwest Parkway while working at the North Texas Tollway Authority, and worked at TxDot's Dallas office.
The No. 2 guy at TxDot served as Fort Worth's district engineer from 1998-2001. He oversaw construction of the Fort Worth Mixmaster and Northeast Interchange. Steve also served on the Regional Transportation Council and is well regarded by many Metroplex elected officials. Oh, and he's an Eagle Scout.
Amadeo Saenz Jr.
Assistant executive director at TxDot. Lauded for the speedy reconstruction of the Queen Isabella Causeway after it collapsed in 2001. He has the last word on engineering matters in Texas, and he's responsible for overseeing the expansion of toll roads. He learned to build consensus in contentious South Texas politics.
The Texas Turnpike Authority Division director since 1998 is a point man on the Trans-Texas Corridor. He's overseeing the environmental studies, financing options and contracts. He played a key role in hiring Spanish firm Cintra to plan the TTC, and obtained the state's first $1.3 billion toll road concession payment from the private firm.
If you're planning an end-of-summer getaway this weekend, pack your patience.
More than 2.7 million Texans are expected to travel during the Labor Day weekend, AAA says.
Where's everyone goin'? Top destinations:
1. San Antonio
3.Grand Canyon/other national parks
More than 87 percent of travelers will go in a car, AAA says. (Take that, aer-o-philes!)
Despite the large crowds expected on Lone Star highways, travel has generally tapered off in the past two years, AAA spokeswoman Rose Rougeau says. “Texans still want to travel, but we’re not seeing the record increases in the number of travelers that we experienced in 2004 and 2005. Those past boom years for travel occurred partly because we experienced pent-up demand for travel that had been delayed after 9-11 and at the start of the Iraq war. Now, we are in a period where travel demand is growing, but at a slower rate.”
What about the cost of gas? Actually, AAA predicts it's gonna be a few pennies lower than '06.
For those of you, like me, who were stuck in ridiculous gridlock this morning on the Rosedale/Vickery off ramps in Fort Worth, the culprit was a blinky traffic signal at the intersection of Forest Park and Rosedale. A police officer was arriving at 8:30 and no doubt will clear the situation cleared up.
One of the largest private toll road deals in U.S. history has been canceled.
An agreement by Spanish firm Cintra to privately build and run Texas 121 toll road north of Grapevine was formallycanceled Thursday by the Texas Transportation Commission.
Texas Department of Transportation officials estimated the cash value of Cintra's proposal would have been $2.87 billion, which North Texas planners could have used on other transportation projects. The Madrid-based company had agreed to pay that large up-front sum in exchange for the right to collect tolls on the road for 50 years.
However, earlier this year Dallas and Collin county officials protested the deal and got their state legislators involved -- saying they wanted a public agency, the North Texas Tollway Authority, to take over the project. Most Tarrant County officials joined the political shift, and the switch was endorsed by the Metroplex's Regional Transportation Council.
Canceling the procurement was necessary to get the state out of hot water with the federal government, TxDot assistant executive director Amadeo Saenz said. The Federal HIghway Administration earlier this month slammed the Texas Department of Transportation for violating federal procurement law by allowing the tollway authority to submit a bid after Cintra's bid had been made public.
Commissioners said they didn't believe the tollway authority's bid was the best value, but they felt they had little choice but to endorse local desires. Commission chairman Ric Williamson of Weatherford lamented that the risk of the project would no longer be assumed by the private sector. Instead, he said, if the road doesn't meet its financial goals the tollpayers of North Texas will have to pay higher rates. "I have deep concerns about tollpayers of North Texas overpaying for the asset."