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February 26, 2009

Lawmakers not satisfied with plan to spend stimulus money on roads

Dunnam 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."

-- Gordon.

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Comments

Leo/Georgetown,TX/USA

It is amazing that there always has to be one person that wants things "their" way and have to try to pry into whatever system IS working for the people of the State. Wow, it must be nice to disregard the folks that elected them when they try to get what “they" see fit versus the people that elected them see fit. Yes I mean Dunnam. Projects take a long time in getting approved and if you have some that are ready to go, Jesus accept that someone has done a lot of work to get them there. The perception that TxDOT is seen as not being credible is being sponsored by a few and as always the few cry loud. Take a look at Texas Roads. Take a look at how many Road and Traffic engineers from around the world come to Texas to see how TxDOT builds its roads and to see a real transportation system in place. Wake up! Not everyone is getting money and not everyone will be happy. If it is FOR TEXAS then shut the XXX X up and see if you can get it going, support it, to give folks jobs quickly and not to sit around doing more analyzing and more BSing to get YOUR way. If you don’t like the Governor or the prior Chair of the Texas Transportation Commission (may he rest in peace), take that up with them not TxDOT.

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