State lawmakers re-authorize TxDOT - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

7/2/09

State lawmakers re-authorize TxDOT

By Ben Lawson - bio | email

LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - Texas lawmakers finished the special session called by Governor Rick Perry Thursday. One reason Perry called legislators back to Austin is they failed to re-authorize the Texas Department of Transportation and four other state agencies.

Thursday, lawmakers gave final approval to keep them going for another two years. State Representative Carl Isett of Lubbock, who filed legislation to overhaul TxDOT, says the agency still needs reform though. He told NewsChannel 11 "I still believe that in all my terms in the legislature, this agency (TxDOT) is the most ripe for reform."

Lawmakers also gave the green light to new funding for state road projects Thursday.  Two billion dollars in bonds were approved by voters statewide in 2007, but the bill approved Thursday authorized the spending.

"There was never any real concern that TxDOT was going to cease to exist. They just weren't able to get it across the goal line," Steve Warren, director of planning, transportation, and development for TxDot's Lubbock Office said. 

With the agency back on track, TxDOT can now look at new projects to be funded by the $2-billion in bonds.  Particular projects have not been identified yet, but Warren tells us Lubbock probably won't be on that list.  He says that's not bad news. "Through the work of a lot of people out here, we've been able to be ready at the right time to take advantage of some of these projects as funding has become available, but as a result, we don't really think we're going to have any project that we can submit to Proposition 12," Warren said. 

Warren says Phase IV of the Marsha Sharp Freeway, which connects it to Interstate 27 has funding in place.  They could take bids this fall. He also says expansion of Loop 289 to six lanes from 34th Street to 19th Street, including reconstruction of the 19th Street interchange is covered.  Warren says TxDOT's portion in the northwest passage, taking Slide Road underneath the North Loop, is also taken care of.

Warren says the only project that could possibly be paid for by the new funds is Phase V of the Marsha Sharp.  It would extend the freeway through Wolfforth, with overpasses at Milwaukee and Upland Avenues, but Warren says that project is just now in the early planning phase. 

"Keep in mind, Proposition 12 approved by the voters was up to $5-billion and legislators Thursday only approved $2-billion, so we don't know, two or three years from now they give us authorization to go forward with the other $3-billion, we might be in a position to be ready," Warren said. 

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