The state’s Sunset Advisory Commission voted this afternoon to ditch the 5-member Texas Transportation Commission and replace it with a single Transportation Commissioner.
The commission voted 7-5 to include the change in TxDOT’s leadership structure as part of the recommendations that would be sent to the House and Senate to be drafted into legislation.
“I think the ultimate problem at TxDOT is there is not a direct point of responsibility,” said state Rep. Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, said. He said he envisioned a single Transportation Commissioner “almost becoming a cabinet level position” appointed by the governor.
Lawmakers have criticized the agency for being untruthful about its finances and for forcing toll roads and other projects such as the now-defunct Trans Texas Corridor on communities that don't want them. Earlier this month, a Restructure Council set up by the agency called for changing much of the agency’s leadership. Agency officials have said they have been trying to make the best of increasingly bad finances.
Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, advocated for reducing the commissioners to its previous configuration of three commissioners.
“It’s kind of hard to have a difference of opinion if you’re by yourself making decisions,” Nichols said.
The proposal died for lack of a second commission member seconding the motion.
State Rep. Linda Harper-Brown, R-Irving, who voted for the switch to one commissioner, said going to 3 representatives didn’t make sense for a state as large as Texas.
“I think we either have to go to the one that was recommended by the Sunset staff or stay at the five to represent the state,” Harper-Brown said.
The Sunset Review Commission is also recommending that TxDOT should exist for four more years and then be reviewed again. The short extension would allow more time to see whether measures taken since 2008 to make the agency more efficient and trustworthy are working.