Double Crossed

Many consider Texas the cradle of liberty and a bastion of limited government conservatism. But who lets a State agency abuse taxpayers and deliberately thumb their noses at a state law they know is coming online that was passed by wide margins by the people’s duly elected officials? Who sits idly by and allows bureaucrats to overrule their elected representatives and sneak in a change that shrinks highway capacity and will do irreparable harm to a major U.S. highway for a generation? Apparently, Alamo city, state, and local elected officials will unless the people speak up.

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By Terri Hall l July 31, 2017

TxDOT’s explanation as of July 10, 2017: The $192 million project to expand US 281 to a six-lane expressway with frontage roads between LP 1604 and Stone Oak Parkway will begin on July 17. The finished product will have three express lanes in each direction, one of those lanes being reserved for transit and carpool vehicles. Frontage roads will match the existing road today with two or three lanes each way.

Congestion weary commuters thought they’d finally get a break.

Expansion of US 281 in San Antonio is not what the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) promised the public. Today, US 281 has three general purpose lanes each direction. The plan was to add an additional HOV-bus lane, overpasses (so cars can bypass those wretched stop lights impeding traffic flow), and to build frontage roads to the outside of the existing highway.

However, the plan now shows only two express lanes each direction and one HOV/bus lane. So, they’re taking away an existing express lane and shrinking the expressway from three down to two. The unelected bureaucrats at TxDOT and the local transportation boards point you to the new frontage roads as the new capacity.

I went to Jacobs Engineering to review the plans a year ago to ensure there would be four main lanes each way — three general purpose lanes and one HOV-bus lane each direction (because this has been a bone of contention for over a decade). Now, that’s not what they’re going to build according to a new schematic being promoted by TxDOT. Too bad, so sad for John Q taxpayer, though. They pulled a fast one and they’re going to construction.

To add insult to injury, Webber got the contract. Webber Construction passes itself off as an American company, but it’s a subsidiary of Ferrovial, the parent company of Spain-based Cintra who tried to privatize and toll US 281 back in 2005. It’s also the company that went bankrupt on the first Texas public-private toll project, SH 130. Of course, nothing is coincidence when you’re dealing with a crony system deliberately set-up to abuse taxpayers by allowing unelected bureaucrats to direct contracts to well-connected companies. Cintra’s lobbyists have been alive and well at TxDOT and in the state capitol since toll roads became Rick Perry’s legacy 15 years ago.

The timing is suspect, too. Anti-toll groups just passed a new state law that protects taxpayers against the conversion of an existing general-purpose lane into an HOV or toll lane (or from having a general-purpose lane downgraded to a frontage road). However, it doesn’t take effect until September 1.

Many consider Texas the cradle of liberty and a bastion of limited government conservatism. But who lets a State agency abuse taxpayers and deliberately thumb their noses at a state law they know is coming online that was passed by wide margins by the people’s duly elected officials? Who sits idly by and allows bureaucrats to overrule their elected representatives and sneak in a change that shrinks highway capacity and will do irreparable harm to a major U.S. highway for a generation? Apparently, Alamo city state and local elected officials will unless the people speak up.


Terri Hall is the founder of Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom (TURF), which defends against eminent domain abuse and promotes non-toll transportation solutions. She’s a home school mother of ten turned citizen activist. Ms. Hall is also a contributor to SFPPR News & Analysis of the Conservative-Online-Journalism Center at the Washington-based Selous Foundation for Public Policy Research.