Page Options
Up Arrow

Texas Department of Transportation Commission Meeting


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

Thursday, March 25, 2010


COMMISSION MEMBERS:

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

STAFF:

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

PROCEEDINGS

MR. HOUGHTON: Good morning, welcome. It is 9:06 a.m. and I call the regular March 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 2:46 p.m. on March 17, 2010.

And before we begin, as traditional, we ask you to please place all cell phones and communication devices in the silent mode.

As I said yesterday, before I turn the comments over to my fellow commissioners, I'd like to note that I'm sitting in the Chair's chair this morning which we have a missing man formation here, Dave, that we leave the Chair's chair up here and I'm sitting next to the Chair's chair, because of the arrival of 6 pound, 13 ounce Catherine Lise, Cate is her nickname, Delisi, last Tuesday. And I'm happy to report that mother and baby and everyone is just fine.

And at this time, for the first time in history it's the first time a Chair has given birth. Some people who have sat in that seat have given birth in many other different ways.

With that said, I'd like to turn, as customary, turn over a few minutes to each commissioner for some comments.

MR. MEADOWS: Did you notice his reluctance to do so?

(General laughter.)

MR. MEADOWS: I'd certainly like to join Acting Chair Houghton in offering my congratulations to the Delisis on the arrival of Cate. I know it's an exciting event in their lives and I know we all congratulate them. I know that they've got many, many exciting years ahead of them, as all of us as parents know.

I would also like to say I truly hope and pray that she, in her typical diligent fashion, is watching us closely today to make sure that my colleague and friend and Acting Chair moves us in an expeditious fashion down the road where we accomplish a lot and do so very quickly. Thank you.

MR. UNDERWOOD: Are you through?

MR. MEADOWS: I think I am.

MR. UNDERWOOD: I didn't want to step on you.

Good morning to everyone this morning.

Dave, good to see you and good to see you with us. G, glad you're here, sir.

I want to thank Bobby Littlefield in the Paris District for their hospitality over the past month and whatnot when I was traveling through there, and also Larry Tegtmeyer of the Wichita Falls District. And I just want everybody to know I'm very impressed with the quality and expertise of the men and women that work for TxDOT, especially the men and women I've had a chance to come in contact with, it's impressive.

Also, I'd like for Larry, if you'll please tell Terry Reese that I love the logo that he did yesterday for Dave and Randy's presentation and whatnot, the TxDOT One that was done by Wichita Falls employee Terry Reese.

Also on my travels, I want to thank Howard in Amarillo for his staff. They did an excellent job in the National Work Zone Awareness Statewide Tour. This tour has made five stops in Texas, Amarillo, Waco, Beaumont, El Paso and Laredo. Howard, you may have been with your family but your TxDOT family took very good care of you, it was a first-class program.

Also, Amadeo, Kelly and her crew, they did an excellent job. I would suggest that you get them a bus pass, though if you're going to put them in that van again. Two breakdowns is enough.

MR. SAENZ: They finally abandoned the van.

MR. UNDERWOOD: I know they did so they could finally get home.

For those that don't know, the National Work Zone Awareness is a statewide tour that's gone all over the nation and made five stops in Texas. I just want the driving public to understand that this year in Texas we'll probably have 1,000 work zones that will be set up throughout the state. So that you understand the gravity of this, one out of 1,074 work zone fatalities nationwide this past year, 235 of them were involved with a large truck. Beyond that, the biggest cause of work zone accidents is speeding and inattention, texting, playing with the radio, doing something besides driving. So for the driving public, please drive safe, take care of our people so they can take care of you.

MR. HOLMES: Thank you, Fred. I'd like to also offer my congratulations to Ted and Deirdre. With three children three and under, it's going to be an exciting time over the next 15 or 20 years.

I'd also like to welcome my friends from the Gulf Coast. I think we're going to hear from you guys maybe here in the meeting. I appreciate your being here and thank you for your help, hard work and attendance, and welcome to all of you. And I look forward to Acting Chair Houghton's running this meeting.

MR. HOUGHTON: I appreciate the vote of confidence by my fellow commissioners, as thin as it may have been.

(General laughter.)

MR. HOUGHTON: Again, welcome to all. We look forward to hearing from the people that have traveled here to Austin.

With that said, if you wish to address the commission, as customary, we ask you to fill out a speaker's card, so make sure you have that filled out. To comment on an agenda item you need to complete the yellow card; if you're not on the agenda and you want to comment in the open period, it's a blue card. So regardless, we need to have you fill out a card and please limit your comments to three minutes or less.

Our first item of business today is to approve the minutes from the three meetings in February: the special meeting of February 24 and the workshop meeting that same day, and the regular meeting of February 25. Members, a draft of the minutes have been provided in your briefing materials. Is there a motion to approve?

MR. HOLMES: So moved.

MR. UNDERWOOD: Second.

MR. HOUGHTON: All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes.)

MR. HOUGHTON: Thank you.

Amadeo, it's all yours.

MR. SAENZ: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Good morning, everyone.

The first item on the agenda is agenda item number 2 dealing with our Aviation Program. Dave Fulton will present two minute orders concerning Aviation.

MR. FULTON: Thank you, Amadeo. Commissioners, for the record, my name is Dave Fulton, director of the TxDOT Aviation Division.

Item 2(a) is a minute order that contains a request for grant funding approval for one airport improvement project. The estimated cost of this project, as shown in Exhibit A, is approximately $1.5 million: approximately $1.3 million in state funds, and $200,000 in local funding. A public hearing was held on February 18; no comments were received. We would recommend approval of this minute order.

MR. HOUGHTON: Questions for Dave? Motion?

MR. UNDERWOOD: So moved.

MR. MEADOWS: Second.

MR. HOUGHTON: All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes.)

MR. HOUGHTON: Thank you, Dave.

MR. FULTON: Thank you. Item 2(b), this item is a request for approval of the Texas Airport System Plan. The Texas Department of Transportation by statute is required to prepare an aviation facilities development program, namely the Texas Airport System Plan. This plan identifies the requirements for aviation facilities, their location, their timing of aviation facilities and eligibility for funding, and the investment necessary for implementing the plan.

The Texas Airport System Plan is a 20-year projection of airport development needs has been revised in conjunction with the continuous update of the plan. We would recommend approval of this minute order, and I'll be glad to try to address any questions.

MR. UNDERWOOD: So moved.

MR. MEADOWS: Second.

MR. HOUGHTON: I have a motion and a second. All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes.)

MR. HOUGHTON: Passes. Dave, thank you.

MR. SAENZ: Thank you, Dave.

MR. UNDERWOOD: Dave, before you leave, would you want to introduce that young man with you, please, sir?

MR. FULTON: This is Scott Gallagher, our new director of Planning. We've had virtually no turnover in the last 18 years and we're starting to go through a retirement phase, and our director of Planning recently retired, and Scott Gallagher, who had a career as a Naval aviator, has joined us in taking that over and we're very delighted to have him there. Thank you for that.

MR. UNDERWOOD: You bet. Scott, we're glad you're here, we're excited you're on the program with us. Thank you for being here. Dave, thank you for all the hard work you do, sir.

MR. HOUGHTON: Thank you, Dave. Scott, welcome aboard.

MR. SAENZ: Thank you, Dave. Scott, welcome aboard, look forward to working with you.

Commission, agenda item number 3 deals with the promulgation of administrative rules. 3(a) deals with final adoptions; agenda item 3(a)(1) is final adoption of some Corridor Planning and Development rules, and Mark Tomlinson will present those.

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

This minute order does withdraw a proposed rule concerning the planning and development of the Trans-Texas Corridor because the rule is no longer necessary. As a result of previous amendments to Section 15.9 and a proposed New Section 15.10 in rules, previously proposed amendments to this Section 24.13 are now unnecessary. As you know, we're proceeding with a lot of work with the segment committees and our advisory committees but they're re-framed into corridor planning for I-35, corridor planning for I-69 but under a more traditional umbrella. Rather than the Trans-Texas Corridor concept, we have a new vision there. So staff would recommend your acceptance of the minute order.

MR. HOUGHTON: Motion?

MR. HOLMES: So moved.

MR. UNDERWOOD: Second.

MR. HOUGHTON: All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes.)

MR. HOUGHTON: Thank you, Mark.

MR. SAENZ: Thank you, Mark.

Agenda item 3(a)(2) is final adoption of Chapter 26 for Regional Mobility Authorities requiring an internal ethics and compliance program. Steve Simmons will present this minute order.

MR. SIMMONS: Good morning. For the record, I'm Steve Simmons, deputy executive director for the department. For agenda items 3(a)(2) and 3(a)(3), I will be making the presentation in my capacity as the department's internal compliance officer.

The rules presented under item 3(a)(2) and 3(a)(3) were proposed at the December 17, 2009 commission meeting. If you'll remember, the United States Sentencing Commission established guidelines for the appropriate structure of internal compliance programs within organizations, and that structure is being followed by TxDOT. The U.S. Sentencing Guideline Applications note states that as appropriate, a large organization should encourage small organizations, especially those that have or seek to have a business relationship with the large organization, to implement effective compliance and ethics programs.

Therefore, TxDOT is considering various rule changes to require certain organizations that receive funds from the department to certify that it has an ethics and compliance program that meets the minimum requirements as set forth in these guidelines.

Agenda item 3(a)(2) specifies in this proposed New Section 26.56 that a regional mobility authority shall adopt an internal compliance and ethics program that satisfies the requirements of Section 1.8 of this title before the latter of April 1, 2011 or the first anniversary of the date on which the regional mobility authority is created.

Packets of information were sent to the regional mobility authorities to assist in the creation of ethics and compliance programs. No comments were received regarding this new section and staff recommends final adoption and approval of this minute order. I'll be happy to answer any questions.

MR. UNDERWOOD: So moved.

MR. HOLMES: Second.

MR. HOUGHTON: All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes.)

MR. SAENZ: Agenda item 3(a)(3) also deals with the requirement to have an internal ethics and compliance program for our Public transportation Program.

MR. SIMMONS: Agenda item 3(b)(3) deals with requiring our public transportation providers that receive state or federal public transportation funds to also adopt internal ethics and compliance programs.

Proposed New Section 31.39 states that to be eligible to receive state or federal public transportation funds awarded by the commission after January 2011, any entity must have adopted an internal ethics and compliance program that satisfies Section 1.8. The Public Transportation Advisory Committee met on January 29, 2010 to review the proposed rules and by motion recommended to the commission that the amended rules be filed with the Office of the Secretary of State.

One comment was received from the Fort Bend County Public Transportation Department. The commenter explained that their structure is such that a separate transportation department exists within the larger county entity. They requested clarification regarding applicability of the proposed rules, just the transit department or the entire county organization, and expressed a concern that if applicable to the entire county organization, it could create conflicts with existing statutes become difficult and costly to implement.

In response to applicability, the rules are applicable to whatever entity enters into an agreement with and receives funds from the department. If an entity is structured as a transit department and only the department is bound by the terms of the grant and funds received, then only that department is subject to the rules. If an entity is structured as a transit department but functions as an arm of a larger organization which is bound by the terms of the grant and funds received, then the entire organization is subject to the rules.

With regard to conflicts with statutes, while the department is not aware of any existing statutory conflicts, rules do not supercede statute, so if a statutory conflict exists today or at some time in the future, the statutory provisions would take precedence over these rules.

With that, staff recommends final adoption and approval of this minute order, and again, I'd be happy to answer any questions.

MR. HOUGHTON: Questions? Motion?

MR. UNDERWOOD: So moved.

MR. HOUGHTON: Second?

MR. HOLMES: Second.

MR. HOUGHTON: All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes.)

MR. HOUGHTON: Thank you, Steve.

MR. SAENZ: Thank you, Steve.

Agenda item 3(b), commission, deals with proposed adoption of rules, and Carol Davis, director of our Motor Carrier Division, will present a minute order dealing with Oversize and Overweight Vehicles and Loads.

MR. HOUGHTON: Welcome, Carol.

MS. DAVIS: Hi. Thank you. Good morning. Carol Davis, director of TxDOT's Motor Carrier Division.

The proposed amendments to Chapter 28 rules concerning Oversize and Overweight Vehicles and Loads before you are necessary to implement the statutory provisions of House Bill 4594 and were passed during the 81st Legislative Session. The amendments update also the current Oversize and Overweight Permit process, correct some oversights in our current rules, and reorganize them, and modify existing procedures for motor carrier maintenance of records.

And at this time staff is recommending approval of the proposed rules.

MR. HOUGHTON: Questions, any questions? A motion?

MR. MEADOWS: Move approval.

MR. HOLMES: Second.

MR. HOUGHTON: All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes.)

MR. HOUGHTON: Thank you, Carol.

MS. DAVIS: Thank you.

MR. SAENZ: Thank you, Carol.

Agenda item number 4, commission, is a minute order presented by Rich O'Connell, Office of General Counsel, concerning a contested case with an outdoor advertising agency.

MR. O'CONNELL: Thank you.

Item number 4 is Texas Outdoor Advertising v. TxDOT. The case concerns an outdoor advertising permit number 33925, it's for a sign on US 287 in Wilbarger County near the City of Vernon. The permitee's sign was partially destroyed by a storm in the summer of 2007. TxDOT staff canceled the permit on December 31, 2007 because the permitee re-erected the sign without first giving notice to TxDOT and getting TxDOT's determination whether a new permit would be necessary. This violated Department's Rule 21.156(a)(1).

When the permitee got notice of the cancellation, they filed a petition asking for a review, they asked for a hearing, and the case was referred to the State Office of Administrative Hearings. After notice and hearing, the SOAH administrative law judge agreed that the violation occurred and that the sign owner's petition should be denied and the commission should order the removal of the sign. The ALJ concluded that nine other reasons for cancellation of the permit that were offered by the TxDOT staff were not supported by the evidence.

Notwithstanding, the evidence established the one violation described earlier, and therefore, the petition should be denied and the sign removed. No person filed exceptions about this proposal. The staff asks you to approve the draft order that's been prepared for you adopting the administrative judge's findings of fact and conclusions of law.

MR. HOUGHTON: Any questions of Rich?

MR. HOLMES: So moved.

MR. UNDERWOOD: Second.

MR. HOUGHTON: All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes.)

MR. HOUGHTON: Thank you, Rich.

MR. SAENZ: Thank you, Rich.

Agenda item number 5, commission, Steve will come back up and present a minute order requesting your approval of the charter of the Texas Transportation Commission Audit Subcommittee.

MR. SIMMONS: Again for the record, I'm Steve Simmons, deputy executive director of TxDOT.

This morning I'm presenting agenda item 5 which is a minute order that would adopt a charter defining the duties of the Commission's Audit Subcommittee. This item is another step in developing a comprehensive internal compliance program and addressing some of the issues from the Sarbanes-Oxley.

To highlight some of the items in the Audit Subcommittee charter, the meetings of the subcommittee will be held at least quarterly and are posted to the Secretary of State, similar to these monthly commission meetings. The meetings are open to the public and minutes of the meetings are kept. The subcommittee has the authority to call special meetings as circumstances require, and these special meetings will not be posted and open to the public unless directed by the chair of the subcommittee.

The responsibilities of the subcommittee are: to ensure that the department develops and implements policies and procedures on financial reporting and internal controls; review of the executive director and the chief audit executive, the activities, staffing and organizational structure of the internal audit function; ensure there are no restrictions or limitations on the chief auditor and his staff; in conjunction with the executive director shall annually prepare a performance plan; evaluate and review compensation for the chief audit executive; ensure the executive director or commission takes appropriate action if the general counsel reports a material breach of legal obligation, fiduciary duty or violation ofr law to the subcommittee; and provide annual reports to the commission on the subcommittee activities.

Staff recommends approval of this minute order and I'm available to answer any questions.

MR. HOUGHTON: Commissioner Holmes?

MR. HOLMES: Steve, how many people are in the Office of Internal Auditor?

MR. SIMMONS: I don't have that with me right now but I can find out real quick.

MR. HOLMES: It's more than a handful.

MR. SIMMONS: Oh, it's like 20-30 people, and then you take in the district auditors that we now have put under Owen in a new structure, we're probably close to 50 or 60 folks.

MR. HOLMES: And to what extent is the independent auditor autonomous from executive staff?

MR. SIMMONS: They have total control over what they plan to audit during the year, they coordinate with us for any ideas we may have, but they develop the audit plan, they do a risk analysis of all the items within the department, and they present the audit plan as they did, I think last month, to the commission.

MR. HOLMES: As I was listening to your presentation, it sounded like there was kind of a dual reporting line from the independent auditor to the audit committee and to the executive director. Is that right?

MR. SIMMONS: Yes, sir.

MR. HOLMES: And who hires and fires and raises, et cetera the independent auditor?

MR. SIMMONS: Owen has been our chief auditor since I guess Bill Burnett, so I don't go back far enough to know if Bill hired that internal auditor or if the commission did, I do not know that.

MR. HOLMES: It seems to me that appropriate corporate governance would necessitate the independent auditor reporting directly to the Audit Committee.

MR. HOUGHTON: We're going to have the answer right now.

MR. HOLMES: Bob, can you shed some light on that? I think you should too, as a matter of fact, but that's another story.

(General laughter.)

MR. JACKSON: Owen actually was hired as internal auditor before Bill Burnett; he was hired by the engineer director before we got the statute that put Owen under the commission, so since we've had that law, the commission has never hired. If Owen were to retire tomorrow, it would be the commission that would hire the internal auditor.

MR. HOLMES: And how is the compensation for the independent auditor determined?

MR. JACKSON: Over the last 20 years it's been set by the executive director. This minute order, for the first time, provides a role for the commission through the Audit Subcommittee in approving the compensation annually.

MR. UNDERWOOD: Before you leave, Bob, who can release the auditor and hire a new one? In other words, if all of a sudden the auditor becomes ill or doesn't do his job, who has the ability to do this?

MR. JACKSON: The commission.

MR. UNDERWOOD: It is the commission now as of the legislation. Correct?

MR. JACKSON: Yes, sir.

MR. UNDERWOOD: I just want to make sure everybody understands.

MR. HOUGHTON: Thank you, Bob. Any other questions? Is there a motion?

MR. UNDERWOOD: So moved.

MR. HOLMES: Second.

MR. HOUGHTON: All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes.)

MR. HOUGHTON: Thank you, Steve.

MR. SAENZ: Thank you, Steve.

Commission, I'm going to skip agenda item number 6 for a second. John was doing a presentation across the street and he should be here shortly. Agenda item number 7 dealt with federal economic stimulus legislation which nothing has passed so we are deferring that item.

MR. HOUGHTON: Let me ask a question on that. What's the latest rumor mill on stimulus, anybody got one, or do you know, Steve?

MR. SIMMONS: Are you asking on a second stimulus package?

MR. HOUGHTON: Yes.

MR. SIMMONS: I think that's fallen by the wayside.

MR. HOUGHTON: Has it? Okay. Thank you.

MR. SIMMONS: I might add but we're ready if they come back.

MR. SAENZ: Agenda item number 8 I'm going to postpone for a second until John comes back in.

Agenda item number 9, Mark Tomlinson will present a report of the actual traffic and revenue for the Central Texas Turnpike System.

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

Item 9 is a minute order that accepts the report of actual traffic and revenue for the Central Texas Turnpike System as of the end of February 2010, as is required by our indenture of trust for the CTTS. The report you've seen before compares current traffic and revenue data with data from the same term in the prior fiscal year, as well as the 2002 traffic and revenue projections that were made prior to implementation of the system. In this year-to-date report we had more than 37 million transactions and $31 million in revenue. For this quarter the CTTS revenue exceeds projections by about 5 percent and revenue exceeds previous months in the prior year by about 12.7 percent. We still have a high TxTag penetration, about 74 percent of our transactions are posted to TxTag accounts.

Staff recommends your approval of the minute order.

MR. HOLMES: Mark, when I read this on Table 1 on page 5, it talks about revenue with pay by mail and without pay by mail. Is that the billed amount in the pay by mail or is that the receipt?

MR. TOMLINSON: It is the receipt, actually. And a little background for the reason for seeing that is we're in a transitional year for this report. Prior to the end of last year we were not able on the individual roadway breakouts to show the pay by mail receipts, it was just the TxTag transactions. We now have that capability but since we compare it to quarters in previous years, we've kept it for one transitional year. So you see a little more data, it's a little, I think, more confusing in this report. After this year we'll just have the total revenue, pay by mail and TxTag transactions, but it is revenue.

MR. HOLMES: It's actually received revenue?

MR. TOMLINSON: Yes, it is.

MR. HOLMES: Do you have a sense of the delta between billed on the pay by mail and receipt of pay by mail?

MR. TOMLINSON: I probably don't have a great feel for that. We have some outstanding revenue that we are pursued through the toll violation recovery program and we did see some there. We are now moving into our courts process. It's encouraging to me to see that some of the early last chance letters that we've sent out to people that we intended to take to court, they're coming in and settling their accounts, four out of the five that we sent letters to recently have done that, so we're slowly chipping away at that delta. It's not a huge amount of money but it probably is significant. We can get that information, though, for you if you'd like.

MR. HOUGHTON: One of the questions I have has to do with the revenue by roadway and transactions by roadway. The transactions by roadway, when you look at SH 130 is revenue but the actual transactions on 45 North are significantly higher. What kind of capacity issues, are you hitting capacity issues on 45 North?

MR. TOMLINSON: No, not at all, we have plenty of capacity, roadway capacity.

MR. HOUGHTON: We have not looked at alternative pricing on these roadways?

MR. TOMLINSON: We've had preliminary discussions about that.

MR. HOUGHTON: Time of day pricing, that kind of thing?

MR. TOMLINSON: Sure. We've discussed is it time or will there come a time for a toll increase, we've discussed that. In fact, we're now studying questions of truck incentives, should we lower toll fees for trucks to incentivize them to use the tollway. We're also looking at the impacts of increasing speeds on State Highway 130, for example. So yes, we've looked at a number of different questions, haven't really come to a decision point yet.

MR. HOUGHTON: What kind of penetration by trucks?

MR. TOMLINSON: It's relatively low, it's in the 5 to 7 percent range.

MR. HOUGHTON: They're still driving up 35.

MR. TOMLINSON: They are still. The trucking industry as a whole is still pretty averse to tolls, but the draft information we've seen from the study of truck incentives does seem to indicate that, say, a 20 to 25 percent reduction in their tolls would incentivize a fairly significant amount of trucks to move over. We're still analyzing that, though.

MR. HOUGHTON: Thanks, Mark.

MR. MEADOWS: Mark, I just had three questions really that are just follow-ups because I know Commissioner Houghton, at some point you had raised an issue about exploring alternative methods for toll collection management, and I didn't know where we were in that process. Do you have a sense of that?

MR. TOMLINSON: Well, we are currently doing two things: we are proceeding with a re-procurement of our back office system, and in fact, the back office is kind of the front office system, it's the consultants, the staff who man our customer service center, and actually kind of do the mechanics of the video and the pay by mail system; we're also in the process, I'll soon start interviewing for the position of our internal toll director person who oversees that operation.

I think there still are discussions that have kind of ebbed and flowed regarding different change in direction there, but at the current time that's the course that we're pursuing.

MR. MEADOWS: Let's think about sequence just for a second. It would seem that if we were serious about at least examining some alternative method to manage toll collection, you might want to, in the order of things, do that first before you start hiring people and solidifying a certain position.

I wonder if it would be helpful if we could agree upon, and we don't have to do this right now, maybe agree upon a date certain that we could have a report back to the commission on what the process would be for analyzing and potentially moving forward with an alternative method for toll collection management. I mean, I don't know what's reasonable, I want to be reasonable about it and don't want to put you all in a bad situation but I know we've talked about this, I know Commissioner Houghton has talked about it and I've talked about it some, and there seems to be still a lot of conversation about it.

So perhaps we could just agree upon a particular date and say we've looked at it, we don't think it makes sense, or yes, it's something we need to pursue. But I would suggest that you might want to hold off on taking any further action that is definitive that locks us in further until such time as we have an opportunity to take a serious look at is there a better way to do business, and I really think that's what we're asking.

So Amadeo, I'd turn to you and say if you could please let us know a date by which we might know what decision or recommendation you might have for us with regard to an examination of that.

The other two issues that we've talked about, certainly I have a hard time believing 5 to 7 percent utilization by trucks on 130. Anecdotally, I drive 130 some and I don't believe I've ever seen a truck that was common carrier, I'm almost certain I never have. So maybe it is 5 to 7 percent and I'm just driving at the wrong time of day, but I would really hope that we give serious consideration to examining what those options are that might encourage there to be greater truck traffic simply because one of the great things about 130 is we really could reduce the amount of truck traffic on 35 for a considerable length which enhances the safety of the traveling public and facilitates the flow of goods, in fact.

MR. TOMLINSON: Exactly, yes, sir.

MR. MEADOWS: And it would seem to me like we'd get pretty serious about that and I hear some conversation about it but we're not there yet.

And the third point that you raised which is a really good one is the reference to some examination of the speed limit. I'm certainly not advocating it without having the benefit of the information but it would seem to me like if what we're trying to do is balance the traffic flow on those two major facilities that we would consider something that would provide some incentive for motorists to use that facility.

Again, those are things I'd love to see move forward. I think we need to move forward in a serious fashion and I think it would be helpful to me to know when that's going to happen.

MR. TOMLINSON: On the speed limit and truck incentive, it can be very soon. We are required to have a traffic and revenue study that analyzes those. We have a draft report now, should be finalized within a couple of weeks really, so we can very soon have the discussion about those aspects.

MR. HOUGHTON: What authority do we have in raising the speed limit?

MR. MEADOWS: Let's again go back. I'll tell you what really helps me is date certain, date specific, we agree upon you're going to be able to come back to us and gives us an answer, you're going to be able to come back to us and give us a recommendation, from which point then we can have a discussion. But I'm a little uncomfortable with what I'm hearing because it sounds to me like we're really not sure, and what I want somebody to do is tell me when we're going to do it.

MR. SAENZ: Commissioner, I think that at the May meeting we'll set up a discussion item and give you a complete action plan as to what we're doing in the area. Staff is already working on the traffic analysis to try to be able to determine what would be the toll rates for trucks to try to entice more trucks to move over.

With the issue of speed limits, the speed limit on the CTTS system right now is 70 miles per hour on the 130 elements, and the 45 elements, the only way that we can go to a higher speed limit is if a portion of that was designated as Trans-Texas Corridor, and under Trans-Texas Corridor legislation, we are allowed to go to a higher speed limit provided that the traffic studies show that the facility is designed and capable of carrying the traffic, as well as that we will not have additional accidents.

But what I will do is for the meeting discussion item, we'll set up a discussion item for the Wednesday meeting in May, since we're not here in April, and we should be able to take a comprehensive look at what we're looking at with respect to toll operations, to your three questions.

MR. MEADOWS: Thank you.

MR. HOUGHTON: So the May meeting, Amadeo.

MR. SAENZ: Yes, sir.

MR. HOUGHTON: Mark, thank you. Is this an action item?

MR. SAENZ: Yes, sir.

MR. HOUGHTON: Motion?

MR. HOLMES: So moved.

MR. UNDERWOOD: Second.

(A chorus of ayes.)

MR. HOUGHTON: Thank you, Mark.

MR. SAENZ: I'm going to go back, commission, to agenda item number 6. John Barton is back, he went to go talk to the people from Salado, I believe, this morning. I t was an eight o'clock meeting, he was supposed to be back by nine, but they must have really had a lot of questions. Agenda item number 6 deals with the formation of a rules advisory committee to help us put together some proposed rules for outdoor advertising, and John will present that minute order.

MR. BARTON: Thank you, Director Saenz. For the record, my name is John Barton and I work as your assistant executive director for Engineering Operations.

The minute order before you this morning, commissioners, would authorize the creation of an advisory committee that would assist the department and the commission developing revisions to our current rules regarding the regulation of our outdoor advertising program, as Mr. Saenz just mentioned. Specifically, it would authorize our executive director to appoint a committee of members to represent both the regulated outdoor advertising industry, the scenic organizations, any local authorities, landowners and the general public to be a member of the committee. The committee structure would be no more than eleven members and it would be to advise the department on outdoor advertising issues.

A little background on the issue. Our current outdoor advertising rules tend to be somewhat complicated and difficult to understand and even more difficult to enforce by our department employees. In September of 2008, we began a process in an attempt to address these problems by reorganizing the rules into a new format that would track the billboard process more effectively, eliminate some conflicting provisions within our current rules, and to clarify some ambiguities that exist within those existing rules. Those proposed rule revisions also made some substantive changes to address areas that had created enforcement issues for us in the past and some inconsistent interpretation issues by department employees.

A portion of the regulated community came forward at that time concerned with changes to these rules and requested that we postpone the rule proposals that were being brought forward at that time to give the legislature an opportunity to address this matter during their next legislative session. In response to that, the Sunset Commission did review these rules with the department and provided recommendations, and it was also a matter of great discussion during the last legislative session, however, no bills were ultimately filed during the 81st Legislative Session, and therefore, no changes have been made in terms of the rules that are before us.

So our rules still need to be revised. We believe the department can implement a majority of the recommendations that were brought forward by the Sunset Commission through the changes to the current rules that we think are possible, and by creating an advisory committee, we believe we will benefit from their advice on specific issues as we move forward with consideration of rule revisions for your consideration.

So staff would recommend your approval of this minute order and I'd be happy to answer any questions that you might have.

MR. UNDERWOOD: To make sure I understand, John, what this really does is allows us to reach out to the public for the public to have input into how we do these rules.

MR. BARTON: That's correct, Commissioner.

MR. UNDERWOOD: That's the bottom line, isn't it?

MR. BARTON: That's the bottom line is it gives us an opportunity to reach out to the public, the outdoor advertising industry, and those that have interest in that.

MR. UNDERWOOD: And also for them to understand the restrictions that we have to work under too, explain it a little bit better to them.

MR. BARTON: Absolutely. During these meetings that we've had before on similar committees, there's been a great deal of education from all sides on the issues that are at hand so we can come up with better rules to manage these programs.

MR. UNDERWOOD: Because it's going to be critical who the players are from the outside so that we can explain our position and they can help us do a better job.

MR. BARTON: That's correct.

MR. UNDERWOOD: Thank you.

MR. BARTON: Thank you.

MR. HOUGHTON: We have one witness on this item, John, so if you'd stay close. Carroll Shaddock.

MR. SHADDOCK: Good morning. I'm Carroll Shaddock, I'm with the law firm of Locke Lord Bissell & Liddell, and I appear before you on behalf of my client, Harlan Crow of Dallas.

Mr. Crow wishes to express the hope that I think Mr. Underwood expressed better than I can that this process will be a process that will not been seen primarily as a negotiation between people who have vested interests and people who have expressed an opinion about this topic, but rather that one will seek to act on behalf of the general public, the people who are not immediately in front of you all the time telling you what they think about this issue.

As the commissioner put it so much better than I did, that this would be a process that would reach out to the public and it would be enervated by a desire to seek that which is best for our state and for the many, many millions of Texans who don't come here and talk to you about this topic. And so Mr. Crow would express pleasure that an advisory committee is being formed and hope that that spirit would pervade in the way in which that committee is used. Thank you.

MR. HOUGHTON: Any questions?

MR. UNDERWOOD: Sir, I'm going to speak for my fellow commissioners, we would sure like to hear a report as to how this is going.

MR. SHADDOCK: Absolutely.

MR. UNDERWOOD: We know what we're setting forward but we'd like to make sure we're going in the right direction as we go down the path.

MR. SHADDOCK: This is a very difficult process and a very difficult issue, as I'm sure you know.

MR. UNDERWOOD: Right, exactly. But we want to make sure that it does what we intend up here so we'll expect to hear from you as we go down the road.

MR. SHADDOCK: Mr. Crow and other people who are concerned about the beauty of the state will be present to express their opinions, but before it all starts, Mr. Crow would say that we appreciate and encourage the commission to seek the public interest and not just the views of people who have direct interest such as the organizations and business interests which will be present.

MR. UNDERWOOD: Thank you, sir, for your time.

MR. HOUGHTON: Carroll, it's nice seeing you again.

MR. SHADDOCK: Thank you so much, Mr. Houghton.

MR. HOUGHTON: It's been a pleasure.

MR. HOLMES: Commissioner Underwood, we will assuredly be able to hear Mr. Shaddock again.

MR. SHADDOCK: Actually in about 15 minutes.

(General laughter.)

MR. HOUGHTON: John, any other comment?

MR. BARTON: No, sir.

MR. HOUGHTON: Is there a motion?

MR. HOLMES: So moved.

MR. UNDERWOOD: Second.

MR. HOUGHTON: All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes.)

MR. HOUGHTON: Thank you, John.

MR. BARTON: Thank you.

MR. SAENZ: Agenda item number 8, John will present a minute order approving additional projects to be funded under our Proposition 14 Bond Program, and John, could you go through that.

MR. BARTON: Yes, sir. Thank you, Director Saenz. Again for the record, my name is John Barton.

The minute order before you today would authorize additional funding for several safety projects around the state to be funded under the Proposition 14 Bond Program. As you will recall, under the legislation that provided the enabling authority for us to move forward with Proposition 14 Bonds, a specific amount of funding from those bond sales must be used for the advancement of safety projects.

Staff has worked diligently to prepare a list for you. In the past you have authorized projects and as those projects were bid to contract and completed, underruns did occur on many of those projects, freeing up additional funds to be put on additional safety projects. We've reviewed projects from across the state, ruan them through our safety improvement index analysis, and the five interchanges that are being requested to be funded from the Proposition 14 Bond Program safety portion, before you today in this minute order, were selected as the best candidates for this particular opportunity.

So again, this is just an additional set of funding for five interchanges for safety improvements at intersections where we've had accident histories resulting in incapacitating and fatality incidents, and we would recommend your approval of this minute order to authorize the funding for these projects. I believe that in your report you should have a map of those locations as well as a description of them.

MR. HOUGHTON: Questions?

(No response.)

MR. HOUGHTON: We have a witness. John, stand aside just for a second. Commissioner David Garza from Cameron County has signed up to speak on this item. David, nice seeing you again.

MR. GARZA: Good morning, Mr. Chair and commissioners. It's a pleasure to be before you. It's been a couple of months that I haven't been with you, but when we looked at the internet postings a few days ago, we got all excited in our part of the world because we had the additional mobility projects in what was being recommended to you this morning, and when we read the agenda item we got even more excited because you were going to fund mobility projects, so I prepared a speech for you, but I'm not going to use that one today, it looks like, because now all that I see being funded is the safety projects from Proposition 14.

Again, we've come before you with the need that we have in trying to do what we can for our area, for the corridor between Corpus Christi and Brownsville, Texas. We've been very adamant about the needs, very adamant about the willingness to partner on these projects and to do our share at the county level, the cities and also the regional mobility authority.

I will ask the questions that I heard Commissioner Meadows asking a little while ago: whereat are we going to do; when are we going to hear from you; can we have a date specific time. Here we have an opportunity, money is available, there's projects that are ready to be funded to the tune of $37 million, and there's a project in Willacy, a project in Kenedy, a project in Nueces and a project in Kleberg County that could substantially advance what we're trying to do in improving 77 to interstate standards. Evidently there's monies that are available in underruns and we would ask that you would consider that.

It's a little bit disheartening sometimes to not be part of Main Street Texas and Main Street USA. We need these projects to continue. We are totally committed and have always been committed to working with you. We are so committed that today I extend an invitation to you for the last week of April at which time we will have, if your agenda item 13 passes and gets awarded, the groundbreaking of SH 550 which will be coupled together with a switch yard relocation that we're working on with your partnership, and we're going to do two groundbreakings in one day and we hope to invite most of you, all of you to be present with us, or some of you to be present with us.

We have the West Rail Relocation project that will be ground broken in July, and the Veterans Bridge expansion, another project that we're partnering with you on, that we hope to break ground in July with. Over $100 million worth of projects locally to prepare for that interstate connectivity. We have the location, we have the ports of entry, we have the ports on the water, we're ready to continue the work but we need your help. $37 million today would be great.

MR. HOUGHTON: David, if there's one thing that you are is very persistent, and Cameron County is a tremendous partner and you and I have a great history together. Yesterday in the work session we talked about at the top of the list is the 77 that Commissioner Holmes asked significant questions about grade separations in those four counties. It's on the list, we're actively looking at it, we've got issues with the Attorney General on the I-69 development agreement. Let me just put it to you this way, the fat lady has yet to sing, so it's not over.

MR. GARZA: Okay. Well, we are going to take that as a very positive comment and we look forward to coming to you maybe not next month but in May to hopefully get another update, because I remember a few months ago Commissioner Meadows said put it on the agenda and gives us updates regularly as to what's occurring in that area. So we would appreciate it, and we hope that you can join us for these other activities that we plan in our area.

MR. HOUGHTON: Well, Commissioner Meadows spends a whole lot of time down in that part of the world. I imagine he's probably down there at the end of April and probably could be at your groundbreaking.

MR. GARZA: We can always go pick him up if we need to.

MR. HOUGHTON: You do have a home down there, do you not?

MR. MEADOWS: It's that direction.

(General laughter.)

MR. HOUGHTON: Commissioner Garza, thank you for your support and your true partnership.

MR. GARZA: And I do wish to introduce Commissioner Sofia Benavides that is with me this morning, she's back here, she's Precinct 1 commissioner which includes the island.

MR. HOUGHTON: Commissioner, welcome.

MR. GARZA: And we're here just to hopefully bring the speech I have written already for you for the next time.

MR. HOUGHTON: Thank you very much, Commissioner Garza.

MR. GARZA: Thank you.

MR. HOUGHTON: John, is there anything else?

MR. BARTON: No, sir. Be happy to answer any questions from the commission.

MR. HOUGHTON: Motion?

MR. HOLMES: Motion.

MR. UNDERWOOD: Second.

MR. HOUGHTON: All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes.)

MR. BARTON: Thank you.

MR. SAENZ: Thank you, John.

And I guess just for the record, yesterday, commissioners, you heard from John and he gave us a status report on the projects that Commissioner Meadows had talked about the, the 35 West, 35 East and the I-69 projects, and as we continue to work on the I-69 project with the Attorney General and the developer to get that to fruition, we'll be able to have a lot more information. We will continue to update you all as we move forward.

Moving on to agenda item number 10 deals with the Unified Transportation Program, we are going to defer the passage of the minute order this month but I do want staff to go through the proposed draft UTP and kind of go over and discuss what I call maybe people don't think of as the cool stuff that's the text that's in front that shows how this document is different from past documents, how it is more transparent, how it is more easy accessible and such and so forth, so that we can present something to the public and get it approved over the next month that will have a document that they truly understand and know what the process is. So James is going to lead us in this presentation.

MR. UNDERWOOD: Amadeo, just real quick, is this what you're talking about right now?

MR. SAENZ: Yes.

MR. UNDERWOOD: I want everybody to understand how simple and easy this is going to be to understand. Excuse me. Go ahead, James.

MR. BASS: For the record, I'm James Bass, chief financial officer at TxDOT. Mr. Underwood, as you lifted, for those that are curious, yes, that is double-sided print, it's printed on both sides of the sheet. And as Mr. Saenz said, we will not be asking you for action today but Commissioner Houghton has asked that I give you a detailed explanation and analysis of each and every of the 802 pages in here.

MR. HOUGHTON: This would be tantamount to the health bill. Right? Or akin to it?

(General laughter.)

MR. BASS: No comment.

MR. HOUGHTON: Can I ask you a question?

MR. BASS: You may.

MR. HOUGHTON: May I, please. I'm struck, I was watching a news report, and this has something to do with unified transportation since it's revenue, and former Senator Rick Santorum was gleefully talking about how the Senate process works, and he said, When I was senator I got a $1.20 reimbursement from the federal government and Texas only gets 91. And that kind of rubbed it right in my face, or he was very gleeful about that.

James, would you check with counsel at some point in time and see if there's an action that we can take against the Department of Transportation to balance that out?

MR. BASS: I will certainly check with our counsel on that issue and see what options might be available.

MR. HOUGHTON: Thank you, sir.

MR. BASS: Just as a quick background, this is not the first time that we have visited with the commission on the 2010 UTP. The prior discussions really started in February of 2009 when the project selection process for this UTP was approved by the commission and that was after public hearings on the process. Then obviously the remainder of 2009 we were waiting to see the results of the legislative process and what the budget would look like going forward. In October 2009 we had discussion on what the target levels would be and the categories, and then in November the commission approved those target funding levels.

` Just as a reminder, the UTP is an eleven-year plan of funding allocations, it includes modes other than highways. Some of the category allocations are project-specific so you will see those projects listed in the 800 pages here, and then others are just on an allocation basis so they're dollar amounts and the projects will be selected in the future on an ongoing basis.

This UTP is based upon the chief financial officer's forecast, and MPOs, districts and the applicable divisions actually select the projects in those project-specific. And if I could take the opportunity at this point, as you can clearly see just from the thickness of this, there was a tremendous amount of work and coordination from all levels that you see there, the MPO staff, the district staff, and the division staff, in order to get this document to the place we're at today which is a good solid draft, and I'll go into it further as to what we would like to see happen over this next month before we come back to you and ask for final approval.

MR. UNDERWOOD: James, this will be available on our website. Isn't that correct?

MR. BASS: It is and has been, and I'll go over that again in a couple of slides.

MR. UNDERWOOD: Okay, I didn't mean to get in front of you. I just want to make sure the audience understands that they don't have to devastate a rain forest in South America, they can actually download it electronically.

MR. BASS: Correct. And then the commission approves the allocations and the projects.

As Mr. Saenz stated, there are a number of new elements in this UTP. The UTP is based upon the November 2009 cash forecast and that forecast is included in the document. It also lists the various assumptions that are embedded in that forecast, and it clearly states, as there was historically a lot of confusion as to what the UTP truly was, and here it clearly states that it is a plan, it is not a commitment that future dollars will be available, and that adjustments to both the forecast and the allocations may be made over time, and actually given our current environment, are likely to occur.

It's financially constrained within the forecast and whereas previous UTPs gave CONSTRUCT authority to the full ten years, this one provides CONSTRUCT authority to the first four years and so it lines up with the four-year STIP as to which projects have that CONSTRUCT authority. ToIt also clearly identifies over-programming within the UTP because it's listed in here as Category 11-PA, and 11-PA is planning authority. So that 11-PA is above and beyond the current financial forecast constraints, but who knows when we may receive an additional bonding program, there may or may not be an additional stimulus program from the federal government. We want the department and the state to be prepared to take advantage of those quickly and have the development work ongoing if not already completed.

It also summarizes major fund sources separately, includes definitions of some of the terms, and also online we have a searchable database that I'll go over in a minute, so in addition to having a PDF of these 802 pages, there's a searchable database. And this is just a snapshot and we're continuing to make improvements to this but on the searchable database under the report, you see that first All, users have the opportunity to go and if they want to search by category, if they just want to see Category 2 projects they can do that, if they want to see all projects, they would obviously select the All.

They can then limit their search by one or a combination of district, county or highway or the year, and so for example, if somebody wanted to see what is included in this at the project level for Interstate 35 across the state, they would just go in that highway column, go down and select IH 35, and then it would populate all of the projects in this UTP that have Interstate 35. And as you can imagine, you can do a number of different search combinations on that database.

When you select one of the projects from the result of that search, you get a more detailed page on that specific project. It also shows you that in most of the cases the projects are being funded by more than just one category and that information is provided down at the bottom of the page there.

The UTP and the searchable database are online on TxDOT's website so for those who want to do it, you can just go to the main page and in the search box type in UTP, or when this presentation is put on the website, you can use the link there down at the bottom. What we're hoping to get is not commentary on the specific projects that have been listed, those have already gone through a public process working with the MPOs and others. What we're truly hoping for, as Mr. Saenz said, is the beginning part of the UTP where it goes through a narrative of how the numbers were created, what the UTP is, what it is not.

We would like comments from not only the commission but others to see if that makes sense. We are obviously very familiar with it and so when we read it sometimes it makes sense to us and we see what we think is on the page, not what our audience has a chance to read and understand, so we'd like to hear from our audience that it is understandable and that their questions they have are answered in that narrative at the front section of the UTP.

One last thing is from those November allocations there have been some refinements as we go from that global level and get into the detail level in the 802 pages, we'll be asking you for some minor adjustments in those category allocations next month. We'll be giving your offices more detailed explanation on why those changes have been made when we went through the process.

One thing I would like to point out, because I think there may be some confusion publicly or with some of our stakeholders, is on the mobility category allocations. There's a statement that there is no new money for mobility beginning in 2012; one of the key words there is new, new money. There is allocations of Category 2 and 3 money in this UTP going all the way out to 2020. What those figures represent is the leftover Category 2 allocations from prior UTPs. So just very simply if the 2002 UTP, and I'm making up numbers here just for illustration, had $4 billion in there and $2 billion has already been committed and awarded, there's $2 billion left over that is shown in here.

Now, the issue is the 2007 UTP ended in 2017, this one ends in 2020, we have not added any money to Categories 2 and 3 other than the remainder from those earlier amounts. So there still will be projects awarded Iin 2012 and 2013 for new mobility but it will be using previous allocations. And in addition, as you're familiar with, the reason those projects are going to be able to move forward is because the commission made the difficult decision of how to balance maintenance needs in Category 1 across the state with those earlier perceived commitments for mobility projects and needs going forward. But I just wanted to hopefully clarify that issue because I've sensed some confusion on that over the past couple of months.

That's all I had to say other than to answer any questions that you might have at this point.

MR. UNDERWOOD: Maybe I'm missing something, but other than about four years of this program, the rest of it is a wish list.

MR. BASS: Well, even the current year, unfortunately, given our environment, and I'll go into that on the next agenda item, as you're familiar, motor fuel tax continues to go down from 2009 levels which is even farther down from what we had been forecasting, and so the allocations in the UTP, even for 2011, when we update the UTP next time, it will be based upon a new forecast at that time and the 2011 numbers may change, they may go up, they may go down.

Another uncertainty is what's going to happen at the federal level. We've been working on continuing resolutions and at some point, we hope, Congress is going to enact a six-year transportation bill that may be different than what we've assumed it's going to be in here, again, may be higher, may be lower. At that point, as our environment changes, our plan will have to change, and those allocations even next year may be updated when we go through this process.

MR. UNDERWOOD: I understand because not only could the federal government, when they do their funding finally, they could actually put restrictions on this funding to where it would not fit into our categories, they would actually load up one of the categories, so to speak.

MR. BASS: Correct.

MR. UNDERWOOD: So we'll have to make adjustments from there. But it basically is kind of a wish list then, for all practical purposes.

MR. BASS: I would say it's a plan and it's less of a wish list than it has been previously because it is financially constrained. It still has the wish aspect that it's a forecast but we believe it's a conservative forecast.

MR. UNDERWOOD: Okay. But now we're just basically in limbo till we see what the federal government is going to do, then we're going to be a lot smarter, so to speak.

MR. BASS: Correct.

MR. UNDERWOOD: And we'll see what our gas tax collections are.

MR. BASS: We'll have a better idea, at least for that first six years of the UTP period because we'll have federal law in place that will tell us how the program is going to operate for those first six years.

MR. UNDERWOOD: Right. Thank you very much, James.

MR. HOLMES: James, some of these adjustments shown on this slide seem to be highly specific, the Cat 2 and 3 in particular.

MR. BASS: Right.

MR. HOLMES: Those must be specific projects.

MR. BASS: Project-specific, and some of them that were needs, and again, these categories that are on here, as a reminder, and we hope it's clearly described in that narrative, deals with the traditional funding source State Highway Fund. There's Mobility Fund, Prop 14 and other things in addition to what you see here that are included in the document.

Some of those specific mobility projects from November to now that we've been able to get into the details, they're going to be able to be advanced, perhaps by Prop 14 which then frees up the traditional gas tax money that we had had in Category 2 for that project to be shifted back to maintenance. But we have the details of those project-specific adjustments and we'll be able to get those to your offices so you can see the specific changes.

MR. HOLMES: And you identified specific additional maintenance projects that will obviously trump the needs from other categories because you increased that about $100 million or so?

MR. BASS: Correct, and not necessarily project-specific because Category 1, generally over the term of it, is an allocation program and then the projects are selected on an ongoing basis, but the recommendation for that money to go into Category 1 was based upon the earlier decision of the commission. If you'll recall, many of these categories are federally funded and we had them funded at the federal minimum amount so that left some leftover money that the commission truly had discretion either to over-program those categories above the federal required minimum or to put it into preservation and mobility.

The commission, my viewpoint was, kind of balanced those needs between Category 2 and Category 1. As we were able to identify other sources to identify those needs in Category 2, our recommendation would be to shift it back to Category 1. Obviously that will be a decision for the commission to make next month.

MR. HOUGHTON: Any other questions of James?

(No response.)

MR. HOUGHTON: No action here, James, so what you're doing, you've given us a reprieve, but unlike Congress we need to read this?

MR. BASS: Correct. And again, the information is online and what we really prefer that you and other interested parties do is review the narrative at the beginning of this document and see if you're able to read it and it makes sense as to how the UTP operates, how the process works, and what the dollar amounts in here truly mean.

MR. HOUGHTON: Thank you, James.

MR. SAENZ: Commissioners, one of the things that we want to do, you all have put in place a rules advisory committee that's implementing or proposing the rules for the planning process that didn't come out of Sunset but was considered during the Sunset process. We'd like them to see this because this took a lot of the elements that they had been considering and including in the rules. We want people to look at it so that they can understand that this document is transparent and they see how it operates so that there is no confusion later as to no, you said I'm supposed to get this project because the project was listed, and we can go back and show if things change what would need to happen.

So that's really what we want to do over this next couple of week period and then bring it to you all in Beaumont in April for final approval. So there's no action on this one.

Agenda item number 11, James will now present our monthly Obligation Limit report.

MR. BASS: This item, as well, requires no action on your part, it's an update on the Obligation Limit representing the dollar amount that the districts can award in new projects or allocate through the approval of change orders on already approved projects.

A couple of things, as you'll recall, that dollar amount, again, from our traditional sources was $1.6 billion, and on the first page you can see that there are some districts, if we take what they've already awarded plus what they have planned for the remainder of the year, would be over their allocation for the year, so Mr. Casteel and myself, along with Mr. Barton, are looking at those two or three districts to see how we're going to address those, if there are other funding sources for those projects, or if those projects have to potentially be delayed till next year because they're above and beyond the financial constraint that's available to us.

The other question, because even the $1.6-, Commissioner Underwood, for the current year is subject to a forecast that we assume there's going to be so much revenue and so much in expenditures in other areas that we thought we could afford the $1.6 billion. One of the key forecasts in that obviously is motor fuel tax since it's such a big part of our revenue, and as we've updated you on kind of an ongoing basis, on one of your subsequent pages and up here on the big board, it shows what's been happening on the monthly deposits to the State Highway Fund from gas tax.

And as we've talked before, for Fiscal Year 2009, we were 2.2 percent lower than 2008, and that's just actual versus actual, it does not compare to what we are projecting to get in 2009. Well, we had hoped and thought and forecast that the economy was going to turn and begin to make improvements such that our forecast was that 2010 would be one-half a percent higher than 2009. Through the first quarter, if you look on the very far right, the first quarter of 2010, September, October and November, the weighted average of those three months, it was .53 percent above that same period last year. That certainly has not been the case for December, January, February and March.

Those still paying attention may wonder how do you know what March is going to be, we're not at the end of the month yet. Motor fuel tax is deposited to the State Highway Fund once a month and it happens on the fifth working day of the month, and so we've already received our March deposit and we know what that figure is going to be, such that fiscal year to date we're actually 2.1 percent below where we were the same time a year ago. And that leads us to a revised projection, if you would, based upon those patterns that we'd be down, as you see in that gray box about in the middle of the page, almost 1.9 percent year to year for Fiscal Year 2010.

And if you start getting to dollars, that's about a $40 million decline, but if you compare that to what we were actually projecting to get in 2010, it's closer to a $50- or $52 million projection, and you can see that somewhat. It's difficult to display and there's a couple of following charts that attempt to do that, at least. The blue bars on here are cumulative deposits from our original projection, this is how we thought motor fuel tax would come in over the year and that's represented by the blue bars, and the red you can see how actuals have come in to date, and again, this is cumulative so each month gets larger.

The next one, same information, just shows it slightly different, it just does it month by month. You can see each individual month how they came in and again you can the first three months total they were pretty close except for October there, December, January, February, March, you can see in every instance the red bar is lower than the blue, and so just to give you more information.

The whole point of this is can we still do the $1.6 billion even this year, is that Obligation Limit still valid for 2010. We're having less revenue so initially we'd say no, we're going to have to make an adjustment. The reduction in revenue has also been offset by a reduction in forecasted expenditures, primarily because of the number of vacancies that the department has, and those vacancies had been projected to have salary expenditures that have not occurred and will not occur for the remainder of the year, therefore, we have less insurance expense and everything else such that we think the FTE vacancies is going to offset the motor fuel tax reduction and that we would still be able to do the $1.6 billion this year.

I do want to point out, even though I don't have a chart on it, we're continuing to monitor the vehicle registration fee, the second biggest revenue that we have. It has much more volatility historically, month to month and quarter to quarter, than motor fuel tax does, and therefore, is generally harder to forecast, if you will. It is not keeping up with our projections for the year, we're not yet to the red flag stage, as we are with motor fuel tax, maybe the yellow flag stage that we're monitoring it closer than normal.

But the bottom line approach is today, even with motor fuel tax actuals being less than we had forecast, we think because of the operational savings from the department in vacancies and others, we're able to offset that revenue loss such that we can still continue forward with the $1.6 billion this year from the State Highway Fund.

MR. UNDERWOOD: Quick question, James. You're saying that the FTE reduction is going to allow us, or the fact that we didn't hire the people that we had planned to hire, is that the $40 million or $52 million reduction?

MR. BASS: The FTEs, for example, and this is just for the month of January --

MR. UNDERWOOD: Let me explain my question because you said the actual decline was $40 million in gas tax income, yet we projected we were going to get about $52- so it really was a $52 million hit. Is that $52 million you're saying or is that $40 million when you apply it to the FTEs savings?

MR. BASS: We believe that FTE and other operational savings will cover the $52-, the difference between forecast and a revised forecast. And so we think that it will cover that. And just to give you a round number, in the month of January from what our legislative cap is to what we actually had on board and paid, the difference was around 2,400 FTEs. We have 14,700, round numbers, cap and we were closer to 12,300, again just rounding off the figures. And so because of those vacancies that we had budgeted at the full level, since we're utilizing less than that, that's generated savings that we're able to use to offset the $52 million from motor fuel tax.

MR. UNDERWOOD: Now, with that question, Amadeo, with the conversation that James and I have been having, with all the weather-related instances we've had, will that affect this punch or whatnot? Because we were spending a lot more money because of the weather-related instances we've had just to maintain the roads we have.

MR. BASS: Correct, and so one of the issues from these operational savings, and I'll state the obvious, you can only spend those savings in one place, you can either redirect them to continue to support this $1.6 billion or from snow, addressing snowfall issues, you can go there, we can't use it to cover both, but there have been additional expenditures through there. Right now we think we're able to handle both of them, but you're right, there's more than just this.

MR. UNDERWOOD: Okay, you're saying we're able to handle both because I know we've had a lot more expenses.

MR. BASS: We have to be careful that we don't use savings in one area to address different problems.

MR. UNDERWOOD: Two problems. Right. Okay, thank you, James.

MR. SAENZ: I guess, James, looking at it, as you look at our operational budget today, say in January, based on the expenditures that we've already accumulated versus the amount of revenue and the savings that you can project from there forward, that's enough to cover the $52 million shortage in future revenue.

MR. BASS: Right.

MR. SAENZ: If we, for example, were to get hit by another snowstorm that we would have to spend $8- or $10 million more, it might force us to have to go back and do something to the construction budget. But I guess looking at it right now, we think that we still have enough budget to cover the shortage of money coming in and still be able to let the $1.6-.

MR. BASS: Correct. And an additional risk that I would highlight I mentioned earlier, in addition to if we have another weather event that would increase our expenditures, if we get another month or two of receipts from vehicle registration fees that continue to be lower than what we had forecast, they don't kind of recover quickly, that's another risk that we might have to come back, and we do this continually, but revisit or ask the commission to revisit even the $1.6- this year.

One thing, and I apologize, I don't know if it fits here or better on my previous one on the UTP, the UTP, I mentioned, was based upon the November 2009 forecast, and as you can see, there's a lot of work that has to be done once you take that snapshot on the forecast to get your plan together on that forecast. We're now in March; the March 2010 forecast is not the same as the November 2009 forecast, it is lower because of what we've been seeing and the actuals on motor fuel tax.

The bottom line, what that means is today as we publish and go forward with this, our current forecasts say all these projects cannot be funded, but in order to plan you have to take a snapshot at one point in time and let that plan go forward, and you know on a planning process, that that plan is going to be updated at regular intervals and you're going to go forward, because I can honestly tell you four months from now I may be before you saying that our August or whatever forecast is higher than the current one. I can hope for that. We haven't seen any indications of that yet but it very well could happen. So it's always going to fluctuate but in order to do a plan, we have to defined time line that we do it and move forward from that point.

MR. HOLMES: James, just a couple of questions. As I look at the deposits to the State Highway Fund, on the run rate year to date, we're down 2.11 percent, and you're forecasting that by the end of this fiscal year we'll be down 1.87 percent?

MR. BASS: Right.

MR. HOLMES: Which means that against forecast you're showing an improvement for the balance of the year.

MR. BASS: Right, and there's some off-page or lower, what we've done, the way that number is calculated, and again, it's just a calculated number, we've looked at the last three years of actuals and said okay, from September through March that seven-month collection has equaled 56 percent of the ultimate total for the year. We've simply taken the first seven months for 2010 and applied that same 56, and I'm using round numbers there, to forecast what the total would be for 2010, so even that could be different, yes.

MR. HOLMES: Well, it's just methodology. Right?

MR. BASS: Correct.

MR. HOLMES: And that methodology does not assume that you've had a consistent four-month decline, using that methodology it assumes that the last four-month decline is reversed.

MR. BASS: Correct, and it looks at the relationship between the first seven and the last five months of the past three years and it assumes that relationship will continue which the last four months tell us that may not happen.

MR. HOLMES: It's a fairly strong indicator which means it's something we have to watch pretty carefully.

Now let me ask you another question. On the difference between the 14,700 legislatively approved FTEs and the 12,300 that are currently employed, is that 2,400 FTE decline, is that over a one-month period, does that exist over the full twelve months? Because if you look at that and it's across the full twelve months, that's $100 million?

MR. BASS: Correct, in the neighborhood of, yes. The 2,400, and I apologize, I didn't grab the fiscal year to date number which would have been the average, the numbers I gave you there were just for the one month of January. I do not think there's been a great deal of movement from September to January but I can get you the fiscal year to date averages where we balance that all out, but the numbers I gave you were just for the one month of January.

MR. HOLMES: It would be interesting to see what that average is because s one-month snapshot, it may be accurate to extrapolate;, it may not be.

MR. BASS: Correct. The one last thing, and we've talked about this before, the gasoline and diesel are the two major parts of the motor fuel tax and they are behaving quite differently, such that on the gross receipts at the state level, so not the State Highway Fund, but in effect, they're going to be the same, from September through March, gasoline is actually seven-tenths of a percent higher than it was the first seven months of last year, diesel is down 7.8 percent.

So the overall decline we're seeing, no pun intended, is being driven by diesel, the economy, and so when we're refining our forecast, we're looking at other economic forecasts to see when they're predicting the economy to truly make the turn, and you're seeing some capacity coming back to factories and production but not back to the levels of 2008, but it hopefully is beginning to trend up.

MR. HOLMES: If the population numbers that were printed in the newspaper this week are accurate, a one-year growth year to year in the Metroplex and Houston, Austin, San Antonio was in excess of 400,000, or about 400,000. It must cause unleaded fuel tax to continue to rise, so that's not really an unsafe projection.

MR. BASS: Correct. The one thing that may be concerning, would probably be the right word, and I can give you numbers, the State of Texas population has been growing and is projected to continue to grow, but just looking at gasoline, the gross to the state and going back a few years, in 2005 gasoline was five one-hundredths of a percent less than the previous year, so it was flat; in 2006 it was four-tenths of one percent less, again relatively flat; then in 2007 we saw it go up, gasoline, again just that one piece, 1.9 percent, '08 about 1.3, '09 was down 1.25 percent. My point of all that is over the last four or five years, with population growth explosion, gasoline overall has generally be flat, it's fluctuated within a very small plus/minus tolerance.

MR. HOUGHTON: Now, is that a result or could be a result of efficiency?

MR. BASS: Could be, could be obviously alternative modes, more people moving to transit when gasoline went up to $3.75 or whatever per gallon.

MR. HOUGHTON: What's the age of the fleet in the State of Texas, do we know?

MR. BASS: I'm not sure. I think the registration and titling system, I don't know if it has specific ages. It has to have the age of the vehicle because that's the way the fee is currently structured, so we could get something on that.

MR. MEADOWS: James, I'm just curious if you could track any correlation, following up on Commissioner Houghton's question, any correlation between the average fuel efficiencies published by the federal government and gasoline receipts.

MR. BASS: We'll certainly try and do that.

MR. MEADOWS: I understand it's not an exact science, there are several significant contributing factors, including the cost of fuel itself, but that would be a really interesting thing to watch because as we begin to discuss with our legislative friends what some of these funding solutions may be, it may well be, as we begin to look at gas tax, if you can demonstrate clearly that that's a driving factor, it may be that that's an indexing factor, just to suggest as something to be considered

MR. BASS: Historically we had been able to forecast, in effect, both gasoline and diesel together because we just did one. We're now breaking those two out, obviously, but one of the things we're doing is searching for what is a good index to try and see and use to forecast diesel in the future and gasoline in the future to try something very different.

MR. MEADOWS: Two different dynamics, and it's a more pronounced difference in dynamics than it's ever been before and more likely to become even more pronounced over time. I think you could reasonably predict that's the case, and it's time that you really give some thought, we need to give some thought to how to best deal with that.

MR. BASS: And we're searching for what those good analogies are or analogous indices are that we can use going forward.

MR. MEADOWS: You need more than four years of statistical data to get any sort of real feel for it, but I think it would be good to begin to track that. I'd love to see that at some point.

MR. BASS: Okay.

MR. HOLMES: There actually is a fair bit of data on that that is available, and it's something that I've looked at over the last couple of years, and if you take the high efficiency case, the low efficiency case, you take kind of the middle case, and you extend it out over a 20-year period, the actual dollars received by this department are lower in 2030 from the fuel tax than they are today, and that's the middle case.

MR. BASS: Right, and that's with increased population of 40-50 percent.

MR. HOUGHTON: Any other questions of James?

(No response.)

MR. HOUGHTON: James, thanks for all the good news.

MR. BASS: Sorry to push you past your deadline.

MR. HOUGHTON: Thank you very much, James. I lost the over/under on this deal.

(General laughter.)

MR. SAENZ: Thank you, James.

Commissioners, just for clarification, I'm going back to agenda item 8, there's no action, but just to make sure. On our website we had a draft minute order that included mobility projects and safety projects; the minute order that was presented by John and was in your book only approved for Prop 14 the safety projects. And if you go back to Attachment A that's in your books, it included five projects, additional safety projects for a total of $78 million. I just wanted to clarify that just for the record.

MR. HOUGHTON: I think Commissioner Garza pointed that out to us.

MR. SAENZ: Just wanted to just further clarify it.

(General laughter.)

MR. SAENZ: Thank you. Moving on to agenda item number 12, Dianna Noble, Environmental Division director, will present a minute order concerning environmental restrictions on some property.

MS. NOBLE: Good morning, commissioners, Mr. Saenz and Roger. Excuse me, I'm suffering from allergies so I might be sneezing a little bit. For the record, my name is Dianna Noble, director of Environmental Affairs for TxDOT.

Agenda item number 12 is regarding authorizing TxDOT to execute a deed notice restricting the use of property at TxDOT's Vega maintenance office to commercial/industrial purposes only. This property is located in our Amarillo District. The contaminants and concentration levels on the property pose no significant risk to humans or the environment based on commercial or industrial land use.

TxDOT provided notice to all seven adjacent landowners and to the City of Vega of TxDOT's intent to restrict the use of the property. TxDOT received one phone call requesting clarification. TxDOT explained the property restriction would not affect the adjacent owner's property. The caller had no additional comment. The department received no other comments either asking for additional information or questioning or opposing the covenant.

I'll be glad to answer any questions.

MR. HOUGHTON: Is there anybody to testify or any questions? I can see you feverishly looking for something over there.

MR. SAENZ: It's not on this one, it's on a future item, I just wanted to make sure.

MR. HOUGHTON: Okay. Is there a motion/

MR. UNDERWOOD: So moved.

MR. MEADOWS: Second.

MR. HOUGHTON: All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes.)

MR. HOUGHTON: Thank you.

MS. NOBLE: Thank you.

MR. HOUGHTON: Thank you, Dianna, nice seeing you again.

MS. NOBLE: Good seeing you, Commissioner.

MR. HOUGHTON: Things well in your shop?

MS. NOBLE: Things are normal where it's pretty hectic in Environmental, but we keep on going.

MR. HOUGHTON: It's a pleasure seeing you. Come back sooner.

MS. NOBLE: Thank you, sir.

MR. HOUGHTON: Thank you.

MR. SAENZ: Thank you, Dianna.

Agenda item number 13, commissioners, deals with our contracts that were let this month that are subject for you to award, and RussellRussel Lenz, our new director of our Construction Division, will present two minute orders for us. So RussellRussel, if you can present both of them.

MR. LENZ: Yes, sir. Good morning. For the record, I'm RussellRussel Lenz, the director of the Construction Division.

The item 13(a)(1) is for the consideration of the award or rejection of Highway Maintenance and Department Building Construction contracts that were let on March 9 and 10. We had 25 projects; the number of average bidders for each project was 5.96; and the bids resulted in an overall underrun of 14.54 percent. Staff recommends the award of all of these projects.

MR. HOUGHTON: Is there a motion?

MR. UNDERWOOD: So moved.

MR. HOUGHTON: Is there a second?

MR. MEADOWS: Second.

MR. HOUGHTON: All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes.)

MR. HOUGHTON: Thank you, Russell.

MR. LENZ: Thank you. Item number 13(a)(2) is for the consideration of the award or rejection of Highway and Transportation Enhancement Building Construction contracts that were also let on March 9 and 10 of this year. We present 78 projects today; the projects averaged 5.82 bidders per project; and resulted in an overall underrun of 6.48 percent. Staff recommends the award of all construction projects with the exception of Harris County project 3242, and we have determined that redesign is warranted, and therefore recommend rejection of that project.

MR. HOUGHTON: Motion?

MR. HOLMES: Motion.

MR. UNDERWOOD: Second.

MR. HOUGHTON: All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes.)

MR. HOUGHTON: Thank you, Russell.

MR. SAENZ: Thank you, Russell.

MR. SAENZ: Thank you, Russell. You were easy on him, commissioners, this is his first presentation.

MR. HOUGHTON: Is that right?

MR. SAENZ: Yes, but we can get him next month.

Agenda item number 14 deals with our Routine Minute Orders dealing with donations to the department, eminent domain proceedings, highway designations, load zoning and posting, right of way disposition and donations, release of access rights, speed zones and traffic operations. Staff recommends approval of all these minute orders, we'll be happy to answer any questions. You do have a comment request for agenda item 14(c)(1).

MR. HOUGHTON: 14(c)(1) and that would be Stacy Adams from the great county of Brazoria County, County Commissioner Stacy Adams. Commissioner, welcome to our meeting.

MR. ADAMS: Thank you, Chairman. Stacy Adams, Brazoria County Commissioner, Precinct 3.

It's a pleasure to come before you today just to speak to this one minute order that you have. I'd like to recognize a few people that came up for the trip to show their support on this. From the City of Alvin, our City Manager Paul Horn; Brazoria County Engineer Gerald Roberts; Michael Click from Jacobs Engineer; and Larry Buehler, Alvin Economic Development Corporation.

We just wanted to take some time to say thank you for considering this. It's a project that Alvin has been looking forward to for quite some time. What it is, it's just nine-tenths of a mile on FM 528, an extension of it bringing it on the system. It meets all the criteria for the general mobility but also an added benefit is Highway 6 is an evacuation route in Brazoria County and also covers much of Galveston County, and because of the underpass there and some problems we've had, this grade separation not only is for general mobility but for evacuation purposes also.

Last month you had talked about wanting more partnerships, not just with us but throughout the state. In this particular case, Brazoria County has stepped up with their 10 percent match, the City of Alvin has stepped up with their 10 percent match, and with the approval today, Alvin will proceed with their pass-through financing agreement and submit that, and hopefully that will come back with some good consideration later this year so that we can move this project forward, and they have taken a role even up to this point, working with the developers and some $300,000 of donated right of way.

The City of Alvin has committed or spent in cash and added value some $600,000 in intersection improvements and realignment, so we don't want to be a burden, we want to be a partner with you and we just want to say thank you for considering this minute order.

Two last things. Representative Webber could not be here today, he regretted he had to be in the district. And I want to thank Commissioner Holmes for coming out two weeks ago to Brazoria County, that meant a lot to us, meeting with the business development team. You have unique problems and we all read the newspaper, and of course, we don't want to believe that.

It means a lot more when it comes from one of the commissioners to come and speak to the business leaders and so forth so that we can go out and help educate our communities on the problems and how we're going to solve them in the future when it comes to your funding problems, whether it's VMT, that may take a while, but we need that information from you firsthand, that means a lot to us.

So anyway, I just want to say thank you for your consideration of this minute order.

MR. HOLMES: Stacy, I appreciate your coming today. I think it's really important for communities to come before the commission to identify their projects and their needs and help us understand the issues as it relates to those. And I enjoyed my visit a couple of weeks ago, I appreciate all of you guys coming out, and I think it's really important that when communities come forward that they offer some self-help, and the fact that Alvin and Brazoria County are putting money in the till and helping this project along I think is important.

MR. ADAMS: Thank you.

MR. HOUGHTON: Thank you, Commissioner.

MR. SAENZ: We need a motion on the Routine Minute Orders.

MR. HOUGHTON: We need a motion? I'm sorry. Motion?

MR. UNDERWOOD: So moved.

MR. HOLMES: Second.

MR. HOUGHTON: All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes.)

MR. HOUGHTON: Passes.

That does conclude our regular agenda but we have some people that have signed up for the open comment. Rene Ramirez, Hidalgo County Judge.

Where's Rene? There you are.

JUDGE RAMIREZ: Good morning, commissioners. Thank you for allowing me to address the commission real brief. I am Rene Ramirez, the Hidalgo County Judge from Hidalgo County.

And I want to first thank you. I understand that you have a lot of challenges, a lot of needs throughout the state, but you made a major investment in Highway 281 which is helping our communities come together and bring new jobs to the table and get our commerce up north to the other parts of the state and nation. We still have some work to do, though. We are going to come back to the commission and working with Mr. Saenz and his staff who do an outstanding job and ask for the continuing support of 281, and we do hope that you look favorable on that.

We, as some of my colleagues said earlier from Cameron County, we want to be partners with you, we don't expect you to wave a wand and come down and fix all of our needs, we understand that we need to step up to the plate and we're doing that.

Lastly, I want to send a warm welcome to the new addition to the Delisi family and send my warmest regards to her and Ted.

And thank you for allowing me the opportunity to be here with you.

MR. HOUGHTON: Judge, thank you for coming. You've been a great partner with us, and your county and Cameron County stepped out at the last session and asked to voluntarily increase your motor vehicle registration to do transportation projects in your regions, and that was noticed and hopefully things in the future will be even brighter.

JUDGE RAMIREZ: We hope so, and we thank our legislative delegation and senators for working with us on that.

MR. HOUGHTON: Thank you, Judge, thank you for coming.

JUDGE RAMIREZ: Thank you, gentlemen.

MR. HOUGHTON: Carroll Shaddock, you get another shot, Carroll. Transportation enhancements. Do you have a courthouse or something you want to build in transportation enhancements?

MR. SHADDOCK: No, but I do want to speak on behalf of my client, Mr. Harlan Crow of Dallas Texas, with respect to this topic, first, if I could be representing him on behalf of Locke Lord Bissell & Liddell, my law firm in Houston and Dallas.

If I may be allowed a personal comment, Mr. Crow is a true patriot. If you know him or know about him, you will know that. He has two core values for which he works: one is for the perpetuation and enhancement, if you will, of individual liberty in our country; and the second is for the defense, maintenance and expansion of our free enterprise system. However, there's a third rail to this, something which, in his view, undergirds and give expressions to these values and that is the scenic values that are so well expressed in American tThe Beautiful or Texas Our Texas, or many other places in our society. Because of this, he wishes to thank all those at TxDOT who have worked to provide transportation enhancements as we build and improve our roadways.

Finally, on his behalf I would like to point out the critical value of transportation enhancements. Can you imagine a Texas where you can only have meals without wine or songs without melodies or days without sunshine, or perhaps better expressed for some Texans, meals without iced tea or meat without potatoes? Would this be a place where one would want to live and work and raise a family?

Well, think about a Texas where there is a transportation system without enhancements, highways without trees and greenery, freeways without effective sign control. Is this what we want? Does this bespeak our heritage, our values or our aspirations? Is this good stewardship of what we've received from those who came before us? Will this be the legacy that we leave for those who follow us? I think these are questions to which transportation enhancements and the other things I've mentioned call us all to be good stewards of our state.

I enjoy Texas Highways, I might say in passing, and I loaded up for my kids and my grandkids of the 2010 Travel Guide, the Texas Spring Events, and the other wonderful publications of TxDOT. And of course, I enjoy every month reading Texas Highways, but search as I may, I cannot find a single billboard in any of these publications, never do I see a roadway in any of these publications which are laden with ugly, oversized, even blinking/flashing on-premise signs. Nor do I see barren highways which are only stretches of concrete with things which are not attractive along the way. I never see any of that in these publications.

On behalf of Texans today and the Texans who will follow, I call on us all to walk our talk. Thank you.

MR. HOUGHTON: Thank you, Carroll, very much.

Lisa Hardaway.

MS. HARDAWAY: Good morning, gentlemen. I'm Lisa HardawayHard away;, I'm a photographer from Fayetteville, Texas. I'm here representing Scenic Texas, and I'd like to thank you, first of all, because I've driven about 80,000 miles in the last three years, and whenever I cross the state line, I'm very aware of the declining quality of the roadways, so my cars, my family and I thank you for good roadways. But I'm also here to celebrate the transportation enhancements, specifically the percentage that has been delegated to the courthouse restorations.

My husband and I photographed for ten months a hundred of the 254 county courthouses. Not all of the 22 that have been completely restored are in this book, but it was very wonderful to see the ones that were in the process of restoration at the time that I would go back to to get those shots that I missed once they were finished. I live in Fayette County. W, we have a beautifully restored, the Fayette County Courthouse is beautiful.

And these edifices are unique, not just because of their architecture or what they represent, all states have county courthouses, but when these were built, these county courthouses, they towered over this vast landscape and from each county you could see them for miles. The landscape at that time was fairly unpeopled, sparsely populated. These beacons representing law and justice in often a very fragile law-abiding community, but nevertheless, they represented something, just like a church represents something, they represent order and social commerce, community.

And the buildings have stood the test of time. T, they've sat very dignified in their landscape, ast the landscape around them then changed as Texas has continued to grow from more rural area landscapes to more urban in many cases.

The choice to use these enhancements in this way to restore these brick-and-mortar edifices is laudable but it's also very logical. They create a number of jobs for Texans and others, I suppose too, but I was able to see a lot of electricians, plumbers, masons, even stencilers. One woman in Sonora was there up on a scaffolding where she'd been for two months doing the gold leafing. I highly recommend that you visit that courthouse.

And it also represents, with the decline of economy, I think the kind of tourism that we're experiencing now, more people driving their cars. I was asked many, many times at each county courthouse to please photograph a family in front of these courthouses. So there's a lot of reasons to take care of them and I thank you for making that a priority.

My last request would be that there would be a commitment to something that is less tangible, less brick-and-mortar, but something that is much bigger than any of those building and that's our landscape. I have been really in love with Lady Bird Johnson and committed to what she stood for and I think we've fallen down, and I'd like you to please reassess that, because I have a child and he will have children and I'd like him to stay here because it's a really unique, diverse landscape that we have. Thank you very much.

MR. HOUGHTON: Lisa, are these books on loan to Commissioner Holmes and Commissioner Meadows?

MR. MEADOWS: I'm sorry, what book?

(General laughter.)

MS. HARDAWAY: I just wanted you to know.

MR. HOUGHTON: Are they on loan or have you given them these books?

MS. HARDAWAY: I was letting you see them;, you can purchase them.

MR. HOUGHTON: I see.

MS. HARDAWAY: My husband was quite tired of the project when we were done because it was very exhausting.

MR. HOUGHTON: I bet it was.

MS. HARDAWAY: Even only 100 of them, you still have to go all over.

MR. HOUGHTON: It's beautiful. I've been looking over Commissioner Holmes's shoulder. It's beautiful.

MR. UNDERWOOD: I've traveled a lot, Lisa, also and I've seen a lot of these courthouses and in real life they don't look as good as your picture, just for the record. You've done an excellent job is my point.

MS. HARDAWAY: Well, thank you very much. A lot of these are done in the old-fashioned way and those we don't fool with, but there are books where we fool a lot in the computer with things, and this isn't one of those.

MR. HOUGHTON: Thank you, Lisa, very much.

MR. HOLMES: Before you go, Lisa, Mike Andrews, was he the publisher? What did Mike do?

MS. HARDAWAY: Mike wrote it. When he went to Washington, D.C., and then stayed there, I think he's always longed to be back. He always loved Texas courthouses and so he did a ten-year research project basically, and though the book is called Historic Texas Courthouses it doesn't really mean that they are the most historic buildings; some of the historic-ness of it are stories.

Like Old Rip in Eastland County, the Horny Toad who was buried in the time capsule and then they pulled him out and held him up by his tail and he wiggled. He'd been in there 32 years. So it's a lot of odd stories, some, some very stealing of the papers and how the county courthouses were moved from one location in the county to another. So he did all the research and the writing and he found us and we all got very excited.

MR. HOLMES: Well, give him my regards. He and I have been friends for nearly 50 years. He's a good guy.

MS. HARDAWAY: He is a good guy. Thank you all.

MR. HOUGHTON: Thank you, Lisa.

Noah Hester.

MS. HARDAWAY: This is my son.

MR. HOUGHTON: Oh, this is your son. Oh, great.

Noah, is this your first shot here at public speaking?

MR. HESTER: No. I actually testified at a trial/public hearing for a billboard a couple of years ago. But it's my first public speaking here.

MR. HOUGHTON: Great, welcome.

MR. HESTER: Well, you know who I am, and I am from Fayetteville, Texas. I traveled with them for the courthouse book and continue to travel with them for other projects here. I am also a photographer and continually I'm struck by the size and beauty of our diverse state. I'm really impressed by the restoration of all these buildings, the courthouses. They're fantastic, I must say.

But I am here as a representative of Texas youth to ask you for a commitment to also protect the beautiful landscape for the future of all Texans because I think that is as important as the restoration of our brick-and-mortar history.

That's all I have to say. Thank you.

MR. HOUGHTON: Well, thank you for coming, thank you very much. It's a tremendous undertaking, and I can see why when you reached the end you were glad you were to the end. There's a lot of work there. But Noah, thank you for showing up today.

MR. UNDERWOOD: Lisa, also thank you for bringing our future. , I appreciate that. Thank you for our future;, I see that in this young man.

MR. HOUGHTON: And Carroll, I just got an e-mail from Chairman Delisi that says she's all for Scenic Texas and courthouses, so I just want to express that to you.

At this time, this completes all the items. We will recess into executive session under Government Code, Section 551.074 to deliberate on the employment and the duties of a person who would be responsible for implementing changes that result from the independent management and organizational review of the department. So we will now retire into executive session and return shortly.

(Whereupon, at 10:57 a.m, the meeting was recessed, to reconvene this same day, Thursday, March 25, 2010, following conclusion of the executive session.)

MR. HOUGHTON: The Texas Transportation Commission meeting is reconvened. For the record, the time is 11:56. The commission has concluded its executive session.

Is there any other business before the commission?

(No response.)

MR. HOUGHTON: If there's none, I will entertain a motion to adjourn.

MR. UNDERWOOD: So moved.

MR. MEADOWS: Second.

MR. HOUGHTON: All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes.)

MR. HOUGHTON: We stand adjourned.

(Whereupon, at 11:57 a.m., the meeting was concluded.)

C E R T I F I C A T E

MEETING OF: Texas Transportation Commission Workshop
Special Meeting
LOCATION: Austin, Texas
DATE: March 25, 2010
I do hereby certify that the foregoing pages, numbers 1 through 94 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.





3/30/2010
(Transcriber) (Date)

On the Record Reporting, Inc.
3307 Northland, Suite 315
Austin, Texas 78731





 

Contact Us