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Texas Department of Transportation Commission Meeting

 


Ric Williamson Hearing Room
Dewitt Greer Building
125 East 11th Street
Austin, Texas 78701-2483

Thursday, January 28, 2010


COMMISSION MEMBERS:

Deirdre Delisi, Chair
Ted Houghton, Jr.
Ned S. Holmes
Fred Underwood
William Meadows

STAFF:

Amadeo Saenz, Executive Director
Steve Simmons, Deputy Executive Director
Bob Jackson, General Counsel
Roger Polson, Executive Assistant to the
Deputy Executive Director
Dee Hernandez, Chief Minute Clerk

PROCEEDINGS

MS. DELISI: Good morning. It is 9:05 a.m., and I call the regular January 2010 meeting of the Texas Transportation Commission to order. Note for the record that public notice of this meeting, containing all items on the agenda, was filed with the Office of the Secretary of State at 4:11 p.m. on January 20, 2010.

Before we begin today's meeting, please place all cell phones and other communication devices on the off or the silent mode, please.

As is our custom, we'll open with comments from the commissioners and we'll begin with Commissioner Meadows.

MR. MEADOWS: Thank you very much, Madam Chair. I'd just like to welcome everybody and appreciate everybody's patience and participation and interest in yesterday's workshop session which I thought was very productive, and I look forward to a productive meeting today.

MR. UNDERWOOD: I associate myself with my colleague's remarks. Good morning, everybody. I apologize for being out of breath. I think sometimes I'm so late, they call me Peter Punctual.

I'd like a show of hands of everybody that was home with their family during the Christmas holidays. I'm not asking you to volunteer for Iraq or bomb disposal. Okay. The reason why I ask that, I want to thank and recognize all the hardworking men and women of the TxDOT family who sacrificed their time with their families this past holiday season in order to keep Texas' roads clear so people that they'd never met could arrive at their final destination safely.

I know this season presented unique challenges to every TxDOT employee, and I don't want to diminish the hard work of all our TxDOT employees all over the regions and districts, but I want to highlight the efforts of the employees of five districts in particular. The crews began preparing for this storm over the Christmas holidays a few days in advance. The storm actually began on Wednesday, the 23rd. It was predicted to be a moderate storm affecting mainly the northern half of the Texas Panhandle, approximately four to six inches of snow.

However, on the day of December 23, the storm changed, became a southerly track across the Panhandle and the worst areas were along a line between Lubbock to Wichita Falls before heading to the northeast. Not only did the path of the storm change but the intensity of the storm was far more than predicted. There were 50 to 60 mile an hour winds. If you want to get an approximation what that's like, be on the road with your seatbelt on, driving with nobody else on the highway, roll your window down at 60 and stick your hand out and see what happens.

This created one of the worst blizzards in the history of the Panhandle area. There were actual white-out conditions because of the snow early in the morning hours of Christmas Eve and lasting well into the evening of Christmas Day. These conditions made it impossible to travel, as you could barely see in front of your vehicle, much less make out the roadway you were on or see other vehicles. This was compounded by, of all things, the holiday traffic, people trying to get either to the mountains or to grandma's house or other Christmas destinations, and this actually intensified.

Early Christmas morning there were four to five foot drifts; there were conditions of traffic; semis were jack-knifed because of the icy roads. Either that or they got stuck in drifts or whatnot. Basically, a lot of our highways turned into big long parking lots. It was really almost impossible to get around to clear these roads off, much less get to certain areas.

One crew dispatched from Wichita Falls was from Canyon, just south of Amarillo. They were already in the Childress District assisting on US 287; they were simply instructed to continue to proceed southeast. The Childress District supplemented the Canyon crew with a crew that met in Vernon before heading to the worst sections of the Wichita Falls District and 287. Both the Childress and Amarillo crews were only expected to work through the night, but they ended up staying out away from their families for three nights, December 25, 26 and 27. That's why I asked you all whether or not you were with your families.

The people involved in this, we had basically 718 men and women involved in this process, being away from their families. These men and women realized and understood the importance of what TxDOT does, as did their families, and they did it all with the best intentions to keep the roads as safe as possible for the driving public.

They didn't plan on it so they ended up not having enough gear or whatnot so they ended up buying what they needed on the road for these three days they were away. They cleared about almost 42,000 lane miles. We used 477 trucks. Almost 35,000 hours were spent over the holiday being away from their family so that you and I, the driving public, could get home safe.

The men and women of TxDOT make us on the commission proud to serve them on the Transportation Commission, and for the commission, we'd like to thank those men and women that worked through those holidays for the driving public. Thank you very much.

(Applause.)

MR. HOLMES: Fred, I very much appreciate your doing that, and I'm sure that the individuals that worked during that holiday appreciate that coming in a public meeting from this podium, and it really just highlights the dedication that the staff of TxDOT has and it's shown over and over. This was a very specific and difficult situation over a holiday season in the Panhandle, but the same thing occurs on the Gulf Coast in a hurricane.

MR. UNDERWOOD: Exactly.

MR. HOLMES: And they go through the same process of working day and night to clear roads, to pull people out of ditches and bayous and swollen rivers, and it's a testament to the dedication that they have to their job and to this state, and we appreciate that.

I thank all of you for coming today. I look forward to learning more about the projects up in the Metroplex. Are there any other projects that we deal with?

MR. HOUGHTON: Welcome to the North Texas Department of Transportation. I want to thank you all for coming out.

MR. MEADOWS: I'm glad you could be here.

(General laughter.)

MR. HOUGHTON: I want to thank everyone for coming and the hard work that the folks in this room have done to make all of this possible. And Fred and Commissioner Holmes, Ned, yes, you all are in harm's way in those parts of the regions; we out in Far West Texas live in paradise and we don't experience any of that kind of foul weather.

Again, welcome.

MS. DELISI: If you wish to address the commission during today's meeting, please complete a speaker's card at the registration table in the lobby. To comment on an agenda item, please complete a yellow card and identify the agenda item; if it's not an agenda item, we'll take your comments at open comment period at the end of the meeting, and for those comments please fill out a blue card. Regardless of the color of card, we ask that you try and limit your comments to three minutes.

Our first item of business today is approval of the minutes for the December 16 and 17 meetings. Members, draft minutes have been provided in your briefing materials. Is there a motion to approve?

MR. HOUGHTON: So moved.

MR. HOLMES: Second.

MS. DELISI: All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes.)

MS. DELISI: The motion passes.

With that, Amadeo, I'll hand it over to you.

MR. SAENZ: Thank you, Madam Chair. Before we begin today, I would like to recognize one of our valuable TxDOT employees, Larry Rayburn, and Larry is sitting back there in the very back. Larry, would you mind standing, please, so that people can recognize you.

Larry is in charge of TxDOT security operations, he's our Security Operations manager, and of course, he attends all the commission meetings and ensures that we are safe and secure. Larry is also a sergeant major in the Army Reserves and he has been recalled to active duty once again and will be deployed on his first tour to Iraq this time. Of course, Larry has already come back from a tour in Afghanistan.

I just wanted to take this time to recognize Larry and wish him the very best. Larry, thank you for serving our country, be safe, please come back home safe, and we'll have your job waiting for you when you come back.

(Applause.)

MR. SAENZ: Commission, as an aside, we have 15 other TxDOT employees that are serving our country in military duty right now, and these people do a great job for us and they do a great job for our country.

We'll go ahead and proceed with the agenda.

MS. DELISI: Senator Davis, Representative Orr, I understand you are here to talk about agenda item 9(e), we're not quite ready to bring it up. Would you like to address the commission now or wait till we're ready to take it up?

(Response from audience.)

MS. DELISI: There's some tweaks being made to the minute order. How about this? When we find out how long it will take, I'll have staff notify you and just let staff know if you'd rather address immediately or wait, because when it's ready, we'll likely bring it up. If it's ready before, we'll bring it up out of order. Representative Orr?

(Response from audience.)

MS. DELISI: Okay, sounds good.

MR. SAENZ: Thank you, Madam Chair.

Agenda item number 2, Public Transportation, we are going to defer this agenda item. We'll now move on to agenda item number 3, approval of resolutions authorizing the issuance of general obligation bonds, and Brian Ragland will present that minute order.

MR. RAGLAND: Thank you, Amadeo. Good morning. For the record, my name is Brian Ragland, director of the Finance Division.

This proposed minute order authorizes the issuance of general obligation bonds, otherwise known as Prop 12 bonds, and approves all the documents necessary for the issuance of such bonds. The bonds will be issued in one or more series in the aggregate principal amount not to exceed $3 billion.

The Bond Review Board is set to meet this morning following your adoption of this minute order to grant their approval. I will mention that their motion in the last form that I saw it will contain two contingencies. The first contingency is that the third billion of the $3 billion is going to be subject to the legislature appropriating those proceeds in 2011. And the other contingency is that we obtain the proper LBB approvals to be able to spend this money.

Unless you have any questions, staff recommends your approval.

MR. HOUGHTON: So moved.

MR. HOLMES: Second.

MS. DELISI: All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes.)

MS. DELISI: The motion passes.

MR. RAGLAND: Thank you.

MR. SAENZ: Thank you, Brian.

Agenda item number 4, commission, deals with Rail and the appointment of a public member to the board of directors of the Lone Star Rail District, and Bill Glavin, our Rail Division director, will present the minute order.

MR. GLAVIN: For the record, I'm Bill Glavin, I'm the director of the Rail Division for the Texas Department of Transportation.

This minute order reappoints J. Tullos Wells as a public member of the Lone Star Rail. Article 6550C-1, Vernon's Texas Civil Statutes allows the establishment of an intermunicipal commuter rail district and grants the powers necessary to provide commuter rail service between Austin and San Antonio areas. This statute requires that the Texas Transportation Commission to appoint two public members to the district's board of directors. The other board members are appointed by the member cities, counties, transit organizations and the metropolitan planning organizations. Currently the board has 20 members.

Due to his exemplary service, the staff recommend that Mr. Wells be appointed for a fifth term which will expire in January 2012. The Governor's Office has approved this and the staff recommends approval of this minute order.

MS. DELISI: Questions?

MR. HOUGHTON: So moved.

MR. HOLMES: Second.

MS. DELISI: All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes.)

MS. DELISI: The motion passes.

MR. SAENZ: Agenda item number 5 deals with our promulgation of administrative rules and rules for final adoption is agenda item 5(a). 5(a)(1) deals with final adoption of some Access Management administrative rules, and John Barton will present that.

MR. BARTON: Good morning, Madam Chair, commissioners, Director Saenz and Mr. Polson. For the record, my name is John Barton, your assistant executive director for Engineering Operations.

The minute order before you today is, as Mr. Saenz pointed out, to discuss the adoption of Access Management rules. These rules were submitted to the commission originally in October and most of the changes that are being proposed in these rules are the result of implementing Senate Bill 1609 that was passed in this past legislative session. In addition to the specific requirements that were provided in that bill, the department also took an opportunity to formalize our driveway access permit procedures and our access management standards.

The Access Management Manual associated with this activity was updated and released in December of 2009 for the public's review and comment. We did hold a hearing on December 2 and received no comments at that hearing. One letter was received providing two comments regarding the proposed sections and content that were not modified as part of our proposed rules but were, rather, a part of our existing rules at the time.

This letter was from Judge Dan Gattis of Williamson County. The two comments were that one of the requirements in our existing rules is that a regionally significant highway must be conforming and with a transportation improvement plan prior to the commission's approval of its connection to our state highway system. They commented that they believe that was an unreasonable requirement.

This requirement is in there because of the fact that conforming TIPs are the basis by which we can determine if a project complies with the Clean Air Act at the federal requirement level. In addition, highways within non-attainment areas that do not comply with the Federal Clean Air Act could threaten an area's conformity that's required in order to continue to receive federal funding for transportation other state-related projects. This particular requirement ensures that all of those facilities are properly designed and constructed and in conformance with the Clean Air Act, and therefore, we would recommend not making the change that was suggested by Judge Gattis.

The second comment from Judge Gattis was a request for clarification on our intent in one section of rules that provides an exemption for certain toll roads from the environmental review and public involvement requirements in Subsection (e) of the rules. This is one that you discussed, I believe, in October of 2008 at a commission meeting in Dallas and you directed us to change our rules to allow for those roadways to be developed under the locals' environmental review processes and public involvement processes and we made that change at that time. The exemption there is for those types of classes of roadway and we believe that it adequately addresses the judge's comment and concern.

So staff is recommending no additional changes to the rules as they were submitted and we would request your adoption of this minute order to make them formal. I'll be happy to answer any questions that you may have.

MS. DELISI: Are there any questions?

MR. HOLMES: So moved.

MR. HOUGHTON: Second.

MS. DELISI: All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes.)

MS. DELISI: The motion passes.

MR. BARTON: Thank you.

MR. SAENZ: Thank you, John.

Agenda item 5(a)(2) deals with final adoption of rules on Use of State Property dealing with Memorial Markers, and Toribio Garza, director of the Maintenance Division, will present that minute order.

MR. GARZA: Good morning, Madam Chair, commissioners, Mr. Saenz. For the record, my name is Toribio Garza, the director of the Maintenance Division.

The minute order before you adopts changes to our rules regarding our Memorial Marker Program. The change modifies the department's existing rules regarding memorials on state right of way for DPS troopers killed in the line of duty. Senate Bill 2028 requires the department to extend this program for all peace officers. These changes will bring our existing rules into compliance with this Senate bill.

Proposed changes were published, no comments were received, and staff would recommend your approval.

MS. DELISI: Is there a motion?

MR. HOLMES: So moved.

MR. UNDERWOOD: Second.

MS. DELISI: All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes.)

MS. DELISI: The motion passes.

MR. SAENZ: Thank you, Toribio.

Agenda item 5(a)(3) deals with final adoption of Chapter 25, Traffic Operations, and Carol Rawson will present that minute order.

MS. RAWSON: Good morning. For the record, I'm Carol Rawson, interim director of the Traffic Operations Division.

This minute order proposes final adoption of amendments to the existing Memorial Sign Program rules in accordance with Senate Bill 521 of the 81st Legislature. The amendment allows a memorial sign to include the name of more than one victim as long as the total length of the name does not exceed one line of text.

The proposed amendments were published in the November 13 edition of the Texas Register and no comments were received. We recommend approval of this minute order.

MR. HOLMES: So moved.

MR. UNDERWOOD: Second.

MS. DELISI: All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes.)

MS. DELISI: The motion passes.

MR. SAENZ: Thank you, Carol.

Agenda item 5(b) deals with proposed administrative rules, and 5(b)(1) deals with Management. Bob Jackson, general counsel, will present the minute order.

MR. JACKSON: This minute order proposes revisions to the department's rules concerning the responsibilities of the commission and the department in our contested case procedure, it removes references to the functions that now belong to the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Recommend adoption of the minute order.

MS. DELISI: Is there a motion?

MR. HOLMES: So moved.

MR. UNDERWOOD: Second.

MS. DELISI: All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes.)

MS. DELISI: The motion passes.

MR. SAENZ: Bob will also present agenda item 5(b)(2) that deals with Public Information.

MR. JACKSON: This minute order proposes revisions to our Open Record rules. It also removes references to functions that now belong to the Department of Motor Vehicles; it also adds references to regional directors and removes language that's found in statute or in rules of the Office of the Attorney General.

Recommend approval of the minute order.

MR. HOUGHTON: So moved.

MR. HOLMES: Second.

MS. DELISI: All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes.)

MS. DELISI: The motion passes.

MR. SAENZ: Agenda item 5(b)(3) proposes rules that also make changes related to the transfer of Motor Vehicle functions in Chapter 5, Finance, and Brian will present the minute order.

MR. RAGLAND: For the record, Brian Ragland, director of the Finance Division.

This proposed minute order proposes amendments to the department's rules on payments of fees to remove references to Department of Motor Vehicle functions. Specifically, it removes references to registrations, the Vehicle Titles and Registration Division, fees for motor carrier registrations, regulation of motor transportation brokers, and internet motor vehicle registration.

Staff recommends your approval

MR. HOUGHTON: So moved.

MR. UNDERWOOD: Second.

MS. DELISI: All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes.)

MS. DELISI: The motion passes.

MR. SAENZ: Agenda item number 5(b)(4) dealing with Oversize and Overweight Vehicles and Loads, we're going to defer that agenda item.

Agenda item number 5(c), is John here or did he walk? John Barton was going to present a withdrawal of proposed rules for the Environmental Policy. Lost John.

I'm going to go ahead and hold that for a little bit, commission, I'm going to move on to agenda item number 7 dealing with Transportation Planning. Agenda item numbers 7 is the acceptance of the annual Port Capital Program submitted by the Port Authority Advisory Committee. Jim Randall will present that minute order.

MR. RANDALL: Good morning, commissioners. Jim Randall with the Transportation Planning and Programming Division.

Item 7(a), this minute order accepts the 2010-2011 Port Capital Program submitted by the Port Authority Advisory Committee. The purpose of the committee is to provide a forum for the exchange of information between the commission, the department and committee members representing the port industry in Texas and others who have interest in ports.

State law requires the committee prepare and update annually a two-year Port Capital Program. In addition, the program is to be submitted no later than February 1 of each year to the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and the Texas Transportation Commission.

The committee met on December 15, 2009 and formally adopted the program and submitted it to the department. Staff presents the 2010-2011 Port Capital Program for your acceptance as shown in Exhibit A.

MS. DELISI: Are there any questions?

MR. UNDERWOOD: A quick question. This is done every year.

MR. RANDALL: Yes, sir.

MR. UNDERWOOD: But there was legislation that they tried to pass where it only was done biannually. Isn't that correct?

MR. RANDALL: That's correct, every two years.

MR. UNDERWOOD: But that didn't make it.

MR. RANDALL: No, sir.

MR. UNDERWOOD: Okay, appreciate it. Thank you.

MS. DELISI: If there are no other questions, I've got two people to call up. First I'd like to call up Chris Fisher.

MR. FISHER: Chairman, commission. For the record, my name is Chris Fisher, I'm the port director of the Port of Beaumont and here before you today as vice chairman of the Port Authority Advisory Committee. I thank you for this opportunity.

Just a few general comments on the importance of Texas ports. Texas ports, based on recent studies commissioned by TxDOT, provided economic impact value of about $135 million annually and nearly a million jobs. Four of the ten busiest ports in the U.S. are located in Texas and Texas ports rank ninth in U.S. cruise passenger volume and are involved in the seafood industry, shipbuilding, recreational boating, as well as providing strategic support for U.S. military and handling many other cargoes.

The Port Authority Advisory Committee members would like to support legislation regarding the question just asked to fine-tune Chapter 55 with some minor revisions to make this every other year, and I think we plan to propose that in future legislation to better time with the legislative session, and also to further define what the definition of maritime ports are under this particular statute.

The Port Authority Advisory Committee members are grateful to TxDOT in working with us to present this report to the commission and the Governor's Office and Lieutenant Governor. There is a provision in the statute for funding and we propose for some capitalization of this funding as we feel that the ports of Texas are a good investment for Texas that will have a good rate of return on that investment. We thank the commission for their support and we request approval of this report.

And just as one additional comment, I think the commission on April 28 or so may have their meeting in Beaumont and we certainly look forward to hosting a tour for the commission and certainly invite all the commission to that and we appreciate it. Thank you.

MR. UNDERWOOD: Quick question, sir.

MR. FISHER: Yes, sir.

MR. UNDERWOOD: Basically, you'd like to be able to turn this report in every other year, bottom line, because of the cost of it, I would guess.

MR. FISHER: That, and some of the information you'll see in the port profiles as far as port projects are somewhat repetitive; they do not change that quickly every year, and also to help us better time the report with the legislative session because one of the purposes of the report is to identify projects that would like to request funding on.

It's not intended to provide an entire compilation of all the capital projects that all the ports of Texas do because that is very extensive, but it does provide an excerpt of some of the projects we would like to consider capitalized under this, and every other year would just time better with the legislative session and I think be more useful.

MR. UNDERWOOD: I agree with you, sir. With the blessings of my fellow commissioners, I'd ask staff to look into whatever we can do to help you with that. We do not write legislation; we follow legislation. Please understand that.

MR. FISHER: No, sir, we understand that and we appreciate that.

MR. UNDERWOOD: Thank you, sir.

MR. HOLMES: While you're here, Mr. Fisher, and I recognize that you're Beaumont and not Port Arthur, but did the recent collision in Port Arthur, did that affect the Port of Beaumont as well?

MR. FISHER: Yes, sir, it did, and all the authorities responsible for cleaning that up, the U.S. Coast Guard and General Land Office, have done a remarkable job. The channel was open Thursday. One of the first vessels -- well, actually yesterday one of the first vessels to come up was a vessel carrying U.S. military cargo to the Port of Beaumont, so we did have vessels, since that was below us, we did have vessels waiting to depart and vessels waiting to come in. So I've heard some pretty large numbers about the daily economic impact, about $50 million or so on the State and U.S. economy each day that channel was closed.

MR. HOLMES: How many days was it closed?

MR. FISHER: The accident happened, I think, at 9:30 on Saturday morning and they opened it up for some trials on Wednesday, so that many days.

MR. HOLMES: Thank you.

MR. FISHER: Thank you very much, appreciate it.

MS. DELISI: Eduardo Campirano.

MR. CAMPIRANO: Madam Chairman, members of the commission, Mr. Saenz. My name is Eduardo Campirano, I am the port director at the Port of Brownsville, but I'm also here as a member of the PAAC as well as representing the Texas Port Association. I also would like to point out that there's other members of the PAAC and members of the association here present, Port of Orange, of course Beaumont, Port of Houston, Corpus Christi, Galveston.

The Texas Port Association is an advocacy and education association that represents key deepwater and shallow draft ports in Texas. The mission of the association is to educate the public and elected officials on the economic value of Texas ports. Texas ports have developed unique niches in the maritime industry and while we do compete with one another, we also collaborate on key issues that affect our ports, our state and our nation.

Texas ports are critical national and international gateways linking key Texas industries, particularly its chemical, oil and agricultural industries with markets and suppliers throughout the world. Texas ports are key contributors to the overall health and competitiveness of the state economy, providing cost-efficient means to move goods in and out of the state, fostering international trade and creating and supporting high-paying, attractive jobs for Texans.

The Texas Port Association is supportive of TxDOT's efforts to begin to recognize the importance of ports and waterways in the overall transportation network. This is evidenced by the recently completed TxDOT waterborne freight corridor study. The study states that there has been no systematic examination of the needs and deficiencies in Texas ports and waterways as it relates to the overall transportation network; however, TxDOT has begun to identify and address the issues.

And certainly as the Port Association, and I can attest for all the ports of Texas, we look forward to working with the Texas Department of Transportation as well as other regional, local and private sector partners to pro-actively address the challenges that face the state's transportation network and ensuring the economic competitiveness of our state.

Again, I take the opportunity to certainly express our appreciation for the efforts that TxDOT has initiated on behalf of Texas ports, and it is critical if the infrastructure issues that affect ports and affect the state as a whole can only be solved if we all work together, and we certainly are appreciative of the efforts that TxDOT has undertaken to recognize ports in that process.

So with that, I'd like to thank you for the opportunity, and certainly support the adoption of the report presented by Mr. Fisher.

MS. DELISI: Thank you.

If there's no more questions, is there a motion?

MR. UNDERWOOD: So moved.

MR. HOLMES: Second.

MS. DELISI: All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes.)

MS. DELISI: The motion passes.

MR. SAENZ: Commissioners, I'm going to go back to agenda item number 5(c) dealing with the withdrawal of administrative rules, and John Barton will present the minute order.

MR. BARTON: Again, thank you, and I apologize for my absence when you called me previously.

This particular item is regarding the withdrawal of the proposed repeal of our existing memorandum of understanding with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the adoption of a new memorandum of understanding with that agency.

Item 5(c) proposes to withdraw our proposed repeal of the existing memorandum of understanding and adoption of a new memorandum of understanding. We are recommending this action to repeal the existing MOU and adopt a new one due to the comments that were received during the process of the public review of the proposed memorandum of understanding and the mutual consent and opinion of both the Department of Transportation's and Department of Parks and Wildlife's administrative staff.

Many of the public comments we received, especially those from local governments, objected to the proposed mitigation payments that were to be made by the Department of Transportation to compensate for the impacts to unregulated habitat or resources resulting from our transportation projects. We received a total of 26 comments.

Twenty of those expressed concerns with the memorandum of understanding along with their objections to the payments. Some of the comments that we also received expressed concerns over what was perceived to be a major shift in policy and the implied need that the direction that we were moving in should be guided by the legislature.

We also received comments concerning the timing of additional expenditures while the department is facing such a currently difficult financial situation, and the potential for additional delays in our project delivery due to these additional costs to the locals and the state for the development of transportation projects, as well as a request for clarification of some of the matters and whether local governments would ultimately be responsible for making payments under the compensation plan, and that future increases in mitigation payments could be possible without public input, and as well, that there was no evidence of how this particular memorandum of understanding would be able to provide efficiencies as it was purported to do.

One comment requested an extension of the comment period. That was made by Senator Carona. And we did respond by extending our original comment period that ended on November 9 through December 31 of 2009. We did receive five comments in favor of the memorandum of understanding, expressing that it benefited both agencies because it did define a more efficient process and would benefit the preservation of our natural resources here in Texas. We also received a comment that the mitigation, as proposed, was as comprehensive and well thought-out regional approach rather than a project-by-project approach and would be a better way of protecting and preserving the state's natural resources.

We also had a comment that expressed that this would allow the department to more expeditiously move forward with projects that had relatively small impacts on the natural environment, while others that were more complicated would receive additional resource time from the agencies to review the effects that they would have on our state's resources, and an additional one that the Parks and Wildlife Department would be able to focus their reviews on those projects that are of greater import and significance to the state.

If withdrawn, as being recommended by staff, the department and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department staff will be able to further discuss these many important issues that have been raised by these questions in a public forum and investigate the issues in terms of their relative impact on the unregulated resources of the state, while seeking the advice and input of the legislature.

Some of the mutual goals of our agencies are to accomplish the following things: to provide the Parks and Wildlife Department an opportunity to participate more meaningfully in the review and comment of our projects and impacts that they have on the state's resources; to understand the limitations of our agencies and the resources that are available to us, thereby to enhance the partnership that we have and recognizing the mutual goals and activities that both agencies support; and to develop a more efficient and effective process for delivering transportation projects in the State of Texas while taking into consideration the impacts that these things have on our environment.

Without any further comment, I would suggest and recommend for your approval the action to withdraw this proposed memorandum of understanding and to direct the staff to continue to work with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to further evaluate this matter and bring it back for your consideration at a future date. And I'll be happy to answer any questions that you might have.

MR. HOLMES: John, having actually been at both places, I very much support continued work to bring an MOU back to the commission for approval, and I believe that it's appropriate to withdraw this one and tighten it up a bit. But I do appreciate the hard work that you and your staff and that Parks and Wildlife staff has done to try to reach an agreement that works for both sides, and I would encourage you to continue that.

MR. BARTON: We will. Thank you, sir.

MR. HOLMES: Move approval.

MR. UNDERWOOD: Second.

MS. DELISI: All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes.)

MS. DELISI: The motion passes.

MR. SAENZ: Thank you, John.

Commission, moving back to finish agenda item number 7, item 7(b), (c) and (d) deal with the development of our Unified Transportation Program, and Brian Ragland will present three minute orders.

MR. RAGLAND: Thank you. For the record, I'm Brian Ragland, director of the Finance Division.

Item 7(b), this proposed minute order authorizes the project selection process for the 2011 Unified Transportation Program, as required by statute. If you'll recall, this is the video that we showed in November, I believe, and also a brochure which served as a public hearing. We did not receive any comments prior to the deadline of December 21, so staff recommends your approval.

MR. HOUGHTON: So moved.

MR. UNDERWOOD: Second.

MS. DELISI: All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes.)

MS. DELISI: The motion passes.

MR. RAGLAND: Item 7(c), this proposed minute order approves the department's use of methods which vary from federal-aid apportionment formulas when we allocate funds statewide. This is a minute order that's adopted every year to keep our process compliant with statutory direction. The individual variances are described and justified in Exhibit A and are consistent with the previous minute order on the project selection process. Staff recommends your approval.

MR. HOUGHTON: So moved.

MS. DELISI: Is there a second?

MR. UNDERWOOD: Second.

MS. DELISI: All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes.)

MS. DELISI: The motion passes.

MR. RAGLAND: Thank you. Finally, item 7(d), this proposed minute order authorizes approximately $13.8 million for 26 projects selected by FHWA and FRA. These earmarks are identified on Exhibit A and represent projects for surface transportation, interstate maintenance, ferry boats, public lands, highways, and transportation, community and system preservation. Staff recommends your approval.

MS. DELISI: Is there a motion?

MR. HOLMES: So moved.

MS. DELISI: Second?

MR. UNDERWOOD: Second.

MS. DELISI: All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes.)

MS. DELISI: The motion passes.

MR. RAGLAND: Thank you.

MR. SAENZ: Thank you, Brian.

Agenda item number 7(e), Mark Tomlinson, director of the Turnpike Authority Division, will present a minute order dealing with corridor segment advisory committee membership.

MR. TOMLINSON: Good morning, commissioners, Mr. Saenz. My name is Mark Tomlinson, director of the Turnpike Authority Division for TxDOT.

Item 7(e) continues the transition from Trans-Texas Corridor segment advisory committees to non-TTC related committees. It creates the I-35 and I-69 corridor segment advisory committees and designates the entities that can appoint members to those committees. These are identical, the same entities, and in fact, the same members as we have been working with in each of these committees, it just makes that transition to a non-TTC designation. So we have been working with these entities for quite a while now, we're continuing that, and I'm very optimistic we'll have good results on both corridors. Staff would recommend your approval of the minute order.

MR. HOUGHTON: So moved.

MR. HOLMES: Second.

MS. DELISI: All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes.)

MS. DELISI: The motion passes.

MR. TOMLINSON: Thank you.

MR. SAENZ: Thank you, Mark.

Commission, I'm going to move on now and it's going to be a checkerboard; we're skipping all over the place. Go to agenda item number 9(e) that is the minute order to authorize the executive director to move forward with the agreements with North Texas Tollway Authority. John Barton will present that deals with the Southwest Parkway/Chisholm Trail project and the State Highway 161 project.

MR. BARTON: Thank you, Director Saenz, commissioners. Again for the record, my name is John Barton and I have the pleasure of presenting for your consideration this morning agenda item 9(e) which is a minute order that would authorize the executive director of the Texas Department of Transportation to continue the negotiations with the North Texas Tollway Authority and the Regional Transportation Council of the North Central Texas Council of Governments to consider the development and implementation by NTTA of both the State Highway 161 project, as we discussed yesterday in your workshop commission meeting, and the State Highway 121, Southwest Parkway/Chisholm Trail project in Dallas County for State Highway 161 and Tarrant and Johnson Counties for State Highway 121, Southwest Parkway/Chisholm Trail, and doing so in a manner that would minimize the risk to the State Highway Fund, as we discussed yesterday at the direction of the commission, as well as to provide financial assistance to the NTTA for the implementation for both projects.

The staffs of the department, the North Texas Tollway Authority and the Regional Transportation Council, as well as their boards and leadership, have been working very closely, as you know, to identify an approach that would provide the necessary support and funding for the development of both projects, as I've enumerated. The successful delivery of these two projects is dependent on financial feasibility, obviously, of each project and the completion of a financial plan.

Previously in Minute Order 111557 which was passed by the commission and dated October 30, 2008, you granted preliminary approval of a toll equity loan for the State Highway 161 project and staffs from both agencies and entities have been working since that time to implement this toll equity loan agreement. This process is very close to being completed and is really the predication on which the rest of this minute order is based.

The funding mechanisms that would be possible could include toll equity loans to the NTTA for one or both projects, as well as, excuse me, for both projects as a system, and potentially loans from either public or private sources as well as proceeds from bonds that would be issued by the NTTA or equity provided by the NTTA to reach the financial closure necessary as well as financial assistance from the region.

The minute order has been an act in motion, and I apologize for the tardiness of it being presented to you, but in it we have tried to accomplish the direction that was provided to us at yesterday's workshop by the commission which would allow, as I said, the executive director to be authorized, as well as directed, to proceed with these negotiations for the development of these two projects as a system and in a way that would minimize the risk to the State Highway Fund.

Also, that we would present for your consideration minute orders that would provide for the further development and implementation of the two projects as a system and the financial assistance to the NTTA that you would contemplate in order to do that, and that in doing so, we would approach this in a way that would require both projects to be completed as a system before the toll equity loan agreement could be excused on either of the projects individually in a manner that would minimize the risk to the State Highway Fund and to provide opportunities for incentives to encourage the relinquishing of the backstop by the department at the earliest possible date.

So at this point in time, I would recommend your approval of this minute order, and I'd certainly be happy to try to answer any questions that you may have.

MS. DELISI: Are there any questions of John?

MR. HOLMES: Good morning, John.

MR. BARTON: Good morning.

MR. HOLMES: It's pretty easy to say we're going to work on minimizing the risk to Fund 6 and to the agency, and that we're going to include incentives for early retirement and extinguishment of the guaranty. Putting that into words that work for the region and for the agency, I think are going to be more difficult. I give you great encouragement to pursue that and I'm really interested in how you are able to solve that. I'm not sure how you'll be able to do that in the next 30 days because it's been ongoing now for 15 months or something. Is that about right?

MR. BARTON: That is correct.

MR. HOLMES: But they're important projects, we want to make sure they move forward, but not at putting Fund 67 at risk over the next 36 years.

MR. BARTON: Those comments are certainly understood, Commissioner, and I believe I fully understand that direction. Let me first share with you that lo' these 15 months that you mentioned the staffs have been working with financial advisors and others to ensure that we have the protections for both entities as you have suggested was so important, and I believe that we have done a great deal of excellent work and are at a point where we can just move forward in the next few weeks to allow us to do that.

I know that the staffs are committed. We were exchanging e-mails throughout the night last night until this morning, and that's why the minute order was late getting to you. So there's no question they're dedicated to working and staying up and working whatever hours are necessary to do this. We also understand that you would like to have additional information about the protections, the quantification of the risks associated with it, and we will keep you informed throughout this process over the next several weeks before your next commission meeting.

I know that Allen Clemson is a true champion for the Tollway Authority as well as the region, and a great individual, and it's been my distinct pleasure to work with him and look forward to continuing to do that, Michael Morris from the Council of Governments planning organization as well, and of course, our staffs at the Dallas and Fort Worth districts. So I can assure you that we're in this all together 100 percent, and we'll keep you informed and we will do whatever is necessary in order to do the due diligence that you've asked us to do and be prepared at your next commission meeting.

MR. UNDERWOOD: John, I just want to reinforce what Commissioner Holmes said, that we sure would like to see all that information prior to ten minutes before the meeting next month.

MR. BARTON: I understand that, sir.

MR. UNDERWOOD: Thank you.

MS. DELISI: Are there any other questions of John?

(No response.)

MS. DELISI: In that case then, I'd like to call up Senator Wendy Davis.

SENATOR DAVIS: Thank you, Madam Chair, members of the commission, for all of your hard work on this particular issue. I know it's been a challenge for you and I know you have very unique interests that you're tasked with protecting, rightly so; protecting the risk of the taxpayers of the State of Texas, it's the most important job that you have.

I also know that you are committed to improving the transportation systems throughout this state. I know we've joked this morning about this being the North Texas Transportation Commission, and that doesn't go by me personally or any of the rest of the Senate and House delegation in North Texas. We understand the commitment and the work that you've committed to the transportation enhancements and improvements in our community and we appreciate it tremendously.

I know that this has not been easy and many, many hours, much of your time has gone in to advancing what's been a very difficult agenda item. I appreciate tremendously the thoughtful questions that you've asked and the answers that you've proposed to try to resolve the impasses we've found ourselves in.

I want to express particular appreciation to you, Madam Chair, for the work you've done on this, and of course, for our commissioner from North Texas, Commissioner Meadows. And I also wanted to thank very particularly the chair of NTTA, thank you, Mr. Chair, Chair Wageman, and of course, Victor Vandergriff, a member of the NTTA board who has worked very hard in trying to help us come to a resolution of this issue.

And we haven't gotten where we've gotten, of course, without the work of your incredible staff at TxDOT. Amadeo, thank you so much for your work. Mr. Barton has just been incredible and really has proven himself to be an outside-the-box thinker and we really appreciate the work that he's done in trying to help us advance this project to where we are today.

I know that we are all concerned about financial risks here, and I appreciate the need to tie these two projects, 161 and the Southwest Parkway, into a subsystem that will assure protection or greater protection of those risks. We find ourselves here, unfortunately, because of a public and political climate that has asked us to bear this risk on the public side, a climate that has stated that it does not like private partners in our road-building projects. That's a conversation for another day and another legislative session, but I think it's one that we're going to continue to be challenged by, and I commit to work with you in ways to help answer the transportation needs that we have in this state as actively as I can and to be as good a partner as I can to make sure that you have the resources that you need to continue to do what you're doing so well right now.

Thank you very, very much.

MS. DELISI: Representative Rob Orr.

MR. ORR: How are y'all this morning? Madam Chair, thank you for giving me the opportunity, and it's an honor to be here. For the record, my name is Rob Orr, I'm state representative for District 58 which represents Johnson and Bosque Counties.

This is an important project for Johnson County and the North Texas region. Your direction to the North Texas Tollway Authority and the North Central Texas Council of Governments to work cooperatively to develop a positive alternative for developing and implementing such projects as the 161 and the 121 as one project is very important. The collaboration of the out-of-the-box thinking of NTTA, the RTC and the Texas Department of Transportation has developed a proposal that brings a long overdue, extremely important project to fruition.

I want to commend Michael Morris, Allen Clemson and the NTTA Board of Directors, especially Victor Vandergriff for his support, and Commissioner Bill Meadows for all your leadership on this issue, Maribel Chavez, and especially John Barton from the staff here for working so diligently.

I view this resolution before you today as a three-legged stool that requires the support of each of the partner agencies as all sides that work together, both Johnson County and Tarrant County, and I just want you to know if all work together and we've all sacrificed. In Johnson County they're taking it to be a staged construction, and in Fort Worth/Tarrant County they've got the drive-overs that are not going to get completed, so everybody has worked to pull this project down.

And of course, today you're being asked to be the backstop and to be the co-signer, and I understand, not only as representing Johnson County but representing the State of Texas, that risk, just like Senator Davis said, is very important. By linking these two projects together and being sure that they go along, I believe it will be less risk for the state than if doing the projects individually. And Commissioner, I agree with you, you can't be on the hook for 36-some-odd years, we've got to look for a way out to protect the State of Texas, and I think we'll come to a resolution on that issue.

So I guess in closing, I'll tell you there's been give-and-take on all sides, I believe the risk will be less by putting and making sure this is a regional system, not just one project, and I will tell you I know my district very well, walking neighborhoods and being out, and the growth and the economic development it will bring to this region, that the numbers that they're using for traffic are going to be much greater than what I believe is in the revenue study.

And so with that, I will just tell you the time is now, it's not six months from now, it's not a year from now, the time is now, because of the construction costs and the way the bids are coming in, to get this project going. So I urge you to approve this minute order where we can move forward and we'll try to get all the resolutions to you to get them solved in the next 30 days, we'll work diligently. Thank you for your support and thank you for your time, and I'll be glad to answer any questions you have.

MS. DELISI: Thank you.

Paul Wageman.

MR. WAGEMAN: Good morning, Chairwoman Delisi and members of the commission, Mr. Saenz. I'm Paul Wageman, chairman of the North Texas Tollway Authority Board of Directors, and I'm pleased to be here representing our agency today. Joining me are two other board members, our vice chairman, Victor Vandergriff from Tarrant County, as well as Bob Shepherd from Parker County, Governor Perry's appointee to our board. I wanted to acknowledge their service and dedication and that of our entire board to advancing these critical projects in North Texas. We would not be here but for their commitment.

I also wanted to recognize the efforts of our respective staffs. Previous speakers have done so already, but I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge the significant sacrifice that your staff has made, both here at the Greer Building and in the respective districts, as well as our staff and that of the RTC led by Mr. Morris. This truly has been a collaborative partnership approach, something that was long needed, I think, in North Texas.

Well, it goes without saying that you understand why we're here today and we're here because the system that we currently use to finance roads is not working the way it should. This agreement that we've worked out previously was to combine the strengths of our respective agencies to advance these critical projects in North Texas. TxDOT does not have adequate resources to build them as gas tax roads and so they are designated as toll roads.

Unfortunately, they're not feasible as toll roads, and so NTTA, as the toll provider in North Texas, needs to work collaboratively with all our partners, primarily the department and the RTC, to cobble together finance plans that advance these roads for they're critical mobility projects. Just because they're not financially feasible does not mean the roads should not be built. And our citizens and the communities have long awaited both of these projects and we're excited about where we're at in the current process to get them advanced.

I also wanted to just acknowledge that the contemplation of this approval of the minute order to provide credit enhancements to both projects is not necessarily being done out of a sense of charity by this department. We worked very closely with your staff, particularly with the Chair, Mr. Houghton and Mr. Meadows over the last year and a half to try relieve the department of financial obligations it had through a contract with us on the Southwest Parkway. Those contractual obligations were significant in cost. You were willing to combine the southern portion of the road which was a TxDOT road with the northern portion, an NTTA road, to try to advance this for our citizens.

The point in reminding you of this is that we have given up consideration for the development of those interchanges and now you are doing what you said you would do which is to provide credit enhancement so that we could advance both projects.

I urge you, because this minute order has just shown up on your desk in the last ten minutes, that we have not had a chance to really thoroughly review it, although our staffs have been in consultation since yesterday morning about the various drafts of the minute order. I just urge you to encourage your staff to make sure there's incorporated in the minute order enough flexibility so our staffs can work out an agreement that addresses the concerns articulated by Mr. Underwood and Mr. Holmes, and I'm sure shared by the entire commission.

We support and understand the need for these projects to be linked within a subsystem; however, we don't want to do something that prohibits us from refinancing, for example, and getting better terms and forcing us to keep a project that would otherwise be advantaged by such a refinance within the system longer, and I'm speaking specifically of the TIFIA loan. If we're fortunate enough to get a TIFIA loan on the Southwest Parkway, we would hate to have to refinance that out as it's very advantageous to its ultimate financing. So flexibility is the key.

We have not had a chance to review the minute order and I know our board will be very interested in its details as we consider whether we accept this 161 project at the end of February.

I mentioned TIFIA. I think you've been briefed that there will still be a significant finance gap between the cost of the Southwest Parkway and what can be financed. It's about $300 million. This is after two or three months of very aggressive value engineering and cost reduction and commitments, as Representative Orr said, by the communities to reduce the nature of the project they're receiving. And so if we're unable to get a TIFIA loan, I want to make sure that we can continue our discussions as we have all along to look for ways to bridge that gap.

Again, I want to thank the commission, particularly Mr. Meadows, Mr. Houghton and the Chair, for your exceedingly strong commitment to working with NTTA to advance these projects. We look forward to bringing this to a successful conclusion and advancing both of them here in 2010. Thank you.

MS. DELISI: Allen Clemson.

MR. CLEMSON: Thank you very much. I hate to take any more time than has already been taken today to thank all the staffs and the commission, so I'm going to just echo that. I just think that Mr. Wageman's comments about the flexibility, the devil's in the details and there's lots of details left to work through, systems, sub-systems.

We are totally supportive of the comments that the commission made about not cherry-picking, not doing all those things, and we just hope you, and I know your staff will, work with us to work through those details over the next several days.

MS. DELISI: Judge Roger Harmon.

JUDGE HARMON: Madam Chair and commissioners, thank you for the opportunity to be here today. I just wanted to bring out some of the importance of this project that we're working on in Johnson County.

I've had the honor to serve Johnson County for the past 15 years as their county judge. And for the record's sake, I'm Roger Harmon. I've had this honor for 15 years. I've also had the honor to serve on the Regional Transportation Council for some seven years also, so saying that, I do know the difficulties that we all face in regards to financing road projects today.

And I thank you for your open-mindedness in regards to looking at new innovative ways to make this work.

I know the decisions are tough and they're hard to make. You represent the whole State of Texas, not just North Texas, and I certainly understand that.

To give you some basic information, this project has been on our drawing boards, as you well know, for 40 years. I think past County Judge Tom Vandergriff wrote a letter many years ago saying that this was one of the most important road projects for the region, and I certainly echo that, Commissioner Meadows. So we've worked hard to find a way to make this happen.

We have 169,000 residents in our county now and the projections of this are to exceed 400,000 by the year 2030, so you see that we have a lot of tough decisions before us, not just on this roadway but many other projects that we have in the region. If you come through Cleburne from the beginning of Cleburne and come down Highway 174 to Burleson, you go through 35 red lights. That is a difficult route to travel. There are alternative routes to go but they're a lot farther. You know, we all have issues also in regard to environmental issues in our region and having to stop and start to go through 35 red lights certainly contributes to our air quality of our region.

So anyhow, I'm just here in support of this project, representing all the people of our county, and I hope we can make this happen. Are there any questions I can answer for you?

MR. HOUGHTON: Thank you very much.

JUDGE HARMON: Thank you very much.

MR. HOUGHTON: Jungus Jordan, city council member. The hometown boy.

MR. JORDAN: The hometown boy, yes, sir. Chair Delisi, members of the commission, Mr. Meadows, esteemed friend and colleague. I am Jungus Jordan, I am a city council member in the City of Fort Worth. I am also the secretary for the RTC and I'm here today to say we are asking you to break through the proverbial Gordian knot on this project, we understand that it's been on the table since 1962, as has been said.

As a fiduciary, as a council member, I understand the due diligence that you have to go through and we very much appreciate that as a citizen of Texas, and we want to say and echo the appreciation for the members of the commission, Mr. Saenz, Maribel Chavez, Michael Morris, we have some superstars on our team in Texas and I know you've worked with them on many occasions, Allen Clemson, the members of NTTA board.

But we're here to say thank you for your favorable consideration, we are hoping for favorable consideration so we can cut this knot and get on with the project for these critical projects for our region. Thank you very much.

MS. DELISI: Thanks.

Zim Zimmerman.

MR. ZIMMERMAN: Madam Chair, commissioners, I'll just echo what Senator Davis, my colleague Jungus Jordan said, I'll give you a different perspective. My name is Zim Zimmerman, I am a counsel person for District 3 which a large part of the parkway goes from 30 all the way to the Alta Mesa/Dirks Road area.

This is an area that is in gridlock right now, two main arteries, Helen and Bryant Irving Road, are continually congested. We're looking at folks that are unhappy about this congestion and it is vital to us that this go forward. The time is right now, I do understand that the devil is in the details, I would tell the next 30 days are very important to you and to us and I encourage you to make this happen. Thank you.

MS. DELISI: Kathryn Wilemon.

MS. WILEMON: Good morning, Chair and commissioners. Thank you for having us today. I'm Kathryn Wilemon, I serve on the Arlington City Council; I also serve as chair of the Tarrant Regional Transportation Council and a member of the RTC.

These projects are just so important to our whole area. As you know, connectivity and job creation and moving people around in our region is so important, especially to Arlington, as I can tell you the 161 project that will coincide and relieve traffic from 360. Along 360 we have the General Motors Assembly Plant which I'm happy to say have increased their productivity just this past week, meaning more jobs, more people coming into that area. 360 has just been a nightmare and so to continue and to finish 161 is very important.

We also have a small entertainment district in our city that we will be hosting many people coming next year. As you know, we're only a year away from Super bowl 45 in Arlington, Texas.

So thank you for your consideration, thank you for all of your work, and we would urge you to approve this minute order. Thank you.

MS. DELISI: Thank you.

That's everyone who has signed up. Commissioners, are there any other comments or questions?

MR. MEADOWS: Just brief comments on my part. I understand that today this is a definitive step but it's not the end, it's a step in a long process. In fact, as has been mentioned many times today, it's a decade after decade after decade process with regard to one road, and certainly an equally important facility which is the 161 facility, both of these when we look at, and I know my colleagues and I appreciate the fact that you understand how important these are to not just this region but this state. We just have to emphasize that point.

You're talking about -- Kathryn Wilemon mentioned the General Motors facility. You begin to think about all the economic development activity these facilities will address, will cause to happen. You're talking about 34 percent of the economic activity of the state is in this region, and Houston similarly. If we don't provide this transportation infrastructure, we as a state will fail, we will fail to continue to progress as we need to and provide quality of life for our citizenry.

So I know that everybody appreciates that, but those are the sort of actions that we're dealing with today, and I am so optimistic and encouraged. I understand 30 days is a short period of time. The concerns that are still on the table are very legitimate concerns. We talked yesterday a lot about risk management, that is a risk management challenge. You know, there's certainly risk with any of these undertakings, we know that, and without risk there's not going to be the gain that we're going to have, but we've to manage that risk, I know that.

But what I've watched over the last twelve weeks particularly is John Barton, Allen Clemson, and Michael Morris and their respective staffs focused on getting this infrastructure delivered, focused on delivering the projects and not focused on -- there's not the air of protectionism. It really is an encouraging, hopeful and very productive environment that these guys have created, and I compliment the three of you and everybody else involved with it, knowing full well that we'll be back here in 30 days or less with a resolution that really will be the definitive action necessary to move these projects forward.

So I thank you and I thank my colleagues.

MR. HOLMES: Madam Chair, if I can make just one last comment.

John, when I read this, I appreciate the language that was amended into the minute order. One of the questions that I asked yesterday, though, really wasn't answered, and that is where does the money come from, TxDOT if it has to fund under the guaranty, and I believe that that needs to be addressed.

MR. BARTON: Yes, sir, I think you asked us to do two things: quantify the size of the risk and what could do up front in lieu of a toll equity loan agreement, for edification purposes if nothing else; and then two was to define how those funds, if there ever was a draw, would be managed and where they would come from. And we will get that information for you.

MR. HOLMES: You know, this is a project that will live for decades. None of us are likely to be here in this capacity 20 or 25 years from now when a draw might be required, and so we need to leave some pretty clear footprints in the document as to what we believe was appropriate at the time that we approved it.

MR. BARTON: Yes, sir. And I would just add that with the grace and blessing of our Heavenly Father, the desire of whoever the executive director is, I fully intend to be here in this capacity 25 years from now. But short of that, I agree with you completely.

MR. HOLMES: Well, I hope you are too, John, but I'm pretty sure I'm not going to be.

(General laughter.)

MR. BARTON: Madam Chair, before a motion is made, I would like to make one comment, if you would allow me that.

MS. DELISI: Sure.

MR. BARTON: And there's been a lot of praise offered up to myself and the two colleagues that I've had the pleasure of working with from NTTA and the RTC, but you do need to know that my role in this has been very minuscule and that James Bass, John Munoz, Jim Thomason, Jack Ingram, Director Saenz, David Casteel, Maribel Chavez, Brian Barth, those are the people that did everything, my role in this was very minuscule.

MR. HOUGHTON: Well, I want to thank you, John. It's a long haul and we're not there yet but I think it's a huge step. But for the record, I'll say when this thing took off. I think Paul Wageman will agree with me, when we got the egos of Victor Vandergriff and Bill Meadows out of the process, I think that's when things really started happening.

MR. BARTON: And to enable me to be here 25 years from now, I'm not going to comment on that remark.

MR. UNDERWOOD: Madam Chairman, excuse me. I need to go get my hip-waders.

MS. DELISI: That was good, that was a good one.

(General laughter.)

MS. DELISI: I do just want to make one comment. Staff has done a great job on getting us to this point we are right now, but I just want to point out to the audience I think I'm preaching to the choir up here to anyone out there in the world who's listening, what we have to go through to get to a position like this to get an important project like these projects done, I think highlights the fact that this agency needs as many tools in the toolbox and tools that have been taken away from this agency need to be returned to the agency so we can be more creative, more innovative, not just in North Texas but across the state to make sure we are delivering projects everywhere.

There is only so much capacity we have and we were very creative and innovative on this project. It ties our hands for future projects. So I just want to highlight that this elevates the need to make sure that all those tools that we have been given over the years remain with us, and the ones that have been maybe suspended or taken away are returned to this agency so we can do more projects like this all across the state.

So with that, if there are no more comments, I'll recognize Commissioner Meadows for a motion.

MR. MEADOWS: Move approval.

MR. HOUGHTON: Second.

MS. DELISI: All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes.)

MS. DELISI: The motion passes.

MR. SAENZ: Thank you, John.

Commission, we're going to go back and catch agenda item number 6, and John Barton will present a minute order dealing with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or the Economic Stimulus Program.

MR. BARTON: Thank you, Director Saenz. For the record and our court reporter, I am John Barton, the assistant executive director for Engineering Operations for the Department of Transportation.

Briefly, I would just like to provide my monthly update report for the commission on the Recovery Act. As you can see from the slide that's on the screen now, we have moved forward with the obligation of a little over $1.7 billion of the $2.2 billion awarded for highways and bridges here in Texas, and have under contract just shy of $1.6 billion under contract to date. So far, we have expended just over $348 million on those contracts and 491 contracts have actually been executed with 114 of those being completed, and have created or retained job opportunities for 5,717 employees as of December 2009.

On the transit program, we have obligated all of the transit funds that we have received and have spent approximately $12-1/2 million of those, creating 68 grant opportunities and a little over 80,000 hours of work for employees that either were able to retain their jobs or provided new opportunities, again, as of December 31, 2009.

In the aviation program, for six projects around the state we have obligated $17.5 million; $4 million of that has been spent to date, and again, a little over 24,000 hours of job opportunities for employees how had their careers extended or new opportunities provided for them as of January 25, just recently.

And update on our mobility list. As you recall, when we first started there were 28 projects on this list to be obligated; as of today there are only three remaining. The good news is that before the end of next week, the one that's shown there in Bell County in the Waco District should be obligated. In total, that will be a little over $132 million of additional Recovery Act funds obligated, including your contribution as well as the Killeen-Temple MPO's contribution.

And then the project in San Antonio there in Bexar County on US 281 at Loop 1604, we anticipate obligation before the middle of next month, as well as the Cameron County project. So we are well on our way and very near the end, and these large projects are very certain to be obligated in the time frames necessary.

Just to let you know that the time for obligating these opportunities is closing, they all must be obligated before midnight on March 1, 2010. By February 19, just a few weeks away, we must submit all of our requests to FHWA. Of course, our partners here in Texas at the Federal Highway Administration have agreed to work with us to the very last minute, if necessary. And by February 5, I think it's critical that all projects demonstrate their eligibility, and if not, that we move forward with alternative plans to obligate every dollar that was provided to Texas which I'm confident we will do.

This is a picture of one of your projects that you have supported through the Recovery Act. As you can see, it's a widening project of a roadway. This is the earthwork widening between the existing pavement and a railroad that's parallel to the route. As you can see, it's going to provide for a much improved facility to provide not only improved mobility in this rural area but also safety, and of course, the extension of a big structure. So there's multiple facets of work going on to provide opportunities for multiple contractors.

We do still have some maintenance activities going on. This is a project that's a preservation activity of resurfacing a roadway and certainly provides a much better pavement at the end of the process so extend the life of this pavement. While we are struggling with the maintenance needs of our state, the Recovery Act has provided us an opportunity to fund some much needed maintenance around the state.

And then a more urban improvement to provide some mobility and congestion relief on one of our projects. As you can see, it's a pavement widening in the heart of a community and one that we're excited about, as you can see, quite a bit of traffic.

Just as common as the orange cones and barrels that abound on these Recovery Act funded projects, this particular device is also commonly seen around the State of Texas, it's a conference call phone. We continue to have our conference calls and staff from around the state gather around their tables every Monday afternoon at four o'clock to ensure that we move forward. The green that's on the spreadsheet in front of Mark Marek is an indication of all those projects that have been committed; the few that are not green are the ones that we have left remaining.

And through it all, we are continuing to work with the House Select Committee on Federal Economic Stabilization Funding and the reporting that they are requiring us to do, so your staff is diligently doing that as well. And somehow in the midst of all of this, in the next 30 days not only do we have to negotiate with NTTA about the State Highway 161 and 121 projects, but we have to complete the Recovery Act obligation window, and Mark Marek and Robin Ayers somehow miraculously still have their sense of humor about it all, as you can see from this picture.

So with that brief report, I wanted to share with you a minute order that is before you today. It is to some basic technical corrections for several of the types of projects that we have funded. There are four exhibits to the minute order. The first deals with some mobility projects. Because of some underruns on other projects, we were able to add the State Highway 36 project from the Austin County in the Yoakum District, as well as some additional projects in Harris and Montgomery Counties of the Houston District, and those projects are shown on Exhibit A as addition to your previously approved minute orders.

Exhibit B is some additional preservation projects: one is in the Atlanta District in Bowie County for a project on US 82; we also have a project shown on US 87 in Dallam County of the Amarillo District for some pavement rehabilitation; and then a project in El Paso on FM 258 and this is a unique one, we're asking that you authorize us to place $50,000 on a project that is being funded by the Recovery Act through a direct grant to the Indian tribe there in the El Paso area for a project that they were awarded.

And then Exhibit C are some transit projects and we're asking for revision to some of the awards because of the process that we've gone through and the costs that were associated with those as we finalize those grants.

And then finally Exhibit D just has a technical correction to one of the previously improved enhancement projects in terms of a project limit.

So I'm pleased to share with you that our process and plan for implementing the Recovery Act has and continues to be successful, and fully anticipate to stand before you at your next commission meeting and tell you that we have obligated 100 percent of the funding, and at this time I would recommend your approval of the minute order that is before you.

MS. DELISI: Is there a motion?

MR. HOUGHTON: So moved.

MR. UNDERWOOD: Second.

MS. DELISI: All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes.)

MS. DELISI: The motion passes.

MR. BARTON: Thank you.

MR. SAENZ: Thank you, John, and good job.

Agenda item number 8, commission, deals with our federal legislative priorities, and Coby Chase will present a minute order for you.

MR. CHASE: Good morning. For the record, my name is Coby Chase and I'm the director of TxDOT's Government and Public Affairs Division. I'm bringing to you today for your consideration a list of federal priorities.

In July of last year, Chairman John Carona asked the commission and the agency for its thoughts about changes in the next federal surface transportation legislation. Chairman Delisi said agency staff would talk to stakeholders and craft something. Since then we have asked the public to provide us input. We have met with local toll-providing entities, including representatives from NTTA, HCTRA and a variety of RMAs. We've met with rural transit providers through the Texas Transit Association.

We've met with the Border Trade Advisory Committee working with the Secretary of State's Office. And I'd like to point out that Secretary Andrade brought a letter over this morning discussing the priorities in front of you, particularly number 7, which we'll talk about later, regarding freight movement across the Texas-Mexico Border in support of that, and we worked long and hard with her office on that particular item.

We've also met with representatives from Ports to Plains and the Midland-Odessa Transportation Alliance at their leadership levels. We have met and had highly productive discussions with the Association of Texas Metropolitan Planning Organizations, the Alliance for I-69 and representatives of the Texas Municipal League, among many others, to be quite frank. And we, of course, solicited input from within the agency. In addition, a notice was published in the Texas Register for public comments and e-mails were sent to the entire state elected official database that TxDOT maintains.

After meeting with these entities and accepting comment, staff drafted a document that we believe encapsulated both the views of the agency and our partners and set out solid priorities for the commission to consider. I presented that draft to you at your December workshop. After discussing the draft with you, we sent the document back out for comment to these same groups. In addition, we asked for input from the larger metropolitan transit agencies, a second round of comments, in the state, from members of the substantive committees of the Texas Legislature, from trucking and rail interests, as well as, again, the general public.

Last week Steve Simmons and I traveled to Washington, D.C., to present the draft document to the staff of the Texas Congressional Delegation for review and comment. Accompanying us were representatives of four of the partners mentioned above, including the Secretary of State's Office, so the delegation could hear firsthand the ideas of multiple transportation entities, not just that of TxDOT.

My staff and I have taken all this input and developed the policy priorities before you today in the form of a minute order, and it's the attachment to the minute order.

Let me talk about the document itself for a minute. It is structured like the commission's tolling principles, it takes its inspiration from that from the standpoint that it sets out priorities and doesn't dwell on specifics because these specifics can change. We don't want to rule out a good idea or embrace a good idea that might turn bad.

The document is divided into seven key principles that we feel encapsulate the ideals and priorities discussed individually and collectively with each of these groups. When I spoke to you in December, we included a placeholder for policy recommendations regarding earmarks, and after multiple discussions with multiple groups, I would recommend that this document is not the best forum to conduct a discussion of earmarks.

The seven principles in the proposed commission positions are as follows.

MR. HOUGHTON: Coby?

MR. CHASE: Yes, sir.

MR. HOUGHTON: Where is the minute order? It's not in our books.

MR. CHASE: Here's the exhibit.

MR. HOUGHTON: Or the exhibit, what you're looking for, your priorities.

(Pause to distribute exhibit.)

MR. HOUGHTON: So this, Coby, is what we're contemplating adopting?

MR. CHASE: Yes, sir.

MR. HOUGHTON: Okay, sir.

MR. CHASE: The rate of return and minimum guarantee. Texas should at least maintain the status quo on our rate of return. If additional fuel taxes or funding of any kind is made available, all new funds above the current level should accrue to each state at 100 percent rate of a return and have a higher degree of flexibility than current funding. In addition, reauthorization must ensure that the present equity bonus program is retained, and as a truth in advertising statement, we would recommend that the program's title be reverted back to the Minimum Guarantee Program as that is more descriptive of its purpose.

MS. DELISI: Hey, Coby.

MR. CHASE: Yes, sir. Ma'am.

MS. DELISI: I've been demoted. I've been called a sir.

MR. CHASE: I'm sorry, I'm still confused over who is the chair again after yesterday.

MR. HOUGHTON: You're confused?

MR. CHASE: No, I'm not.

(General laughter.)

MS. DELISI: I'm not sure I agree that we should settle for maintaining the status quo on the rate of return, we get killed, we're 49 out of 50 states on rate of return, I'm sorry, 49 of 51.

MR. HOUGHTON: I thought we were 50 of 50.

MS. DELISI: No. I saw that Florida, I think, dropped below us.

MR. CHASE: I'm not sure either version is a good story, but okay.

MS. DELISI: Right, that's my point. I mean, should we be settling? Shouldn't we be demanding an increase in our rate of return? It's pathetically low.

MR. CHASE: I agree, and I think all of us agree who crafted this.

MS. DELISI: They can't really kill us any more than they already are.

MR. CHASE: They shouldn't kill us any more than they already are. We should not go backwards, we will always advocate for a higher rate of return, and some continued elements of this, one is, as I brought up yesterday, the Congressional Budget Office said that just to break even with the current legislation, you'd have to raise the gas tax five cents just to get there, and the point in this is, and we, of course, can change it, is we will fight for a higher rate of return. I think as a practical matter, if they don't put any more gas tax in there, it's going to be very impossible to change the rate of return upward. To get it upward it would be very difficult, let me put it that way.

MS. DELISI: I guess my feeling is why we shouldn't. I guess the status quo should be the floor and we should be working towards an increase.

MR. CHASE: Okay.

MS. DELISI: Because the way I read this, it's sort of like settling for our current rate of return which is unacceptable.

MR. CHASE: Okay.

MR. HOUGHTON: Madam Chair, James Bass showed up. I asked James this same question. Do you want to walk up that way, James? Talk about the rate of return, James. I asked you in an e-mail are we still number 50.

MR. BASS: Yes, we are. For the record, I'm James Bass, chief financial officer at TxDOT.

I believe the data Commissioner Houghton had asked for was going back to the initiation of the Federal Highway Program back in the mid '50s, and the Federal Highway Administration produces a report that shows the deposits to the Highway Account of the Highway Trust Fund since that time and the return to the states over that time, both dollar-wise and a percentage, and number one or number 50, however you want to look at that, is the State of Texas over that time, the largest donor entity is the State of Texas over that period.

MS. DELISI: Over the whole period?

MR. BASS: Correct.

MS. DELISI: So from year to year we may go from 49th to 50th.

MR. BASS: Correct. The data that the commissioner requested was over that time. I believe currently we're still number 2 or 50, however you want to look at that.

MR. HOUGHTON: We're number one in contributions and number 50 in receipts, not dollar amounts but percentages.

MR. BASS: Well, not quite that basic, but in the disparity between those two figures, we're number one.

MR. HOLMES: James, how many donor states are there?

MR. HOUGHTON: Thirteen, twelve?

MR. BASS: I'm not 100 percent sure, I thought it was in the mid-teens. One of the things that surprised me when we were dealing with the latest rescission on equity bonus a few months ago, and this equity bonus, by definition, really only goes to states that are donors -- it used to be called Minimum Guarantee which was much more descriptive, and I was surprised at the number of states that had equity bonus, and I apologize, I think it may have been in the neighborhood of 20 but I can't recall off the top of my head, but we can certainly get that information to the commission, the number of donor states.

MR. HOLMES: Thanks.

MR. CHASE: The number of donor states as I left it is in the teens, and in the House that comprises a majority of members, big states like Texas and California and all of a sudden you get real numbers. In the Senate, though, it creates a completely different dynamic. And there is a group of states that flip-flop from year to year, one year they're a donor state, next year they're not. That has to do with the way the formula is structured, it's not bad, it just is.

And then there are a group of states that we often pair with in the donor state discussion that need somebody with them, such like the Wyoming and Nevada, especially like in Nevada that takes on signs of becoming a donor state in our lifetime, things like that. So that's how that goes.

But yes, last I left it, it was in the teens, and in the House you have just a straight out majority of members, it works in the House mathematically, in the Senate the math goes all to heck.

So Madam Chair and commissioners, you'd like that language altered on the first one, and I'll have to consult with our general counsel about doing that from the podium.

MR. HOUGHTON: I think status quo is not acceptable.

MR. CHASE: Okay. Take every opportunity to increase its rate of return, and then we could end the sentence there, say nothing about maintaining the status quo?

MS. DELISI: Correct.

MR. CHASE: Done.

What is further in there is also the idea that anything that is raised above the current taxation level, let's say they add a nickel, so if they do that, that entire nickel accrues to each state back at 100 percent rate of return, and the base program is not changed, meaning they don't change the rate of return on the rest of it either. Sure you can have the nickel back but we'll take it out over here. So at least maintain that, and then anything new you get back at 100 percent rate of return.

And that, of all of these, I have no examples to go with this, I will on the others, but this one stands alone by itself, there's no in-between on this one or variances, it is what it is.

Expanded funding options, item two. The Federal Transportation Program should include provisions which ensure that a variety of both public and private funding options are available and utilized at the discretion of state and local entities. Congress should establish new source of funding for rail projects.

The reason, the longer we had this conversation with people who are helping shape this document about rail, is while blending among modes is discussed in other places in this document, wouldn't want it to appear that something as large as rail shouldn't have a complete and unfettered draw on gas tax funds. If the nation is serious about a rail program, the nation should identify rail funding and not just think the gas tax is going to handle that.

But some specific examples under this item would be reauthorize the Transportation Infrastructure and Finance Innovation Act, or TIFIA, and increase the amount of federal funds available to states that utilize that program, and Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson is doing that and she did get the right language into Chairman Oberstar's bill.

Revise federal rules restricting the application of private activity bonds to allow for broader allowable uses of these funds; ensure that reauthorization does not limit a state's or region's ability to enter into public-private partnerships; reauthorize the Build America Bonds Program; establish a highly flexible national infrastructure bank funded from newly identified sources outside of the Federal Highway Trust Fund; and reauthorize the Transportation Development Credits Program, make sure that stays in law which has been implemented very successfully in Texas. Those are examples of things that would fall under that.

Number three, clearly define goals and performance measurement. Congress should establish over-arching goals and desired outcomes of the Federal Transportation Program, including passenger and freight movement and aligned resources to meet them. There should be a clearly defined federal focus on addressing congestion relief in our metropolitan areas, safety improvements throughout the system, connectivity among our urban centers and maintaining and preserving this nation's highway assets with a specific focus on improving the Federal-Aid Highway System. Each focus area should be tailored to the unique challenges of that state or region.

The federal program should maximize transportation funds through efficient program implementation and outcome-based decisions. Additional programmatic requirements should only be considered if they measurably enhance project delivery through time and cost savings. Some specific examples of that would be national goals should be established in six areas: safety, preservation, congestion, system operations, freight and economic development and environmental outcomes.

States must drive establishment of performance measures and these should be coordinated with MPOs and transit providers, and to the greatest extent possible, through a formal rulemaking process, not through guidance. States must self-define targets that work in their unique context rather than have targets imposed at federal statute, regulation or funding distribution. There should be no fiscal sanctions for failing to meet targets.

This, I will say, and I've said at every presentation, we always want to keep our eyes wide open on this in be-careful-what-you-ask-for context. The idea is good. TxDOT is moving towards that with our strategic planning effort that is underway, and most people on the federal level would acknowledge something like this needs to occur there as well. There's language for it in the current legislation; it is largely undefined but it will always be approach this with your eyes open because the last thing we'd want, or as our transit providers pointed out one of those kind of Brazil-like reporting systems where all you're doing is feeding in data for no outcome. So just keep that in mind.

Number four, program consolidation of funding flexibility. Reauthorization should consolidate programs where it makes sense to do so and ensure that state and local governments are authorized to utilize federal funds across modal lines.

Some specific examples: consolidate federal transportation programs to the maximum extent possible following the goals established by Congress and reauthorization, and then ensure that there's sufficient flexibility among these programs to allow for the mingling of funds for projects which cross program lines. The 1909 Commission actually provides a good roadmap for these. I know you are familiar with that to different degrees to which programs could be combined. The legislation that's been proposed does it in name, it doesn't necessarily do it in being able to have the programs actually function together, it just puts them in new silos, for lack of a better term.

Strengthen partnerships, number five. As Congress moves toward establishing increasing performance measures, appropriate outcomes must be identified for all levels of government. Because one size does not fit all, state and local governments must have a significant role in the establishment of these measures and the unimpeded authority to implement solutions. To that end, federal reauthorization of the Surface Transportation Program should recognize and support the roles and responsibilities that state and local governments and the private sector provide in addressing each of these goals.

Not that there's been a lot of confusion, but over time, confusion has grown about who provides what and making sure when we're partnering, say, with a toll authority or the private sector that partner that we bring into the mix has the full ability to get the job done. And it also ties into state and local decision-making authority about how projects should be delivered, especially when you're bringing in new partners.

Some examples, one thing that really caught our attention in the introduced legislation was the Office of Public Benefit which would set toll rates for toll roads nationwide and decide whether or not they were approved. That is something that I don't think. I know we're not interested in at all, and that doesn't seem like it would help deliver projects, it would hinder, especially the financing of projects. And we want to make sure that, intentionally or not, nothing on the federal level gets in the way of a state or a locality engaging the private sector when they have the ability to do that to deliver projects.

Number 6, expedited project delivery. Reauthorization of the Federal Transportation Program must focus on expedited project delivery. Specifically, there should be firm establishment of additional permitting approvals and continued progress in the delegation of environmental review to the states. In addition, federal law should contain provisions which would expedite the resolution of environmental disputes and allow for records of decisions for projects to be processed within a specific time frame.

Some examples: require greater coordination among federal agencies reviewing transportation projects by instituting performance criteria; establish firm time limits for federal review of transportation projects; use federal transportation funds to pay for regulatory step disputed reviews that comply with time limits. And if you were at the Texas Transportation Forum, you heard a robust discussion about reducing the time authorized for the filing of lawsuits on environmental documents to 60 days and provide for binding arbitration to be invoked at the option of any party to the dispute. One of our members of the delegation said at the forum he would introduce that legislation and pursue it in reauthorization.

Last, efficient international freight movement. Congress should take very opportunity to improve, not hinder, the efficient movement of freight between the United States and its international borders. As specific examples, maintain the Coordinated Border Infrastructure Program as a separate formula-based distribution instead of rolling it with other discretionary projects addressing projects of national significance.

I think you've heard me talk about that before. When TEA-21 became SAFETEA-LU, Congressman Burgess, in particular -- I'm sure others were involved -- changed that program from a discretionary program to a formula program and Texas received a 25 percent rate of return in that program. Under the current proposed legislation, it turns it back into a discretionary program and mingles it with other things so there would be no guaranteed rate of return.

We've talked extensively with our delegation about that and there's interest in making sure that remains a formula. It's one formula that works very well the way it's written.

The program should also be modified so that monies are identified as a supplement to a state's existing allocation and eligibility for funding should be expanded. And also preserve the National Corridor Planning and Development Program as a standalone program and provide funds to states through formula allocation. And then also fund the existing Transportation Border Congestion Relief Program which exists but has no funding tied to it, and a number of border members are interested in seeing that program up and standing.

That is it on the recommendations. I believe that the recommended policy priorities are broad enough as amended to serve as guiding principles for us to utilize as we engage in the debate on reauthorization. Should you adopt these priorities, our next step will be to develop a document reflective of your decision, and I am available to address any questions you might have. Thank you.

MS. DELISI: Any questions for Coby? If there are no questions, is there a motion?

MR. HOUGHTON: So moved.

MR. HOLMES: Second.

MS. DELISI: All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes.)

MS. DELISI: The motion passes.

MR. CHASE: Thank you.

MR. SAENZ: Thank you, Coby.

Agenda item number 9(a), Mark Tomlinson will present a minute order that will designate segments of the Grand Parkway as a toll road.

MR. TOMLINSON: Good morning again, commissioners. My name is Mark Tomlinson, director of the Turnpike Authority Division of TxDOT.

This item authorizes the designation of Segment D of the Grand Parkway, from US 59 to Franz Road, about a 20.2 mile segment in Fort Bend and Harris Counties, as a toll project on the state highway system. TxDOT received final environmental clearance on Grand Parkway in September of 2008 and you have previously designated Segments E and F-1, we're scheduled to bring Segment F-2 to you in February for consideration of approval. Staff recommends approval of the minute order.

MS. DELISI: Is there a motion?

MR. HOUGHTON: So moved.

MR. HOLMES: Second.

MS. DELISI: All in favor?

MR. HOLMES: Madam Chair?

MS. DELISI: Yes, hold on. I'm sorry.

MR. HOLMES: I have a brief comment. You know, Mark, the way legislation was enacted a couple of sessions ago, various counties had the ability to opt into building the Grand Parkway and Fort Bend is making pretty decent progress on Segment D which is encouraging that somebody is doing something on the Grand Parkway.

However, the way Segment D and E were designed, where they meet happens to be in Harris County, and I think we need to kind of watch those lines where the segments are located because it ends up being a bit tricky for the way that they're going to be funded. And right now what they're working on is actually building D up to the Fort Bend County line which is south of Interstate 10. So I think we need to take a look at that and see how that might be addressed.

MR. TOMLINSON: Yes, sir, certainly can.

MR. HOLMES: Thank you.

MR. SAENZ: Thank you, Mark.

MS. DELISI: I haven't taken a vote yet. There was a motion, there was a second. All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes.)

MS. DELISI: The motion passes.

MR. SAENZ: Thank you, Mark. Go ahead and present agenda item 9(c) dealing with the Alamo Regional Mobility Authority.

MR. TOMLINSON: Yes, sir. Item 9(c) amends a previous financial assistance agreement to extend the limits of Loop 1604. Back in December of 2008, the commission approved $12.39 million to be used for environmental studies, preliminary engineering, schematics, and other development work. This minute order would only extend the limits of the project, it doesn't increase that monetary commitment at all, but just allows them to study a little bit further, all the way down to US 90. So staff recommends the approval of the minute order.

MR. HOLMES: So moved.

MR. HOUGHTON: Second.

MS. DELISI: All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes.)

MS. DELISI: The motion passes.

MR. TOMLINSON: Thank you.

MR. SAENZ: Thank you, Mark.

Agenda item number 9(b) deals with a toll road in Cameron County and final approval for a toll equity request.

MR. RAGLAND: Thank you. For the record, Brian Ragland, director of the Finance Division.

This proposed minute order grants final approval to a request from the Cameron County RMA for $36.5 million in the form of a toll equity grant from federal stimulus funds. The toll project encompasses Segments 2 and 3 in the existing SH 550 corridor from FM 3248 to SH 48 in Cameron County. Staff recommends your approval.

MR. HOUGHTON: So moved.

MR. HOLMES: Second.

MS. DELISI: All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes.)

MS. DELISI: The motion passes.

MR. SAENZ: Brian will present agenda item number 9(d) dealing with acceptance of the audited financial statements for the Central Texas Turnpike System.

MR. RAGLAND: This proposed minute order is your acceptance of the 2009 audited financial statements for the Central Texas Turnpike System. As you may recall, these were not ready for the December meeting. The financials were prepared and submitted in compliance with the indenture and this represents your formal acceptance of those. Staff recommends your approval.

MR. HOUGHTON: So moved.

MR. HOLMES: Second.

MS. DELISI: All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes.)

MS. DELISI: The motion passes.

MR. SAENZ: Agenda item number 10, commission, Brian will continue and present a minute order where we provide concurrence to the RTC's list of projects for State Highway 121.

MR. RAGLAND: Thank you. This proposed minute order authorizes several new projects under the SH 121 RTR work program. It also updates information on projects that you have previously approved. The plan contained in the exhibits is financially constrained based on available funding and is also based on total project costs. Staff recommends your approval.

MR. HOUGHTON: So moved.

MR. HOLMES: Second.

MS. DELISI: All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes.)

MS. DELISI: The motion passes.

MR. SAENZ: Agenda item number 11, commission, deals with adding additional entities to the State Infrastructure Bank Rulemaking Advisory Committee, and Brian will present that minute order.

MR. RAGLAND: Thank you. This proposed minute order authorizes additional types of entities, designated on Exhibit A, to appoint members to the SIB Rulemaking Advisory Committee. These members will supplement the seven members who have already been appointed, and those particular entities are: a representative of a county bordering Mexico appointed by the Texas Border Coalition, and a representative of a Texas public international bridge operator appointed by the Mexico-Texas Bridge Owners Association. Staff recommends your approval.

MR. MEADOWS: I have a quick question. I don't know who to ask the question to, I guess Amadeo, and that is when would you anticipate the first meeting of this group to take place?

MR. RAGLAND: I would anticipate as soon as this minute order is passed and we get the individuals named from those two entities that we'll be able to set up something within the next 30 days. We are still waiting on one of the previous seven entities to name a member; the Texas Association of Counties has not yet done so.

MR. MEADOWS: I would certainly encourage us to get on with it.

MR. RAGLAND: As you know, the Prop 12 SIB debt is not authorized until 2011, but we agree, we need to start working on it very quickly.

MR. HOUGHTON: So moved.

MR. HOLMES: Second.

MS. DELISI: All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes.)

MS. DELISI: The motion passes.

MR. SAENZ: Thank you. Brian, you can continue. Agenda item number 12 is the presentation of our Obligation Limit Report and Brian will present that also.

MR. RAGLAND: Thank you. This is the monthly report that communicates where we are on our traditional State Highway Fund lettings for the year compared to the obligation limit. Through January lettings, we've obligated $393 million which affects this particular cap; we've got another $847 million in the plans. You may notice on the report that there's a couple of districts that are over their allocation; we're working with those districts closely to assess the causes so that we can fix those or understand why they exceeded those individual limitations. And that's all I have and there's no action required on this item, unless you have questions.

MR. SAENZ: There's no action on that one.

MS. DELISI: Right.

MR. RAGLAND: Thank you.

MR. SAENZ: Agenda item number 13 deals with our contracts. Agenda item 13(a)(1) deals with our Highway Maintenance and Department Building Construction contracts. Ken Barnett, with the Construction Division, will make a presentation of that minute order.

MR. BARNETT: Good morning, commissioners. For the record, Ken Barnett, director of the Construction Section of the Construction Division.

As Mr. Saenz mentioned, item 13(a)(1) is consideration of award or rejection of Highway Maintenance and Department Building Construction contracts let on January 5 and 6 of this year. We had 23 projects; we averaged six bidders per project; we had a 13.7 percent underrun on the maintenance projects this month. Staff is recommending award of all Maintenance and Building Construction projects let this month, and if you have any questions, I'll be happy to take those.

MR. HOUGHTON: So moved.

MR. MEADOWS: Second.

MS. DELISI: All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes.)

MS. DELISI: The motion passes.

MR. SAENZ: Agenda item 13(a)(2) is the presentation of the Highway and Transportation Enhancement Building Construction contracts, and Ken will present that minute order.

MR. BARNETT: Agenda item 13(a)(2) is consideration of award or rejection of Highway and Transportation Enhancement Building Construction projects let on January 5 and 6 of this year. We had 56 projects; we averaged 7.66 bidders per project; and we had an underrun of 8.92 percent. Staff is recommending award of all projects.

MR. HOUGHTON: So moved.

MR. UNDERWOOD: Second.

MS. DELISI: All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes.)

MS. DELISI: The motion passes.

MR. SAENZ: Thank you, Ken.

Agenda item 14, commissioners, deals with our Routine Minute Orders that we go through every month. Staff will be happy to present or answer any questions on any individual order; if not, we recommend approval of all.

MS. DELISI: Is there a motion?

MR. HOUGHTON: So moved.

MR. HOLMES: Second.

MS. DELISI: All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes.)

MS. DELISI: The motion passes.

This completes all the action items on the agenda. We're going to be recessing to meet in executive session but there are also a couple of citizens who are signed up for open comments, so with the commission's consent, I suggest we hear those comments first before we go into our executive session. Is there any objection?

(No response.)

MS. DELISI: Okay. So with that then, I'd like to call up Joey Dauben.

MR. DAUBEN: Thank you, commissioners, thank you, Chair. My name is Joey Dauben and I am from Ellis County, Texas and I am the news editor for the Ellis County Press and the publisher of the Ellis County Observer News Blog, and I represent residents of northern Ellis County who have a few concerns about the Loop 9 proposed toll road, the routes, the maps that we've seen, maps that my newspaper has published. The reason I come before you today mainly is just to ask TxDOT to hold off on issuing a decision of record until public hearings and then until we have more time to study more routes.

At a city council meeting last February, I saw a map from the state of Loop 9 and it showed subdivisions, homes, farms, businesses, brand new subdivisions, and it showed the current route for Loop 9 in the communities of Glenn Heights, parts of Desoto, Cedar Hill and Midlothian, and I'm asking, on behalf of 300 people that have signed an e-mail list on a website that I started called stoploop9.com, that you guys take into consideration the whole subdivisions, brand new ones that were built as recently as four years ago.

The current plans and the maps on the walls at the Oak Leaf City Council chambers and on loop9.org, the state website, show these subdivisions in the direct path of this toll road. Now, personally, I'm not opposed to toll roads, not opposed to foreign investment, not opposed to foreign investment taking the toll road revenue; some people in northern Ellis County and southern Dallas County are vehemently opposed to it all across the board. I watched "20-20," John Stossel's special, and that's actually what got me off the fence of that. I'm actually in support of toll roads.

But I'm not in support of the current plans right now, regardless of the fact that Loop 9 was proposed 42 years ago. That was a little bit before my time, but I really have a concern that these homes and these homeowners and their houses are in the direct path, even on the study routes, even the study area, it still shows lanes going through entire subdivisions in Cedar Hill and in Midlothian.

We had a town hall meeting last year, last April that grassroots people from southern Dallas County and northern Ellis County put together, completely grassroots-oriented. We had 1,200 people show up to that. We had TxDOT there speaking; we had elected officials and things, but we were told that we have basically this year before you guys issue a decision of record, that there will be two public hearings.

Well, I asked for you guys to at least hear us out and listen to the concerns of myself and I brought another person with me today. Please let's not do anything that would jeopardize the property rights, especially of homeowners in these subdivisions.

The cities of Red Oak and Ovilla both passed resolutions several years ago saying that they do not want Loop 9 anywhere in the city limits, so it got moved up into the Cedar Hill area and moved into the northern part of Midlothian, and that is currently where the proposed routes are at right now.

But again, I just ask that TxDOT hears our concerns, and we do have a second town hall meeting. This is almost purposely timed; it's two days before the primary election and it's going to be in the same location as last year's. We will invite TxDOT to come and speak if they want, but they'll have to be at the end of the agenda. But I just want to let everyone know that there are people in southern Dallas County and northern Ellis County that are very concerned with the route of Loop 9, even the study area and the study routes that go into entire subdivisions, and that's what the state maps show today.

So I will leave that with you guys. I'm going to let James come up here, and I appreciate you very much for letting me speak.

MS. DELISI: James Adams.

MR. ADAMS: Good morning. My name is James Adams, I reside in Lancaster, Texas. Chair Delisi, Commissioners Holmes, Houghton, Meadows and Underwood, it is a distinct privilege and honor to speak with you today concerning the Southeast Loop 9 project as it is currently proposed in southern Dallas County and northern Ellis County.

I'm here on behalf of the more than 1,200 families in the communities of Midlothian, Cedar Hill, Glenn Heights, and Lancaster who stand to lose their homes, businesses and financial security as the current plan is executed. Hundreds more will be similarly affected in the communities to the east of us, including Seagoville and Mesquite.

The coalition of grassroots neighborhood community groups that we represent have been working together for years to effect changes in the Proposed Loop 9 plan. We have prepared a position paper that documents our collective concerns and recommendations. This document was provided to your staff earlier this week via e-mail and again today in the folders. At the request of your staff, we have prepared and provided twelve copies of the document for further review and consideration by the commission.

Over the past ten years we have spent thousands of dollars and countless hours speaking with local officials, TxDOT, representatives and state officials and the media with one primary objective: get TxDOT to look at lower cost alternatives for the southern outer loop route that better serve the long-term transportation needs of North Texas and minimize new right of way requirements. We appear before you today to humbly ask you for your consideration of this request.

We do not disagree that an outer loop transportation corridor is in the best interest of the citizens of the Greater North Texas area, but we believe the outer loop must truly be an outer loop encompassing the boundaries of the Metroplex as it currently exists and is projected to grow. We believe that the current plan is too costly, both from a highway construction perspective and from a human perspective, while not really achieving the intended purpose of providing a connective outer loop for the growing North Texas region.

The two current alternatives for the Southeast Loop 9 are based on routes originally proposed for a Dallas County road in the late 1950s. This out-of-date route has served as the basis for all the studies conducted since that time and have severely limited efforts to update the plan to be more responsive to the current demographics of the southern end of the Metroplex. The only significant changes to the route have been made to the north, counter to urban expansion and response to the cities in the proposed path officially stated their objections to the routes transecting their jurisdictions.

In 2005 the route was further moved northward in response to a requirement for smoothing in order to accommodate an 85-mile-an-hour truck speed. When the route was first proposed, admittedly the areas in which we live were open land but a lot has changed in the ensuing 52 years. These open areas are now filled with homes and neighborhoods, small businesses, schools and churches. I must also add that although homes and businesses have been built in these areas, the land is not flat prairie. Both current alternatives traverse extremely rough terrain, including multiple creeks, limestone hills and mature oak forests that would require elevated roadways and multiple bridges to be constructed for a majority of the route.

Neither proposed alternative provides access for the growing suburban communities in Ellis and Johnson Counties farther to the south and to the west. Double digit population growth in communities such as Waxahachie and Burleson are creating traffic concerns that are not being addressed by these alignments. New roads recently built to the north of the Metroplex that fulfill the outer loop plan are located as much as 30 miles north of the original alignments proposed in the 1960s. Although the growth to the north has far outpaced the southern areas, the pattern for outward expansion from the city centers appears to be back on track.

Building Loop 9 as a part of an outer loop inside the boundaries of Dallas County, far from the leading edge of southern growth, only sets up a situation where another major road project will have to be built and fulfilling the true outer loop needs right now, and these needs will be required before this project will even be completed. We believe there are low-cost alternatives to the current plan, existing rights of way are available in areas to the south of the current proposed alignments. Using these right of ways could significantly reduce construction costs, expedite development and minimize requirements for seizure of private property.

The development of the Southeast Loop 9 project was accelerated in 2005 when it was designated as a feeder road for the Trans-Texas Corridor. Since TxDOT has announced that the plans for the Trans-Texas Corridor will not continue, we're asking that you consider re-evaluation of the project to expand the study area and update the potential alignments to be more responsive to current and projected population growth. Thank you.

MS. DELISI: Thank you.

All right, that concludes the open comment portion, so at this time we will recess into executive session for the purpose of evaluating the executive director.

(Whereupon, at 11:09 a.m., the meeting was recessed, to reconvene this same day, Thursday, December 28, 2010, following conclusion of the executive session.)

MS. DELISI: The meeting of the Texas Transportation Commission is reconvened. For the record, the time is 12:03 p.m. The commission has concluded its executive session. Is there any other business to come before the commission?

(No response.)

MS. DELISI: There being none, I'll entertain a motion to adjourn.

MR. HOUGHTON: So moved.

MR. HOLMES: Second.

MS. DELISI: All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes.)

MS. DELISI: Please note for the record that it is 12:04 p.m., and this meeting stands adjourned.

(Whereupon, at 12:04 p.m., the meeting was concluded.)

C E R T I F I C A T E

MEETING OF: Texas Transportation Commission
Special Meeting
LOCATION: Austin, Texas
DATE: January 28, 2010
I do hereby certify that the foregoing pages, numbers 1 through 106 inclusive, are the true, accurate, and complete transcript prepared from the verbal recording made by electronic recording by Nancy King before the Texas Transportation Commission.





2/02/2010
(Transcriber) (Date)

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