TxDOT Clocked for Toll Trafficking

Texas Department of Transportation gets tough reception at Sunset Advisory Commission

There's nothing like a good dose of public outrage to get state lawmakers tinkering with the inner workings of a state agency, and that extends to the Sunset Advisory Commission's review of the Texas Department of Transportation on Tuesday.

Outrage over the Trans-Texas Corridor and new tolling capacity on Texas' roadway system has finally filtered back to Austin. Just how far that outrage will travel depends on the collective will of lawmakers and the actual financial outlook for TxDOT. That outlook is still in dispute, although it does appear somewhat dire, if not as dire as what the late Chair Ric Williamson pitched in the promotion of tolling.

First, you can expect to hear a lot about the potential for an elected commissioner. Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon, D-San Antonio, raised the idea – to much applause from the audience. "I think that we ought to have everything on the table," McClendon said. "I think we ought to look at it like it is an elected commissioner."

Sunset Commission staff suggested replacing the current five-member board with one appointed commissioner subject to a legislative oversight committee. Rep. Linda Harper-Brown, R-Irving, wants to see a stronger internal audit function, possibly an auditor general similar to the inspector general at other agencies. And both McClendon and industry folks want to separate out some of the licensing and registration functions of the agency. McClendon wants to create a Department of Motor Vehicles. Industry members would like some aspects of registration and regulation shifted to the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation.

Rep. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, noted that a lot of the frustration simply comes down to a lack of transparency at the agency. Just because funds are constitutionally dedicated to an agency should not exempt the agency from legislative scrutiny, Kolkhorst told her colleagues on the Sunset Commission.

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Texas Department of Transportation, Sunset Advisory Commission, Trans-Texas Corridor, toll roads

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