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Found 19 results

  1. Lot clearing has begun on the SE corner of Westpark Tollway at Peek. Any idea what's going in? I found this... looks like maybe a Stripes on that corner, but I can't tell for sure: http://www.loopnet.c...ay-Richmond-TX/
  2. I don't know about you guys but I find it a bit outrageous that they are even thinking about doing this, even if the route would follow the N. MacGregor right of way. IMO, The recent improvements made to Brays Bayou would be a waste if this project becomes reality. Fortunately, there appears to be a lot of opposition to it. http://abclocal.go.c...ocal&id=8703131
  3. Proposal would add toll lanes to U.S. 290 and Texas 288 Commissioners will soon vote on deal to jump-start project By Mike Morris Updated 11:41 p.m., Thursday, April 5, 2012 Projects to widen U.S. 290 and Texas 288 with a mix of free and toll lanes in an attempt to ease congestion in the traffic-choked corridors would get a jump-start under a proposed agreement between Harris County and the Texas Department of Transportation. The deal, scheduled for a vote by Commissioners Court next Tuesday, also foresees the state building a direct connection from Texas 288 to the Texas Medical Center, as well as improving nearby Almeda and Cullen. TxDOT spokesman Bob Kaufman said work on U.S. 290 could start early next year; he declined to say when dirt could turn on Texas 288, but said environmental work is under way. "This is an important step that says we're going to work on this program together, we're both going to bring funding to it, the toll road authority will collect tolls to help pay for it, and it's going to address in an aggressive way the congestion on 290," said Art Storey, the county's director of public infrastructure, who oversees the Harris County Toll Road Authority. Storey said the details of each project still need to be worked out. 2 commissioners wary County Judge Ed Emmett called the agreement exciting, and said it was the product of months of negotiations between state officials and court members. "It's a lot of projects at a time when everybody else is wringing their hands going, 'Gee, what are we going to be able to do?' " he said. "To finally tell people who use 290 and 288, 'Here's a definitive plan and it's going to start sooner rather than later,' I think is a big plus." Precinct 3 Commissioner Steve Radack, through whose precinct a large part of U.S. 290 passes, was more wary. The county, he said, has not been repaid for $77 million it spent developing Segment E of the Grand Parkway before turning the job over to the state. Radack said he would like that back before the county contributes a proposed $400 million to help build U.S. 290, which is under the state's jurisdiction. "What they're asking the county to do is participate in order to get something done," Radack said. "So, we're saying we'll look at participating, but let's look at what y'all are proposing and is it a good plan for the county. It's not Harris County's fault that the state of Texas doesn't have the money to do what is their responsibility." Precinct 2 Commissioner Jack Morman also expressed skepticism, but for a different reason. TxDOT must not neglect Texas 146, the widening of the southeastern portion of Beltway 8, or the expansion of the Ship Channel bridge, he said. "We need a funded plan for all major Harris County projects," Morman said. "So far the focus has been on Grand Parkway and 290. That's fine, but I won't let the east side take a back seat." In 'striking distance' The proposal envisions a free lane being added in each direction on U.S. 290 between the 610 Loop and the Grand Parkway, and two to three managed lanes in the center. There is disagreement about which directions those lanes should flow at what times. The plan for Texas 288, according to the agreement, would see two toll lanes added from U.S. 59 to near the Brazoria County line. TxDOT's Kaufman said it is too early to discuss details on either project. Alan Clark, head of transportation planning for the Houston-Galveston Area Council, said the agreement puts long hoped-for improvements "within striking distance." Both stretches of U.S. 290 and Texas 288 are among TxDOT's 100 most-congested road segments. "None of this would be possible if it weren't for our ability to use toll financing on some of these projects," he said. "The funding shortfall is still very much present when we're talking about adding or constructing lanes that would not be tolled." Cautionary note Citizens Transportation Coalition board chairwoman Marci Perry and advocacy chairwoman Carol Caul said they support improvements to the congested section of U.S. 290 inside Highway 6, but said population statistics do not support such an investment much beyond that point. Precinct 4 Commissioner Jack Cagle, whose district is home to a large section of U.S. 290, said there is no question that both projects are needed. "If we want to continue the economic growth and the prosperity that we have, we have to address mobility," Cagle said. "If this agreement is signed, it'll be a signal to everyone, not just within our region but … to the entire nation, that 'Houston is ready to do business - come on down.' " http://www.chron.com...and-3462888.php
  4. Does anyone know what is being built on the NE corner of 99 and Westpark tollway - I think this area used to be called Grand Corner.
  5. Found this on a surveying website: http://gmont.com/the-woodlands-research-forest.htm If this is true, we would have heard something about this, right?
  6. I was looking for a place to pay my EZ tag fee on the Harris County Toll Road Authority website and stumbled upon this project: https://www.hctra.org/about_construction/State_Highway_288_Toll_Lanes/ Also... if you go to this link, click on the first pdf file and it will show you the extent of the toll lanes down 288. 26 miles in total. $1.4 billion. https://www.hctra.org/about_construction/ Sorry that the image is a little small but you can get a near fullscreen version if you go to the pdf file. Even though this is years away, it would be SUCH a relief for them to build this project. 288 is a nightmare. ... ... ... just like almost all of Houston's highways.
  7. I was just looking at the TxDOT 290 plans, and wonder what is going to happen around the Fry Road area (Black Horse) and the new NW Toll Rd. The TxDOT map looks like the new toll road will be right next to BlackHorse (South of the rail line) along Mound Road. Anybody know the real ROW? Won't this just kill Blackhorse and Cypress Creek Ranch?
  8. Ha not long ago during the election I got blasted because I spoke out about people putting Ed Emmitt back in office. Well guess what ole Ed is back in and he and his cronies are already making up for lost time. Boom raised the tolls on the West Park and Boom raising the tolls on the Main Beltway lanes. Not enough money. My ass they are just a bunch of money hungry crooks. Again we can't even vote on the man and he affects all of us out here which is wrong. Ok go ahead and flame again.
  9. Interesting read. http://www.ctchouston.org/blogs/christof/2...-a-blank-check/ The one that stands out to me the most is the eastern extension of Westpark. It would be elevated, so it would rise about the homes on the south side of Westpark. Then again, that's probably what folks there would prefer over a train. This follows the news reported by Chron a few days ago of a bill passed by the Senate that would allow HCTRA to be TxDOT's implementer of tollways in the Houston area. It's in the same bill that put the 2-year moratorium on private tollways.
  10. I heard from a guy at work that this may be in the works, anybody know for sure if this is a 'for sure' thing? I know they have a ways to go before 249 is complete, especially the Tomball bypass part, just curious. Thanks, --Alan
  11. Harris County will help pay off a 26 million dollar loan for land the Houston Texans use for parking and their bubble practice field. The Harris county convention and sports corporation is unable to pay because the hotel/motel funds are lower than expected. Now the county will step in using funds from the Harris County Toll Road Authority. Should toll road funds be used for this?
  12. College Station, TxDOT consider Hwy 6 toll roads http://media.www.thebatt.com/media/storage...gepublisher.com Because of construction and subsequent traffic, Highway 6 is being used as a north and south route for local traffic, instead of regional traffic, said Kevin Fogle, transportation planner for the city of College Station. As a solution, there have been talks about adding toll roads to Highway 6, said Bob Colwell, public information officer of the Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT). "Making toll roads will help us to do projects faster," he said. Colwell said adding toll roads could happen in the near future, if the public supports the issue. "We want to do what the public wants," he said. When it comes to completing construction projects in a timely manner, money is a big problem, Colwell said. Toll roads would help get more money and contribute to the solution, he said. "The estimated cost of maintaining and constructing road improvement over the next 25 years is $1 billion," Colwell said. Fogle said money has been an imperative issue in completing construction throughout town. "We are struggling to find money for road improvement," Fogle said. "We need $40 million just to get caught up." Not only are city officials looking to add toll roads to Highway 6, but there is also serious consideration of expanding it to six lanes, Fogle said. "Highway 6 is supposed to be used for regional traffic, but because there is so much traffic inward in town, people use Highway 6 locally as an alternate north and south route," he said. The city of College Station and TXDOT are working together to find a solution to this problem, Fogle said. "There are only three north and south routes throughout the city," he said. In order to complete these alternate routes and fix the current north and south routes, money has to be acquired, Fogle said. "The Texas Avenue project alone is costing an estimated $17 million," he said. Fogle said when there is an increased capacity on one road, there is usually a balance, because people will take alternate routes, but with the current problem of lack of alternate routes, traffic flow has stayed congested. "If we create alternate routes it will improve traffic flow," he said. "If we sit back and not do anything, it will continue to get worse, it is just a waiting game to find the money." Jason Jarrell, a senior civil engineering major, said money is a factor, but if toll roads are created, then traffic will just be pushed inward into town, because no one would want to use the toll roads. "Any city you go to, there will be construction and traffic, it's just a fact of life," he said. "But I don't think toll roads are necessarily a good solution to the problem." Ric Williamson, chair of the Texas Transportation Commission, said, in his letter regarding the strategic plan for 2007-2011, there will have to be options explored through out the state of Texas. "The Texas transportation system does not meet the needs of our rapidly increasing population," Williamson said. "We believe reducing congestion, improving air quality, enhancing safety, encouraging economic opportunity and preserving the value of our transportation system are goals shared by all Texans - we intend to reach these goals by using every financial option granted to us."
  13. Well, much to my relief, what would have housed the Texas Cabaret (near the corner of I-10 and W Sam Houston Tollway) is apparently now torn down. I know this is also a huge relief to the Autumn Oaks Civic Club as well as just the general area. It's bad enough with those horrible ghetto Skylane Apartments on one side and the Asian Spa and 24 hr bookstore on the other. Anyone know the story? Is it still going there or is that all done? I did hear they were having an awful lot of trouble getting their permits.
  14. toll road proposal draws fire "The sum would apply to three tollways totaling more than 80 miles: 15 miles along U.S. 290 from Loop 610 to Huffmeister, 53 miles of the proposed Grand Parkway (Texas 99) from the Katy Freeway to the Eastex Freeway (this would include the Segment F-2 in the Spring area that is under contention), and 14 miles of the Sam Houston Tollway, extending it from the Eastex Freeway to U.S. 90."
  15. (I just received this information this morning:) "Dear CTC members and friends: In other Harris County news this week, Art Storey told Commissioners' Court that he has directed the Toll Road Authority (HCTRA) to suspend project development on the Grand Parkway (and other projects that fall in TxDOT's right of way or the state highway system) until the County reaches a revenue-sharing agreement with TxDOT. (Note that TxDOT's development efforts continue.) Storey explains the decision in a letter to the Commissioners and a letter to HCTRA. I've posted excerpts in CTC's online forum here: http://www.ctchouston.org/forums/viewtopic.php?t=10 I'm interested to hear your reactions. Please feel free to post your thoughts in the forum. If you have not yet registered to use CTC's forum, instructions are here: http://www.ctchouston.org/forums/viewtopic.php?t=28 Thanks, Robin"
  16. (from the most recent TxDOT TTC meeting:) MR. BEHRENS: Agenda item number 5 will be a discussion item where we will be talking about possible rule amendments concerning the approval of connection of another entity's tolled or non-tolled highway to our state highway system. Amadeo will make that presentation. MR. SAENZ: Good morning, commissioners, Mr. Behrens, Roger. For the record, Amadeo Saenz, assistant executive director for Engineering Operations. And as Mr. Behrens said, this discussion item is to get some feedback from the commission as we begin to develop the proposed rules dealing with approval of connections to the state highway system from roads that are constructed by other entities. And of course, a little bit of history is prior to 1980, the department was the only governmental entity with the authority and means to construct, maintain and operate major high-speed regionally significant highway facilities. Of course, over the years more and more entities have been granted such powers. Typically these entities must first receive approval from the department for constructing the facility. Some of the entities that now have authority to construct, operate and maintain toll facilities include, of course, cities and counties in the international bridges, regional mobility authorities. A limited number of private toll road corporations also have authority to construct toll roads; county toll road authorities have that same authority; regional tollway authorities, and of course, this past session we have a number of special districts. Most of these entities, by law or by rule, must first seek approval of the Texas Transportation Commission. For example, international bridges, the city or the county must first gain approval from the commission prior to construction of any new international bridge. Regional mobility authorities, by statute they must receive commission approval prior to any project that will connect to the state highway system or a TxDOT rail. Private toll road corporations must also receive commission approval before construction; county toll road authorities, by law, unless it is waived by the commission. A county toll project becomes part of the state highway system when the debt is paid off. So a county toll road authority builds a facility; once the debt is paid off, it then becomes part of the state highway system, unless prior to that project being constructed, by law, the commission would have said that will not become part of the state highway system. Separate state statutes require the commission also to approve any toll road that will become part of the state highway system. This statute catches all county toll road authorities. Harris County, however, is exempt from this statute and does not need to gain any commission approval for projects. Regional tollway authorities don't need to gain commission approval for their projects. But our only regional tollway authority in existence today which is NTTA, their past practice has been to recognize the prudence of working together with the department closely and with Federal Highway Administration, and they have voluntarily agreed to design and construct their facilities to TxDOT standards and to follow the environmental review process and public involvement procedures. Harris County Toll Road Authority has demonstrated a little bit more independence. One of the things that we need to look at is that they could be building a highway that would not be part of -- or any entities could be building a highway that would not be part of a transportation improvement program that could possibly lead into some federal sanctions and basically shut down the federal program for TxDOT. We do have rules governing the connection to the state highway system, however, these rules do not give the department the ability to deny the connections based on design and construction or compliance with the federal requirements. So we're in the process of putting together rules that would ensure that we have compliance with federal laws, the major highway facilities are properly designed and constructed, and proper statewide planning is included. And of course, what we'd like to hear from you, I've got a series of questions that I'd kind of like to pose to you to get your feel and your direction so that we can use that to develop the rules. Once we have this, we will come back at a later month and propose the rules so that they can be there for public comment, and then finalize the rules at a later date. Yes, sir? MR. WILLIAMSON: Stop a moment, Amadeo. A couple of things need to be noted here for the record. Not to correct your testimony, but I think what you meant to say was if given direction from the commission, you'll bring proposed rules. MR. SAENZ: Yes, sir, that's correct. MR. WILLIAMSON: I do this from time to time, members, and invariably the person I single out isn't happy about it, but I have to do it. James McCarley is a friend of transportation in this state, and four years ago when I came on the commission, he paid a courtesy call and he made just a passing comment about: My observation about the commission is that you frequently begin making decisions without giving those of us in the regions and the local government fair warning, enough discussion, enough public hearing, or whatever. I think Wes Heald at that time, and Mike and all the staff, I think, legitimately would say we don't agree with that, we think we do give fair warning. But the fact that someone like James and others after him would have that feeling kind of led this commission towards trying to figure out a way to dialogue with the public such that no one could ever say they didn't have fair warning, and from that came the notion of public discussion, of discussion items. So James, I give you credit for starting us down the path of doing business this way. And I also take this time to sort of educate everyone that at my request we're going to start approaching it a little bit differently. When staff asks me to put discussion items on the agenda, I'm going to always make them prepare questions for us so that they're going to lay out what they think we ought to talk about and then they're going to submit questions to us. We don't have to answer them today, but they're basically using this forum to tell us and the affected public: These are the questions we think you, the commission members, need to be thinking about answering because we perceive these as the rough spots in this discussion item. Would that be a fair summary, Amadeo? MR. SAENZ: Yes, sir, that's correct. MR. WILLIAMSON: So the questions are not meant to put us on the spot so much as they're meant to inform us that this is staff's view of what Jim McCarley is going to say we need to be prepared to answer in San Antonio, Houston, El Paso, Dallas, and all points in between. Please continue, Amadeo. MR. SAENZ: Okay. Like I said, these are some of the ideas that we are looking into and some of the areas that we're looking into. For example, should the commission or the department staff approve major connections to the state highway system? Like I said, we approve them, we have approval requirements right now for regional mobility authorities, we have approval requirements for private toll road authorities. But do we want to make this a blanket for any toll road that's being developed, should that be a requirement that that be connected. MR. WILLIAMSON: But what if it weren't a toll road, what if it were a pass-through toll road? MR. SAENZ: The pass-through toll is on the state highway system so that project is already on the state highway system, so we already have the approval. MR. WILLIAMSON: I'm sorry. Go ahead. MR. SAENZ: Another question that we have is, of course, if another entity wishes to connect a regionally significant highway, a major highway in an area that could be subject to the federal air quality requirements, it could be subject to other federal requirements, they want to connect that highway to the state highway system, would we also want to require that that highway be part of a conforming TIP for a metropolitan planning organization. MR. WILLIAMSON: I have another question about that. Let me give you a for example. The county judge in Grayson County talks Ross Perot, Jr., into going up to Grayson County and making that old Army Air facility a relief feeder for Alliance Airport. He needs a road that goes from Point A to Point B where no road exists now and he's willing to pay for it all. Does your question address that completely privately-built road as well as any road built by a quasi-public entity? MR. SAENZ: It could be both. Any regionally significant highway facility. MR. WILLIAMSON: So your view is we have to figure out do we want to enforce all highway construction having to conform to the TIP. MR. SAENZ: Yes, sir, that it be included in that area's metropolitan transportation plan and their TIP, especially in the areas of non-attainment where you could get into problems.(note from pineda: like the 8-county region of the Houston area) By adding a facility that is not in the current TIP, you could get them out of conformity, and thus impacting the entire area. MR. WILLIAMSON: Okay, continue. MR. SAENZ: The third question is, of course, if another entity wishes to connect a regionally significant highway to the state highway system, do we want to require the connection -- for example, the interchange where we go from their road to our road -- to be designed and constructed to our standards. We do this for regional mobility authorities. Do we have that requirement and do we allow a potential for them to request an exception that could be granted by the department? We do this for regional mobility authorities also. And should there be some TxDOT oversight over the design and the construction of that facility that is being constructed that would connect to us? That's another thing that we need to look at and would like to get some feedback from you all. MR. WILLIAMSON: Amadeo, if we were to require TxDOT standards, would that imply that we had to be responsible for the environmental process? MR. SAENZ: No, sir. They would still be responsible for the environmental process. The standards I was talking more about is basically the geometric standards and such. MR. WILLIAMSON: Not the pre-planning or pre-design, pre-engineering. MR. SAENZ: Right. The pre-planning will come in a little bit. Of course, by the same token, the project connects to our project, and I think in looking at it, that interchange is really a project that is basically owned by both of us. Do we want to be involved in the approvals and the review for the entire project? And that's another question that we'd like you all to kind of give us some feedback on. Should we have, basically, on the rest of the project approval and oversight for how they're going to develop and approve that project? MR. WILLIAMSON: That will raise some blood pressure. MR. SAENZ: It will. And of course, one of the major questions -- and we've touched base on it a little bit -- is if the entity wishes to construct that regionally significant highway project that connects to the state highway system, should the entity show evidence of compliance with the state statutory requirements to provide public involvement and also to conduct an environmental review. This basically applies to an RMA, but do we want to require it of the other entities that are constructing toll roads? We remember when we were in Houston there was a lot of public input concerning the environmental process, and the people there, the constituency there liked the department's environmental process because they knew it was set and we were pretty structured, and you could have different entities that have different processes. So should we require them to comply with TxDOT environmental and public involvement processes for these projects that are of regional significance that connect to the state highway system. And of course, any other regulation or any requirement that you all think we need to look at, we'd like to get some feedback so that we can see if we need to make changes to our proposed rules and then propose it neatly. MR. WILLIAMSON: Members, staff has laid out -- they've identified a problem for public discussion which they believe deserves our attention. They've made some broad recommendations and they've put to us questions that we have to think about in the next month or so. We do have one member of the public who wishes to comment on this public discussion item, and we're happy to have him. Do you want to question Amadeo now or would you rather hear from Allan Rutter first? [inaudible response.] MR. WILLIAMSON: Allan, old friend, Allan -- or longtime friend, maybe I should say. MR. RUTTER: No, I'm getting old. Thank you very much for the opportunity to appear this morning. One of the things we get is we get these legislative clipping services and that keeps us from having to recycle too many newspapers, but we've been reading that there have been some uncharitable adjectives used to describe what happens in this room and in this building from around the state, and that is not our experience with either you or our district folks in both Fort Worth and Dallas. And I say that not just to suck up -- although there's part of that -- but it also is to acknowledge that I have evidence of that, and that is that we were told that this was going to happen today, before today. Several weeks ago your staff called us to apprise us of this discussion. And frankly, one of the reasons I wanted to be here is to tell you how much we appreciate the collaboration and sense of partnership that we have with the department, both here and in Dallas and Fort Worth. Saying that we owe our success to your support is not just stating the obvious, it's a gross understatement. I'm sure that these rules that you're contemplating come from a really good idea in general. TxDOT has a really obvious and central interest in the manner in which other people's roads connect to your system, but we hope, on behalf of my board of directors at the NTTA and our staff, that you not take a one-size-fits-all approach to this issue, particularly in light of the wide array of toll authorities that are or will be operating in the state. I've got two reasons for our request. One is legal -- isn't everything -- and the other more important one is practical. First, from a legal standpoint it's important to recognize that the NTTA's enabling legislation addresses the issue of connecting to the state highway system in a very different manner from the way that issue is addressed in the enabling statute for other toll authorities -- particularly RMAs -- and for other entities connecting onto or as part of the state highway system. Our enabling statute doesn't require as much TxDOT oversight over as many issues when the NTTA wishes to connect our projects to your system. There's probably a reason for that distinction in our legislation. At the time the NTTA was created in 1997, our statutory predecessor, the former Texas Turnpike Authority, had been building and operating turnpikes for over 40 years and had demonstrated its ability to connect to your roadways in a manner that met your admittedly and reasonably high standards and expectations. So we're urging that your proposed access rules for the NTTA be different from your rules for other toll providers for the simple reason that our law is different. But frankly, the most important reason for why those rules should be different is not legal, it's practical. As I mentioned before, we're an established toll road authority, now with over 50 years' experience of building turnpikes. Our projects connect to several of those roadways, and in every one of those instances, our staff, working with yours, has been able to structure an agreement to effect that connection tailored to the specific circumstances of each one of those interchanges. We believe that the flexibility has been enormously beneficial to both our organizations, we sincerely hope that it not be constrained or eliminated by rules that attempt to regulate our 50-year-old authority in the same way as a startup. How ever we accomplish that distinction in the rules is something we can work out. We prefer to be omitted from those rules and to allow the terms of our statute and the specific tailored features of each individual ILA with you to control. Maybe the rules would, instead, provide exceptions for experienced toll authorities. But how ever it's accomplished, the NTTA hopes that nothing changes in these rules that in turn compels our organizations to change the way we've successfully addressed this issue up to now at your State Highway 121, State Highway 78, US 75 and twice at both Interstate 35 and Interstate 635. Maintaining that flexibility will allow for the best use of TxDOT's resources and ensures that our successful approach to this issue will continue. I really, really appreciate the opportunity for us to be able to express our views on this before you do the rulemaking. Thanks. MR. WILLIAMSON: Well, you're always articulate in expressing a logical viewpoint of the department. Members, any questions of Allan, discussion with Allan? MR. JOHNSON: It's good to see you. MR. WILLIAMSON: Always good to see you, Allan. MS. ANDRADE: It's good to see you. I have a question, and thank you for working so closely with us. Has that impaired or has that delayed any of your projects? MR. RUTTER: No. Part of that is due to the attentiveness that we've received from both district offices, and I think that's always been good. The extent to which the department is now getting into the toll business now provides them with the same kind of impetus that we've always experienced which is we've got to get these roads built and start collecting money because that's what our bondholders expect of us. But our past has been distinguished by a real cooperation that our being able to build a facility enables people who are using the state highway facility to use that. The better we make that interchange, the better we construct it, the more we make sure it meets your expectations and standards, the longer it's going to stand up there and the longer it's going to serve the user of the state highway system whose gas taxes have been used to build it. MS. ANDRADE: Thank you. MR. HOUGHTON: Wouldn't you think, though, Allan, that the standard that you've all agreed to with TxDOT should be a benchmark for the state and then you can start from that point? MR. RUTTER: Well, I appreciate Amadeo saying that we've chosen to use your standards. We design to the AASHTO guidelines; we want to do so because we want to make sure that our customers have a safe road to drive on. We construct our roads to TxDOT's specifications in large part because contractors know what that is. That helps us get a road built faster and cheaper instead of coming up with our set of specifications. I guess my only question would be that it be specific to the interchange or the project that you're building, that there be enough flexibility that you give to your district engineers to deal with whatever they have on the ground there. A number of the things that you talked about, making sure that something is in the TIP, we require that of any of our projects. Before a local government wants us to build something, it has to be in the TIP, both from a regional priority standpoint and from the air quality standpoint. And making sure that some of those standards and specifications are met, that may not be a high hurdle for us. We just want to caution as those rules are being developed that they build in enough flexibility for your DEs to deal with changing circumstances down on the ground. MR. HOUGHTON: And I can ask Amadeo, do we build in enough with our DEs to have that kind of latitude? MR. SAENZ: Again, for the record, Amadeo Saenz. And we have, to some extent, because most of our rules require that you meet TxDOT or AASHTO standards or you can request for a design exception, and that would be kind of like the special circumstance: you want to do something different that's not exactly tied to that standard. So that flexibility can be incorporated. MR. HOUGHTON: And the DE has that authority? MR. SAENZ: Yes, sir, or it would be done at a higher level, even up to Mr. Behrens, if it needs to be. MR. WILLIAMSON: Questions, members, comments? MR. JOHNSON: I have an observation, I guess. Allan, a lot of what you brought, I concur with. I'm going to put this in two perspectives. First of all, whatever we do, we cannot run the risk of losing federal funding. I think that's a given that all parties would agree with. On the other end of that, I want to put what I'll refer to as our partners -- and that's collectively -- all the entities, both public and private, that can do facilities that they would want to have access to the state highway system. My thought is that we cannot run the risk of making the requirements so onerous that it discourages the development of transportation assets, nor should they be so onerous that they delay project delivery. And there is a wide area in between those two requirements, the loss of federal funds and the discouragement of so many or so onerous requirements that we impede the development of transportation assets and throw in requirements that delay project delivery. I think there's ground in there. I think in golf parlance it's the rough on one side and the rough on the other side of the fairway, and there's the fairway in between. MR. WILLIAMSON: Well, I think you, and to a certain extent Ted, make the case for the limited regulation or no regulation approach, which philosophically I share. But I think the difficulty, when staff asked to bring this forward as a public discussion item, we see a lot on the inside that isn't yet in the public's eye -- will be but isn't yet -- and what we see, particularly what staff sees, is an explosion of transportation authorities of different types soon to be approved and in operation. And while we will strive to be, as Jerry Dike said earlier, 100 percent perfect, we know that ultimately some of these authorities, private sector initiatives are not going to succeed, and that we intentionally plan for the day that we'll have to take one back or take one over. And I think staff's concern is how do you pick the one that's going to succeed or not succeed, or how do you prepare for the day that one of them is not going to, and we don't want to have handed back to us an asset collapsing around our heads that people have been injured on that we have to take gasoline tax money from the motorists in Cameron County to go repair. I think that's where they're trying to go with it. So that's kind of the slice and the hook rough of that problem. And we hear what you're saying now and we appreciate what you're saying, and I'm not sure how far we're going to ask staff to move forward with this initiative, and if we do, we will answer these questions for them, and we'll have lots of public hearings. I appreciate your comments about public hearings. I don't mind being criticized for my decisions, but it really caught me off guard when somebody said we don't listen to the public. That's pretty silly. MR. RUTTER: Well, that's not been our experience, and we look forward to working with your staff on this and other issues. Thanks. MR. WILLIAMSON: Thanks, Allan. Amadeo, do you want to sum up? MR. SAENZ: Yes, sir. I think from what I heard -- and of course, we will be visiting with you all a little bit more during the next couple of weeks -- basically we need to have some flexibility, that we also need to make sure that we don't jeopardize any of the federal funding. So we're kind of working between the two roughs and hopefully we can hit a straight drive. MR. HOUGHTON: We don't compromise quality and safety. MR. WILLIAMSON: We're trying to develop an entrepreneurial transportation world. We don't want to sit on entrepreneurs, we don't want to sacrifice integrity or quality at the same time. I suggest you make sure commission administrative assistants have the questions so that they'll ask us to confront what I think our answers are, and let's dialogue with the commission one-on-one through the next couple of weeks before we go to the next step. MR. SAENZ: We will do that. And we understand the different entities have the different levels of expertise and experience, and I think we could probably learn from our past experience in developing projects and putting in place something that will work for all of us. Thank you. MR. WILLIAMSON: Thank you. Chronicle story today about private entities and toll roads
  17. Chronicle story about possible reimbursement for all the free toll days (if we can't get reimbursed for the free Rita days on the toll roads, maybe we should be looking into fixing the red tag system that has gotten totally out-of-hand lately...) MR. SIMMONS: Commissioners, our next item is a discussion item relating to temporary license plates. MR. BRAY: Mr. Chairman, Members, Mr. Simmons, I am Brett Bray, Director of the Motor Vehicle Division. I haven't appeared before the commission in a very long time, and the reason for that is the -- under the umbrella of the Department of Transportation, there was a Motor Vehicle Board, and the Motor Vehicle Board was responsible for dealer regulations and rules connected with that. As you probably are aware, the Motor Vehicle Board was abolished recently, and the authority for rule-making was transferred to the commission, hence my being before you today. This agenda item is a discussion of temporary cardboard tags. This is not about license plates that you are probably more familiar with, coming out of the Vehicle Titles and Registration Division, and we will get into that a little more. I believe I have a chart here to talk about that with you. I did bring with me today Carol Kent, my Director of Enforcement, and Larry Bullard, our chief investigator. They're subject matter experts. If we get too detailed and beyond my area, I would like to offer them up to you for answers. Ten years ago, regulation of used car dealers in Texas was transferred by the Legislature from VTR to the Motor Vehicle Division. This included, among other things, authority to regulate dealer plates, and those are two kinds. There are metal dealer plates and there are paper tags. Metal dealer plates are a lot like what you and I have. They are a metal plate that you put on a vehicle, and it authorizes you to operate that vehicle in the State of Texas. Metal dealer plates are in the system like our plates are and can be accessed by law enforcement. Paper tags are not. Temporary -- we call them temp tags or temporary tags, and it is what we are here to talk about today, not metal tags. Temporary tags are used to give buyers temporary authority to operate vehicles while the dealer is applying for title, among other things. After a time when we received authority to regulate this area, we noticed that they were subject to widespread abuse, and there were no controls whatsoever. We brought this to the Motor Vehicle Board's attention in December of 1996. In January of 1997, the Texas Automobile Dealers Association persuaded someone in the Legislature to introduce legislation that prevents the department from producing the temp tags and issuing them, or contracting for their production and issuing them. In case I am not clear up to this point, temp tags, unlike 48 other states in this country, can be produced by anyone anywhere in Texas. MR. HOUGHTON: Can I stop you right there? MR. BRAY: Yes, sir. MR. HOUGHTON: In fact, if we are precluded from doing anything, are we precluded from doing anything from this point forward, too? MR. BRAY: The 19 -- I did kind of step over that. I apologize. The 1997 legislation that prevents the department from producing tags or contracting for the production, left the ability to dictate format and form, and that's really what I'm bringing to you today, is a discussion of, if we can change the form and why we should change the form. MR. HOUGHTON: Production is then handled by whom? MR. BRAY: Well, in Brownwood, Texas, it's handled by Moore Printing Forms or Moore Business Forms and, I believe, Brownwood Printing, something to that nature. It is handled by between 200 and 300 licensed printers in the State of Texas, all over. MR. HOUGHTON: We can't change that? MR. BRAY: No, sir, not at this time. MR. JOHNSON: What were -- you mentioned, Brett, some of the abuses that we determined were occurring. What were the nature of some of those abuses? MR. BRAY: I have a list of ten things. It is my own personal, shorthand list of bad things that happen with temp tags. If you want to avoid liability insurance or if you can't get liability insurance, operate a vehicle on a temp tag. If you want to avoid registering your vehicle for some reason or titling your vehicle, operate on a temp tag. If your vehicle can't pass inspection -- and I'm not just talking about -- I am talking about lights and brakes and the normal things you and I think of about inspection, but I am also talking about salvage vehicles. If your vehicle -- if you have a salvage vehicle and you can't pass inspection and so you won't be able to get a regular title, won't be able to get plates to operate on the streets, drive around on a red tag. If you want to avoid the emission -- which probably is significant to you, if you want to avoid emission standards, drive around on a red tag. If you can't get a driver's license or for some reason you don't want to be in the system, you can operate a vehicle on a red tag, and nobody is going to really check you unless you happen to get pulled over for some sort of infraction. You can avoid paying tolls by running toll booths with a red tag, and you are never going to get caught. MR. HOUGHTON: I want to go back, Brett, to not being in the system. Why would you not want to be in the system? I am setting you up on this. MR. BRAY: Yes, sir, you are. There are a myriad of reasons why you would not want to be in the system. I don't even know where to begin. This matter was -- with the great efforts of Chairman Williamson, who I had hoped to thank somewhere along in here later, this matter was before the Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee in the Senate side this last legislative session. I think that speaks for itself. It is more than just a transportation issue. It is a Homeland Security issue. My personal view, I don't touch on it as much, as Homeland Security is just strictly officer safety. But, there are a lot of reasons why you wouldn't want to be in the system and most of them are nefarious reasons. MR. WILLIAMSON: You are a bomber. You are a rapist. You are an escapee. MR. HOUGHTON: With full disclosure, I've had the FBI and DEA in my office on the issue on the border. It seems to be an issue on the border, especially at border crossings. MR. BRAY: And you have stolen my ninth reason, which is if you want to perpetrate criminal activity without detection, you would use a red tag. Then one that doesn't get much play is, if you are a dealer and you want to play the float somehow and avoid turning in your registration revenue and possibly even your sales tax revenue, you keep people on red tags, and that has happened. Again, I have subject matter experts who deal with this on a day-to-day basis. MR. HOUGHTON: So, it's -- the amount of revenues in this float system is probably significant? MR. BRAY: We think so. MR. WILLIAMSON: Well, as an example, I go down to my Ford dealer or my Chevrolet dealer -- no, I never buy a Dodge, so I go to my Dodge dealer. I pay cash for my truck, tax, title and license, right? MR. BRAY: Yes, sir. MR. WILLIAMSON: Write them a check for $18,000; $17,000 for the truck and $1,000 for the tax, title, license and registration. They are going to take care of turning in all of the paperwork and send my plates to me, or they will bring them by. In a small town, they will bring them by. So, the guy deposits or the gal deposits my check, gives me the tag, puts that tag on the back of my truck, and 30 days later then turns it all in and buys my tag. He's floated my money 30 days? Is that what you are -- MR. BRAY: No, sir. Actually, by law, they are allowed 20 days to do the paperwork. MR. WILLIAMSON: Then give me an example. I couldn't create my own. Give me an example of how it might work, a float. MR. BRAY: You were right on track. He deposits the money in the bank. And, quite frankly, this runs -- this runs the gamut, because you are using an example of a franchise dealer, and that is probably more of a monetary issue. We see things like red tags being sold in flea markets along the border, and that is kind of a whole other element, a whole other issue. MR. JOHNSON: You are talking about just the tags now? You are not talking about the vehicles that are attached to the tags being sold in flea markets? MR. BRAY: That is yet another problem. But, you were on track. In your example, and this was actually the title page. I hope that you can tell it. If you bought your vehicle in December of '04, your Dodge truck, and you paid, as you said, and they deposited it, as they said; but then they didn't go down in the time period that they were supposed to have done so and gotten your title taken care of and your plates taken care of, then you can come in and complain and somebody will come along and mark out the "One" that was on that tag and put a "Two" in there, and you are now good for yet another month. The average -- a lot of this has to do with the failure to pass title, which is the single largest complaint we receive at the agency. Believe it or not, the average length of time for a failure to pass title complaint, where someone has not received their title, is 13 months. MR. HOUGHTON: Thirteen months? MR. JOHNSON: This is just stealing in the world of used cars; is that correct? MR. BRAY: No, no. As a matter of fact, it is not. This has to do with new cars, too. It is usually a little bit different issue. It is an officer safety issue in that as far as I know, criminals are just as capable of buying new cars as they are used cars, and they are just as undetected when they do so. This is a concern about -- about the deputy sheriff in Brown County at midnight, or even the officer on LBJ freeway at 3:00 in the afternoon. When they pull over a vehicle right now with a red tag, they know nothing about ownership, occupants or anything. And, they have no way of accessing any information because -- MR. HOUGHTON: It is not in the system? MR. BRAY: They are not in the system. MR. JOHNSON: Well, let's assume for a moment that the Dodge truck that the Chairman has purchased, there is a lien placed on it by the Williamson State Bank of Parker County. Does that affect this cycle of going from the red tag to the permanent tag or the ability to alter or delay? MR. BRAY: If you are a lienholder, it's a problem because your vehicles are out on the street and you are not yet -- unless they go down and take care of the paperwork, you are not yet the registered lienholder. So, you have identified problem twelve there is an out of trust issue. But problem twelve is, lienholders may not be getting their liens registered fast enough. MR. JOHNSON: Well, wouldn't I, as a lienholder, want to perfect my lien as quickly as possible? MR. BRAY: Yes, sir, you would, but if your agent is the dealer and it is his responsibility to do so, or her responsibility to do so, and they don't, that is where you are left. MR. HOUGHTON: So, Brett, what are we here for today? Since we can't manufacture the tag, we can't increase security, so to speak, we can't regulate it. It doesn't seem like we have a whole lot -- MR. BRAY: Well, I'm about to get there. Can I have one minute of license to lead you up to that point? MR. HOUGHTON: Sure. MR. BRAY: After several years of watching the problem get worse, we came to the commission -- and you may remember voting back in December that it become a Legislative agenda item to try to give the department just authority to do something with temp tags. It was not very specific. It just said, allow the department to be able to do something, produce them for that matter, like most other states. It went through the Legislative process, and I do -- if I may, I would just like to thank the chairman because he went -- like the Mayor said earlier, it's a hard job, low pay, and not only that, but it is thankless a lot of times. He did a lot, and in the end it didn't -- we didn't get a bill passed that way. Senator Staples and Representative Hill, I think, put together good bills, and it just didn't happen. I would also like to plug Coby and Jefferson and, if I may, Kristen Ogden, our Legislative analyst, because she did a wonderful job, too. But in the end, the bill did not pass, and what did pass was a study was dictated to be done by a commission, Legislative Commission. That study is supposed to be done by November of 2006, I guess, in time for the 2007 Legislative session. The problem is, from our perspective, there is no guarantee what that study might show, and we are still left with the problem of these tags. And, so, we have come to you to talk about reformatting them in ways that we think will help the department and the public and the law enforcement community. MR. WILLIAMSON: Now, was the -- there was a nice person that came up earlier and introduced themselves. Was the Texas Automobile Dealers Association in support of this legislation that we tried to work out? MR. BRAY: They were very much opposed to this legislation. MR. WILLIAMSON: Really? MR. BRAY: Yes, sir. MR. WILLIAMSON: Why would automobile dealers be opposed to eliminating these twelve evils? MR. BRAY: There are probably a number of reasons, and some of which I would just speculate because I can't get inside their head, but I think one of the -- one of them is, it's our idea. But, I really think that the main reason is, as I told you, 48 other states do it differently. In 48 other states, they issue the tag, and they put any number of security features on them. In this state, dealers have had for a very long time and continue to have, wide-open ability to go to any printer. In fact, we don't have a licensed printer in Weatherford, but you can go to Fort Worth or Burleson or Cleburne or any of those cities and find a licensed printer, and you don't even have to find a licensed printer, because we have many experiences where people are not licensed. And, when I say licensed, what I am talking about is, that background screen, the TxDOT flying T, of course, is intellectual property. Printers in this state have had to obtain a license from -- a license from us, from the department, to print that background T as a security feature on the tag. MR. HOUGHTON: Do we have to grant it at will? MR. BRAY: We haven't, not yet. We have taken a couple away when we found that they were involved in some tag abuse. MR. HOUGHTON: So, can we put restrictions as to what printers, meeting a certain criteria? MR. BRAY: I really am not sure about that, and probably Richard Monroe might have to look into that for you. Again, that is intellectual property. Can you take me back where I was? MR. WILLIAMSON: I just was asking where the Texas Automobile Dealers Association stood on this matter, and you told me that they were opposed. MR. BRAY: I think they like the freedom. MR. WILLIAMSON: I was just kind of surprised that a trade group representing law-abiding citizens would be opposed to modernizing and securing their license registration system. MR. BRAY: I remember -- MR. WILLIAMSON: It seems like an odd position for that group of men and women to be taking. MR. BRAY: I remember in the Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee hearing, the representative for the Auto Dealers Association testifying that this is a solution looking for a problem. MR. HOUGHTON: And 48 other states have regulations and security -- secure situations to issue these? MR. BRAY: Yes. MR. JOHNSON: Who is our cohort? MR. WILLIAMSON: What the hell does that mean, a solution looking for a problem? MR. BRAY: I'm sorry. I didn't -- MR. JOHNSON: Who is our cohort -- MR. WILLIAMSON: That sounds like something coming out of Austin, Texas. MR. BRAY: Oklahoma. MR. WILLIAMSON: Continue, Brett. MR. HOUGHTON: Do you want to get Lynn up here to help you with that? MR. BRAY: This was the tag that we inherited originally and was the tag that was used for years and years and years when you bought a new motor vehicle. The most prominent feature on that tag is the P number, also known as the dealer's -- it's the dealer's license number. If a dealer sells -- did sell 5,000 vehicles in a year, 5,000 of those tags were operating on the street. They don't tell you anything really. If you are an officer anyway on patrol and you stop that vehicle, that doesn't really give you any information. MR. WILLIAMSON: In other words, if that was Roger Williams' P number, P-17383, it would be that same number on those 5,000 cars? MR. BRAY: Yes. So, in 1997 after the legislative effort to prevent the department from doing more, but leaving us the ability to reformat, we looked at reformatting, and we took this to the Motor Vehicle Board and got it passed. That is the current day tag. As you can see, the two prominent features are it has that flying T in the background, and it has the expiration date, is what is supposed to be colored in. I will try to go a little faster. I have gone through a lot of the problems that you can see that we have with these. Counterfeiting is a huge issue. It's estimated that 30 percent of the red tags that you see on the street are not real red tags, not issued by licensed dealers necessarily. At any rate, we cannot -- MR. HOUGHTON: If you say 30 percent, what is the revenue loss to the State of Texas anticipated? MR. BRAY: We issued a booklet to you. I don't have the number on the top of my head. We issued a booklet to you back in December that sort of speculates on that. It's real hard to pin down an actual number, but you can get a good idea. Registration revenue in this state runs over a billion dollars, and sales tax in the state runs, what, over eleven billion for cars, I think? So, you are talking about -- you are in a big, big neighborhood. MR. HOUGHTON: This may be tantamount to the tax on gasoline that -- either at the rack or at the pump, right, where do you collect it, right? MR. BRAY: I understand that is an issue. MR. WILLIAMSON: Point of collection for vehicle registration. MR. HOUGHTON: There you go. MR. BRAY: This is what we were proposing to you a month ago. This is what we wanted to go to. The advantages are this: Since 30 percent of the tags out there are probably -- are probably counterfeit, that date is totally unreliable. If you looked at the first tag that I presented and you saw the alteration of the tag, you can tell that the date can be altered. It is altered, and it's unreliable. So, we proposed to taking away the date entirely, and the advantage is, if there are members of law enforcement out there who are being misled that it's a legitimate tag, they at least will be placed on notice to be careful when approaching this vehicle. The other thing is, we took off the flying T. It is the fervent wish of the Dealers Association, Mr. Chairman, all of the associations -- dealers associations, I guess, that the department not be involved in red tags. And, if we are not going to be involved in red tags, it doesn't seem that we ought to be -- there ought to be the impression left that we are, by producing something that has the TxDOT logo on it. MR. HOUGHTON: I think I want a bigger flying T where people can see it after that comment. MR. WILLIAMSON: How is this -- MR. JOHNSON: You said a month ago. So, is there an update? MR. BRAY: Yes, sir, I'm coming to the next one, and that is this one. The reason we -- it's a slight change. The reason we did that is because we know that the dealer associations are going to oppose this, just because they are going to oppose this. But, the previous one, we believe that the dealers themselves actually might oppose because if you -- "Unregistered vehicle" may have negative connotations, and they may be embarrassed to place that on a customer's vehicle. So, we looked at something possibly a little more soothing and went to "Registration pending", because in theory, when a dealer puts you on the street with that red tag, they are supposed to be obtaining your registration with title in 20 days. MR. WILLIAMSON: And, that black number would be unique to each plate? MR. BRAY: Yes, sir. That black number is very significant and will also be a big item of contention. That black number is supposed to be a control number, so that each plate would be unique, and it would allow law enforcement, it would allow TxDOT investigators, comptroller investigators, local taxing authorities, to be able to go to the dealer, and it would make it easier on the dealer and easier on the inquirer to identify that plate with a purchaser. By the way, under the law currently, dealers are required to keep a log of the cars they sell. So, in my view, we are talking about, at most, the addition of a column or two on an Excel spread sheet. They already keep the information. That would just add a column with that number on it. MR. JOHNSON: How does this deal with the counterfeit issue? MR. BRAY: With the counterfeit issue, it deals with it in a couple of ways. You can obviously still counterfeit things, but we believe that it will slow down -- we believe that people won't be interested in -- excuse me -- in obtaining this tag as opposed to possibly just biting the bullet and getting insurance or whatever it is that is their deficiency. We believe that the counterfeiters won't be as enthusiastic about printing this tag and selling them. By the way, they sell for anywhere from $25 to $85 in flea markets in the Valley, because it doesn't have the mantra of a TxDOT official plate. If I might mention, I brought this chart. I'm sorry I don't have it on the Power Point, but it just came in the mail this week. You are familiar with it. This is VTR's chart that they put out every year that has every tag. What this has, is every plate, tag, placard, out there in Texas that involves cars and trucks. There are 276 of them on this poster. Every one of them is an official document, an official -- you get it from an official source, except five. Those five are the dealer plates that we are talking about today. MR. HOUGHTON: Brett, why don't you put -- what do they call this on your credit card, that little -- MR. BRAY: Hologram? MR. HOUGHTON: Hologram. MR. BRAY: We tried that in 19- -- that was one of the things that we talked about in 1996. That was one of the things that the Dealers Association absolutely, positively does not want. MR. HOUGHTON: Is it against the law or is there a statute that says you can't do it? Why not put a hologram or embed a chip in that registration? MR. BRAY: I think that we may want to investigate it further, but I can tell you that in thinking about it over the years, in my view the department is not really prohibited from requiring a hologram on the plate. MR. HOUGHTON: It is hard to counterfeit a hologram. MR. BRAY: It can be. It is hard, but it can be done. We've seen it done. MR. HOUGHTON: Yeah, it can be. MR. BRAY: And, if I may, I'll show you what we were wanting to go to. MR. HOUGHTON: But, you can't go to your, you know, Kinko's and copy a hologram. MR. BRAY: Right. What we were contemplating, though, out of the Legislative session was the newest and best plan out there. This is Arizona, and this kind of a thing is sweeping the country in terms of interest. Not a lot of states have gone to it yet, but they are all looking at it. Arizona went to what they call an ETRP, an electronic temp tag. There is a unique number there. You can see that S-37 number. It also identifies the vehicle uniquely, and it tells you when the vehicle was sold. When an officer rolls up on a car that was sold in Arizona that has that tag, he knows before he gets out of the car who should be the registered owner of that vehicle, who should probably be operating that vehicle, and what kind of vehicle that tag is supposed to be on. Yes, you can counterfeit these, too. In terms of a hologram issue, you can counterfeit these, too, but if you do, there are two things that are advantages. One, the officer is going to know it before he gets out of the car, because the number won't come back right and, two, he will know -- he will know what vehicle it is supposed to be with. I'm sorry; the second advantage is this: Counterfeiters, if they did counterfeit them, would have to do them one at a time, because they are vehicle specific. You have -- this one is a 2002 Dodge, and it has a VIN number specific to that vehicle on it. MR. HOUGHTON: But, that is the end result of years and legislation, and they get to do it at a central point, those types of deals, right? MR. BRAY: Yes. MR. HOUGHTON: They are printing it off of a computer. MR. BRAY: No. Actually it is printed off at the dealership when the dealer makes the sale from his printer. MR. HOUGHTON: From his printer? MR. BRAY: Yes, sir, it's a plain paper -- plain paper copy. MR. HOUGHTON: But specific to a sale? MR. BRAY: That's right. As a dealer you get a -- MR. HOUGHTON: Can we do that? MR. BRAY: We cannot do that with the legislative situation we find ourselves in. We could have if the bill had passed. This is what we wanted to go to. MS. ANDRADE: Where they can have that done immediately? MR. BRAY: It's done immediately, 24 hours a day, whenever you sell the vehicle. And by the way, in terms of the amount of time it took, they started their process of developing the system in the Summer of '03 and were up and running, I believe, by March of the next year. MR. HOUGHTON: So, that goes into a database where it is immediately registered at the State level on the system, recognized buyer, recognized owner? MR. BRAY: Yes. That is Montana. Montana, on the coattails of Arizona, has done the same thing basically. The other tag that we are wanting to deal with is the blue tag. This tag is the tag that dealers are allowed to give buyers if they are having trouble getting a title from a lienholder for some reason. This gives the buyer another basically 21 days of unregistered use of the vehicle. As you can see, it has the exact same problems that we found with the red tag. This is what we put in your packets, and this is what we actually want to propose to you. There is some other language on there. I didn't plan on going into it unless you just want to. It's not that significant. The main thing there, we take away the flying T. We take away the expiration date, and we will put in the control number. MR. HOUGHTON: Why don't you make the flying T a hologram? No, I call it the star in motion. I like that better. MR. BRAY: This next tag is the green tag. It's given by dealers to charitable organizations for their use. We would like to propose to you eliminating it because we think the next tag would cover that use as well, and it is just one less tag that you would have to keep up with. This is the old Texas dealer tag. It's called a black tag. This is what dealers use to -- if you come to the car lot and you want to test-drive the vehicle. They put one of these on the vehicle and you drive around the block. Or, if they want to transfer vehicles from one dealership to another, those sorts of things, you'd use this. This was the old one. This was all that we could really do to it back in 1997. We just put in the flying T. This is what we would propose to go to if you are amenable. We can't use the kinder, gentler language of "Registration pending" because -- MR. WILLIAMSON: It's not. MR. BRAY: -- it's not. There is a group of licensees in Texas called converters. They take a perfectly good motor vehicle and do something to it. They make limousines. They make bullet-proof executive cars, ambulances. They do all kinds of things, and they have a license. And this is their current license, and to be consistent, we would like to go to this. MS. ANDRADE: Brett, how would they acquire these, in the same manner that they acquire them now? MR. BRAY: They would acquire them in the same manner they do now. The distinction would be, there would be no longer a need for us to license printers. If we take off the flying T, it takes the printing process out of -- it is not in our hands any way, so it takes the responsibility off of the department for the printing process. They would acquire them anywhere. MR. HOUGHTON: But, you still couldn't go ahead and pirate and copy them? You can still do the illegal -- MR. BRAY: Yes, sir, you can. MR. HOUGHTON: All of the illegal things that you could do before? MR. BRAY: It can, and I don't believe that that can be very easily remedied without a legislative change, and the Legislature didn't seem to be interested. I can tell you that this can come off my printer at home. My printer is pretty cheap, and anybody can do them. They can do them now with the TxDOT logo. So, we are not -- we are not preventing anything, and we might be endangering -- my board chairman of the Motor Vehicle Board wrote to you all last December, and he said to you that this actually is dangerous for law enforcement. I think he should know because he is with the City of McAllen Attorney's Office and he -- he counsels with law enforcement every day, and he says that law enforcement is at risk here by using these things like the TxDOT logo or the expiration date, because they look official and they have an official feel and they must be trustworthy when they are not. MR. HOUGHTON: Who bears the cost of printing it? MR. BRAY: The dealer. MR. HOUGHTON: So, putting a hologram on there with the star in motion is their expense if we mandate it? MR. BRAY: It would be, and by the way, the Chairman -- when the legislation was considered by Senator Staples and Senator Hill, we even went so far as to try to make it a pass-through, so that the fee for that paper tag like the Arizona tag would pass through as an official fee to the buyer. No more than a dollar or two, but it would not have been an expense for the dealer. As it is, the dealer is paying for the cost of these -- MR. HOUGHTON: About two cents? MR. BRAY: No. I would have thought a half a cent. But we have done a recent survey in anticipation of this, and printers are getting pretty good money for these. They are not on this paper. They are on kind of a cardboard. MR. HOUGHTON: Yeah, they are on cardboard. MR. BRAY: We did a survey of about 15 printers, and it depends on where you are located and it depends on the size of your dealership and the size of the order and all of those things, but it seems to run between 30 and about 70 or 80 cents a piece. MR. WILLIAMSON: That says something right there. MR. BRAY: And, they usually buy them in quantities of anywhere from 500 to 1,000. MR. WILLIAMSON: Wow. MR. HOUGHTON: I just don't -- my personal opinion, I don't think you are going to stop much of what -- the abuse we've had in the past by where we are headed, Mr. Chairman. I'm for some type of tougher registration of these vehicles, and a hologram with the star in motion -- MR. WILLIAMSON: What about ink that disappears after 20 days? MR. HOUGHTON: Washes off with a rain storm. MR. BRAY: It's not a bad idea. Of course, it does leave you with a blank tag that then somebody writes over all over again, which is not a whole lot -- MR. WILLIAMSON: How about one that blows up after 20 days? A small explosion, a small explosion. We have one guy that wants to comment on this. Mr. Monroe, if you can give me some legal guidance. This is a discussion item. All we are doing is talking up here. Do I need to wait until we are done talking before I hear from this fellow? MR. MONROE: No, sir. Hear him when you like. MR. WILLIAMSON: Brett, are you through with your layout at this point, or do you have other things to say? MR. BRAY: I would conclude with saying that what we are hoping to do is to bring this to you in September to ask you for permission to publish it as a change to the rule. These are in the rules now, and to change the Rule, take away the flying T and modify them the way I have described, and then we would go through the rule-making process, and you might see them in November or December. That is what we are asking. MR. WILLIAMSON: Okay. Don't leave. Stay close, because I want to ask you a few questions, but I want to hear from Matt Bonner, first. Matt. Mr. Bonner is from the great City of Carrollton, Texas, home of one of the better girl's softball teams in the state. MR. BONNER: I would like to thank you for your time in letting me come up here and speak. On behalf of this, I think this is the right move especially when Mr. -- when TxDOT is talking about -- Mr. Bray is talking about law enforcement. This has been a big issue. In the City of Carrollton, we took an active approach on enforcing the rules. One of the things I want to mention to you that Mr. Bray had mentioned is, first of all, it's not illegal in the State of Texas to sell these dealer tags. I can go out on the side, the corner here in Brownwood, Texas, and sell them for $25 a piece, and law enforcement cannot do anything to me for doing it. It is not illegal. The only thing that is illegal in -- with these temporary dealer tags that you can get in trouble for is a Class C misdemeanor is the highest offense you can get. That is either for printing the dealer tags unauthorized or operating a motor vehicle with an unauthorized dealer tag on the back. Usually that means it is counterfeit. One thing I want to discuss with you is the disadvantages that law enforcement has. Just like Mr. Bray said, first of all, lack of education for law enforcement. Most officers, like me myself, I had to educate myself on dealer tags. We have lack of education, and usually what law enforcement does, if they don't understand it or don't want to enforce it because of their knowledge of it, they are going to leave it alone. That is why we don't do anything right now. Because when we see a dealer tag running down the street, we have no idea if that is a legitimate dealership, a legitimate car sale or not. We don't know, because we are not educated in this area. One of the statistics I do want to bring up is a friend of mine is an auto theft person in Plano, Texas. One out of every 15 cars they stop with dealer tags on them are stolen. So, the criminal element is using this to their advantage, because they know law enforcement is not educated. They use it to do drugs, terroristic fields. They use it to do tollway stuff. Tollways can't find out -- when these people are running through their tollways, they can't find out the information. Another thing is, is availability of information. The Dealers Association will tell you, "Well, you've got a general distribution number, that P number, 44336." Yeah, that's great. That tells me who the dealership comes back to, but you remember what your dad said when you took a girl out or when you went out with a guy? Nothing is good after midnight? Okay. Do you see what I'm saying? The criminal element doesn't move very often in the daytime. Okay. Dealership Association is going to tell you, "Hey, call our dealership, and they will give you the right information, who sold the car." I did that one day just to see if it would work. It took them 16 minutes to find out the information. I gave them the right name of the person who purchased it, the VIN number, the sales person and what day it was sold, and it still took them 16 minutes to find out if that vehicle was actually sold there. Sixteen minutes, I am dead on that traffic stop. Sixteen minutes is too long. Instant information is what we want. We don't have that information and, tell me, what dealership stays open 24/7? MR. WILLIAMSON: It's against the law. MR. BONNER: It's against the law, yes, it is. So, once nine o'clock comes -- MR. WILLIAMSON: Who passed that law? MR. BONNER: Right. After 9:01, law enforcement is out of the loop. We have no information that is available to us at that particular time. Another thing is, is that as you see on these dealer tags, we don't know when we are stopping a vehicle who it belongs to. Registration returns are vital information to us. We put BOLOs. Have you ever heard of a BOLO? Be on the lookout for. If there is a particular dealer tag that we are looking for, or a BOLO, if it's data like in Arizona, we can put a BOLO on it and law enforcement can look for it, because it is specific to that vehicle. Temporary dealer tags aren't specific to any vehicle. Just like you said, 5,000 of them are running around. Last week I had an opportunity to go with one of the guys from TxDOT Division that Mr. Bray is over and Wells Plano PD. We went down to a particular -- one dealership, one particular car lot, and we confiscated 250 counterfeit dealer tags. He says he purchases them from a guy who comes around and sells them for two dollars a piece. The reason he buys them is because the vehicles that he is selling are not -- are salvage vehicles, and they are not allowed to be on the road. They are unsafe. Most of the time what you will find on dealer tags, if I stop a dealer tag and it is counterfeit, because I already know what most of them are, there is a counterfeit inspection sticker dealing with that as well. Another thing I'm going to tell you is that dealer tags are not a Government record. Law enforcement cannot do anything to anybody for either selling them or possessing them. There is no recourse, except the two individual things that I talked about earlier about printing them, that aren't authorized without having a dealer's license, and also if you are operating a motor vehicle. So, if you bought one of those dealer tags from me, I am free and clear. If I sell it to you, you put it on your car, law enforcement can do something about that. It's a Class C misdemeanor, a ticket and fine only. Now, if you are out selling these down on the corner at the end of the street, there is nothing that can be done to you. Why we want this? A lot of times the Texas Dealers Association is going to say the reason they don't want it is because it is Government control. This is not about Government control. This is about safety for me, law enforcement. As you know, a lot of the terrorist things happen. We need the information, and we need it right then and there. I am proud to wear this badge and proud of what I do. I am honest. One thing I hate to do, a lot of people in this room can say they don't think about this every day. You wake up in the morning. I put my badge on. I put my gun on. I kiss my wife goodbye. I kiss my two girls, daughters bye, and it may be for the last time. I think about that, because I might not come back through that door. Most people don't think about that. When you leave your house, do you think that you are going to die that day? No, you don't. I do. My wife has to deal with that every day. My kids have to deal with that every day. Is my daddy going to come home tonight? We need this information, and we need it instantly. The same thing with the terrorist deal over in London. A lot of that information, they can get all of that information right then and there. It is a public safety issue. It's not a Government control, and I wish the Texas Dealers Association would know that. They will sit there and say that it's a Government control, and they don't like that. MR. WILLIAMSON: No, I think they said it was a solution waiting for a problem. MR. BONNER: Right. Well, I think that is part of the problem. You are correct, the problematic things that you are talking about, the no insurance, the registration, inspection and all of that goes hand in hand. Just one thing I got to tell you. When people -- somebody -- I think one of you asked, I think it was Mr. Johnson asked, is this a used car problem? No. Last year in the State of Texas, new car dealers -- new car dealerships sold more used cars than any used car dealership on its own. So, it goes both ways. So, there is a lot of information out there that we need, and I wish we would go in that direction, like they are trying to do right now. We need as much help as we can, as much instant information that we can get at that particular time. MR. WILLIAMSON: Members, questions of this young man? MR. JOHNSON: I don't have a question. I just want to thank you for the work that you and your fellow officers do. MR. BONNER: I appreciate it. We are trying to take an active approach. One note I put on here that I want to say. This system was set up on an honor system. Honor systems are no good if there is no honor in it. Thank you. Y'all have a good day. MR. WILLIAMSON: Thank you very much. All right. Now tell me about the hologram, Ted. What was that? MR. HOUGHTON: It's on your credit card. MR. WILLIAMSON: The same thing that's on my VISA card? MR. HOUGHTON: Right. Put it on either side. MR. WILLIAMSON: You trust your car to the person with the flying star? MR. HOUGHTON: You put the flying -- the star in motion right on there, a hologram. MR. WILLIAMSON: And you were concerned about that for what reason? MR. BRAY: Well, there are several -- first of all, I'm not sure that the Department has the ability to require it. When I was responding to the question, I'm thinking require -- just require the parameters of it, and I guess they would get it somewhere else. While I had an opportunity to sit down, I was briefed, and as we understand it, the way holograms work and every other state that is using them, the state is selling them, and we know we can't do that. We cannot -- MR. HOUGHTON: Require the printer to put it on there. We have the authority to tell the printer, the dealers, what they have to have on there. MR. BRAY: You do, you do. I would like the opportunity to brief you further, because I really -- I don't think that is the answer. I'm afraid that it doesn't solve the problem. MR. HOUGHTON: I don't think that does either in my opinion. MR. BRAY: No, it definitely does not. MR. HOUGHTON: I don't think it's restrictive -- MR. WILLIAMSON: We adopted the discussion item phase of our meetings to permit us -- MR. HOUGHTON: Right. MR. WILLIAMSON: -- legally to discuss in front of the public how you feel about something, and also to signal to staff and the affected public where we might be going about a decision in the future, and I think Ted is trying to convey that he wants a fool-proof method, and I'm interested in that fool-proof method. If it is not that, I am interested in something else. MR. JOHNSON: This is just a partial step. I mean, clearly the ultimate answer is what the Legislature grants us the power to do. MR. WILLIAMSON: You might poll some of the dealers. MR. HOUGHTON: That method there, go back to Arizona. MR. BRAY: The problem is, that is the fool-proof method. MR. HOUGHTON: That's right. MR. BRAY: And that is what 21 senators voted against the Friday before the legislative session closed. MR. HOUGHTON: Well, I understand that, but you have to morph into it some way. MR. BRAY: Yes, sir, and we're trying -- MR. HOUGHTON: And make it as hard for the counterfeiters as possible today, because it takes two years before the next session. We morph into it and make it very difficult for somebody to counterfeit these things. That is our only -- you can go copy what you have put up there. It's the same thing, in my opinion. Make it very difficult and expensive for them. I'm making it expensive for them, too. MR. BRAY: I'm not sure the -- I'm not sure the department can do that under the current legislative -- MR. WILLIAMSON: Well, you will no doubt be talking with different people and figuring out what we can and can't do over the next few weeks, right? MR. BRAY: Yes, sir. And may I just say, the last thing I forgot to mention to you was, Ms. Kent and Mr. Bullard have visited with a number of law enforcement associations in getting prepared for this. In fact, I didn't even know there were that many law enforcement associations in Texas. I'm not sure. I think they are in your packets. We are gathering them. We will have more for you, but we have been received extremely warmly by every law enforcement association we have visited. They have all expressed support for our current idea as an interim gap until the study is done and possibly the Legislature can move forward and give the department a better tool. MS. ANDRADE: Right. You said that they set up a study group or committee? MR. BRAY: Yes, ma'am. The study -- MR. HOUGHTON: Who is "They"? MR. BRAY: The Legislature. And the study is supposed to be, as I remember, it is a commission of people; one appointed by the Governor, one by the Lieutenant Governor, one by the Speaker of the House. And the charge is to study this problem. MS. ANDRADE: I certainly would suggest that they hear this young officer. MR. BRAY: I may have glossed over it, but Coby Chase's office is spearheading that, and I'm pretty certain that we are going to contract out for some of it, and I believe -- we are very confident, because we think the problem is very evident. I believe it is going to be -- it's going to show -- I believe the study is going to wind up showing that it is much worse than we tell you it is. But in the end, everybody, dealers throughout the state, residents, law enforcement, they are all going to have input. MS. ANDRADE: I would have to say I agree with my fellow commissioners, we have got to do whatever we can until the law is changed. You know, I'm a business owner, so I am all for not stopping business, but this is a real safety issue. And, so, whatever we can do to keep us safe, I think we must. We owe it to the public to do that. MR. WILLIAMSON: You know, we operate by consensus, so I can certainly be booted on this one, but my personal preference is, I like the statement "Not registered", because that's the truth. "Registration pending" is not the truth. Registration doesn't start until my vehicle dealer takes my papers to the county courthouse and starts the registration process. So, "Registration pending" that is like so much other nonsense in Government. That is just nice words. It is not registered. It is not registered, period. MR. BRAY: I'm happy with that answer, but we were trying to -- we're trying to look for compromises, hoping to ward off potential -- MR. HOUGHTON: Ward off -- MR. WILLIAMSON: What was it that lady told us a couple of years ago? You can put a saddle on it. You can put lipstick on it, but a pig is still a pig? Is that what it was? MR. HOUGHTON: That is what somebody told us about point of collection once. MR. JOHNSON: One thing that comes to mind, how is what you're considering to propose to the rule, how does it affect the process that the dealer goes through and how does it affect the process that a buyer, a customer of a dealership goes through? MR. BRAY: This is why it shouldn't -- this is why they should actually be happy with this. The reason is, it affects the process the dealers go through in a couple of ways. First, it ought to cut down on the price, because nobody is having to screen in the flying T. More importantly -- I have experienced this at the dealership I go to. I have experienced people complaining about having to color in the boxes. They liked the old system. They don't have any boxes to color in this way. Presumably, I guess, over the course of several hundred deals that car dealers do, their back offices are not having to color several thousand blocks. So, they like that. In terms of overall process, it is virtually the same. It certainly doesn't do anything to stop business. You know, if anything, like I say, it speeds things up because the back office isn't coloring blocks as long. This is a reaction in my view to try to do something to teach officers -- not everybody is quite as sophisticated as Officer Bonner in terms of red tag problems. MR. JOHNSON: Let's take this one step farther. Let's assume that ultimately in place of something like Arizona has, would that affect the process, either expense-wise or time-wise that the dealer goes through or the customer, the buyer of the vehicle goes through. MR. BRAY: They say it will. MR. JOHNSON: They? MR. BRAY: "They" being the dealer associations. My experience, I went to Arizona. I reviewed the system at the department. I went to dealerships. I watched them make sales with those tags. If anything, it is going to make things faster. MR. HOUGHTON: I -- I understand we have to work together, but I just -- taking the star in motion off the license plate to reduce the cost by 20 cents and somebody doesn't have to screen it in, who cares? MR. BRAY: Well, I'm just -- I was just responding to his question. The reason I would take it off is not that reason at all. The reason I would take it off is because it misinforms the public and law enforcement that that is an official document, like the 271 other official documents. MR. WILLIAMSON: I agree. MR. BRAY: And, it is not. MR. WILLIAMSON: I agree. I want it off anyway, no matter what. MR. BRAY: And I -- and, Mr. Chairman, if in your discussions you choose to pick and choose among the options, taking the flying T off alone is better than nothing. MR. WILLIAMSON: Anything else, Members? We want to thank you for putting together a good presentation and informing us on this public policy matter so that we can make a good decision, Brett. Thank you. MR. BRAY: Thank you for having -- MR. HOUGHTON: Thanks, Brett. MS. ANDRADE: Thank you. MR. WILLIAMSON: Steve? MR. SIMMONS: Thank you, Brett.
  18. Wow, finally got on the Westpark Tollway from Alief into West Loop, and the connecting flyover 59 is one heck of a view to see all of Houston. We really are a garden city. That flyover is pretty dang high and kinda scary when you realize its so thin a strip of concrete. Still breath taking nonetheless.
  19. (as seen in TxDOT's minutes of the July TTC meeting); d. Montgomery County - Consider a proposal from Montgomery County to construct, under a pass-through toll agreement, improvements to FM 1485, FM 1488, FM 1314, and FM 3083, and tolled direct connectors from SH 242 and SH 105 to I-45; authorize the executive director to negotiate a pass-through toll agreement with Montgomery County Commissioner Johnson made a motion, seconded by Commissioner Andrade, and the commission approved the following minute order presented by Finance Division Director James Bass: 109734 FIN On April 26, 2004, Montgomery County submitted a proposal for a pass-through toll agreement. The county's proposal, among other things, provided for the county to construct, maintain, and operate improvements to FM 1485, FM 1488, FM 1314, and FM 3083, and direct connectors from SH 242 and SH 105 to I-45. Section 222.104( , Transportation Code, authorizes the Texas Department of Transportation (department) to enter into an agreement with a public or private entity that provides for the payment of pass-through tolls to the public or private entity as reimbursement for the construction, maintenance, or operation of a toll or non-toll facility on the state highway system by the public or private entity. A pass-through toll is a per vehicle fee or a per vehicle-mile fee that is determined by the number of vehicles using a facility. The Texas Transportation Commission (commission) previously adopted rules, codified at 43 TAC
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