My Children, the Blacklands Toll Road is Undead. It Walks in the Night.
Always be concerned if you ask a highway official a straight question, and he says, "Listen to them, the children of the night. What music they make."
A few quick updates for you on some of those Blacklands toll road issues I told you about earlier in the week. Apparently I was wrong about a lot of stuff.
See also: State Road Officials Balk.
I told you state Representative Cindy Burkett of Sunnyvale, our always sunny suburb to the east, had asked tough questions in a letter to state highway officials, and I told you she asked them to reply to her in writing. I also told you they balked at writing an on-the-record letter -- said it was too complicated -- and suggested a meeting instead. All good so far. That all happened.
But then I suggested that Burkett had been pretty stern with the bureaucrats thus far and probably would not accept their offer of a closed-door meeting instead of an on-the-record letter. I should have known better than to predict. She did accept their suggestion of the closed door meeting, her staff informed me yesterday.
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I asked specifically about the door. They said definitely closed. To me anyway. But they said not to worry. They promised to tell me later what happens, which is really very sweet of them.
They also said they didn't think the highway officials were trying to duck anything, just wanted to have a meeting so they could make sure everybody was on the same page before writing a letter. Apparently relations between Burkett and the Texas Department of Transportation are considerably less adversarial than I may have suggested, so I wanted you to know about that.
I also told you about this very weird deal having to do with whether or not the Blacklands toll road is dead. It's the project, you may recall, that is so hated by the region through which it is supposed to pass that the fire marshal had to shut down a public meeting because too many people showed up to express their hatred. Figuratively speaking, the Blacklands toll road fig blew up the hatred-ometer.
After the toll road hatred-ometer went through the roof, local road planning officials at the North Central Texas Council of Governments, which I like to call The COG!, who had been aggressively promoting the project, said they were now nixing it instead, deep-sixing it, taking it off their to-do list. But then Burkett found out the project was still on an even more important to-do list at the state level, which is how she got into the letter-writing campaign with state highway officials.
I may not be able to explain this next part. I rehearsed by trying to explain it to myself, and it didn't work. But here goes:
Burkett sends a letter to this guy named Lt. General J.F. Weber, USMC (Ret), known behind his back as G.I. Joe, who is head of the state highway department, asking why the Blacklands toll road is still on his to-do list when everybody in her district, where it's supposed to go, hates it.
He writes back on October 29 telling her they put it on the list because The COG! asked them to. Then he tells her that the staff of The COG! is now recommending deep-sixing the toll road. But he says the elected officials who make up the governing body on transportation policy over The COG!, called the Regional Transportation Council (RTC), has to vote to accept the staff's recommendation.
If the RTC takes it officially off the local to-do list, G.I. Joe tells her, he says he will "quickly follow suit" and ask his own governing body "to remove the project" from the state to-do list. Later, the RTC did vote not to include the Blacklands toll road on its to-do list.
OK, I kind of told you all that, so that's all good so far. That's what happened. But I left out a very important detail, because I didn't know about it. Yes, the local body voted to keep it off their list. Yes, G.I. Joe then asked his own governing body to take it off the state list.
They said no. They wouldn't do it. It's still on the state to-do list, which means the damned thing is far from dead. G.I. Joe's governing body, the Texas Transportation Commission, discussed taking it off the list for about two seconds at its November 20 meeting (see Item 10) and decided for reasons they did not disclose that they could not. Just could not do it. They said they'll think about it again at their February meeting.
Why am I bothering you with this? Allow me to explain. First thing that happens, here comes the staff of The COG! pushing this Blacklands toll road as hard as they can. The hatred-ometer blows up. They say, "Oh, sure, forget it, sorry, it's dead and gone."
I just want to make sure you know it's not dead and it is not gone. Things are not what they appear. Sure, they want to get the hatred-ometer under control, so they will say a lot of stuff. But Burkett gets along better with G.I. Joe than maybe it looked like at first. G.I. Joe's promises to "quickly follow suit" don't seem to be too quick. And one way or another the Blacklands toll road is still on life support. I just didn't want to be the source of a misimpression.
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