Tarrant County was the big winner this week, when state transportation officials recommended spending $250 million in federal stimulus money on the long-awaited reconstruction of Grapevine freeways -- a $1 billion project overall called the DFW Connector.
Also, the Southwest Parkway toll road would get $143 million from another regionally controlled pot of stimulus money.
But hold on.
An influential lawmaker, state Rep. Jim Dunnam, A Waco-area Democrat, warned this afternoon (Thur., Feb. 26) that the Texas Department of Transportation's plan to cast a final vote on the stimulus funding next Thursday (March 5) may be premature. Dunnam is chairman of a House select committee tracking the federal economic stabilization funding.
Asked Thursday (Feb. 26) whether TxDot's planned vote was too soon, Dunnam replied: "It depends on whether they're going to use this time to give meaningful information to the legislators. I've not heard any members that appear content with the decision making."
Dunnam also disputes the assertion from TxDot officials that the stimulus projects must be approved quickly to avoid missing federal deadlines and being forced to send the money back to Washington.
"They have to obligate half of it in 120 days -- that's four months."
Dunnam's comments illustrate TxDot's continued credibility problem in the Lege, particularly in the House. A fair number of state reps just don't believe the agency itself can be trusted to spend $1.2 billion statewide in stimulus funding on roads.
TxDot supporters say it's mostly a perception thing, and that TxDot leadership worked very closely with metropolitan planning organizations to decide which projects to pick for stimulus funding. In Dallas-Fort Worth, the decision was reached after about four months of negotiations between TxDot and the North Central Texas Council of Governments.
Dunnam also characterized this week's decision by the Texas Transportation Commission to go ahead and spend about $500 million on road maintenance "unacceptable."