TTC Should Be Skeptical of NTTA’s Highway 121 Proposal

Mobility in the Metroplex should trump deference to short-sighted local officials

Letter to the Editor at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram

The Star-Telegram wants the Texas Transportation Commission to award the Highway 121 toll road contract to the NTTA (“The choice is easy, actually,” June 24), and “anything else would be substituting state politics for local decision-making.” This paints a false choice. In reality, the TTC’s primary responsibility is to make a selection that best advances long-term mobility needs in the Metroplex.

Unfortunately, the RTC failed to do this when it selected NTTA last week. Both TxDOT and the RTC’s own consultants evaluated both NTTA and Cintra’s proposals and found NTTA’s to be far riskier. In the event of a recession or lower-than-projected revenues, Cintra’s plan would insulate the public from the downside risks, but NTTA could be forced to raise tolls on all of its roads to cover its debt and delay or cancel the road projects it’s committed to building.

Further, given the transportation funding shortfall, the region will need all players-TxDOT, RTC, NTTA, and the private sector-involved in financing and building the roads needed to tackle congestion. If the state were to allow NTTA to submit a late bid and steal away a private sector contract won in a rigorous competitive bidding process, it would signal to global markets that Texas doesn’t play by the rules and is a bad place to do business. That’s not exactly a winning strategy for attracting global investment in the state (or “reverse outsourcing”) and for bringing needed congestion relief to the region.

Let’s hope that the TTC bases its decision on improving mobility for Metroplex residents and businesses, not the short-sighted judgment of local decision-makers.