The man who doesn’t get it

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about ‚Äúthe man who gets it‚ÄĚ, that man being state Senator John Carona of Dallas, who understands our current transportation funding¬†crisis enough to risk political suicide by suggesting an increase in the state’s gas tax to fix it (the correct solution in my not-so-humble opinion.)¬† Today,¬†I’m going to write about the¬†person who has shown once again to be deserving of the¬†title of ‚Äúthe man who just doesn’t get it‚ÄĚ: Tommy Adkisson, the current chairman of the San Antonio-Bexar County Metropolitan Planning Organization’s (MPO) policy board.

As you may recall,¬†Adkisson was the official¬†instigator of a vote¬†in October¬†to drop the toll option¬†from¬†the MPO’s¬†plans regarding¬†future US 281 and Loop 1604 projects.¬† That¬†proposal went down in flames¬†when the MPO board voted 13-5 against it, mainly because it had no objective engineering study to support it, something¬†even an amateur elected official would realize is essential to¬†substantiate your case.¬† Even the San Antonio Express-News editorial board labeled¬†his actions¬†‚Äúerratic and ill-considered‚ÄĚ.¬† I, however,¬†was willing to let Tommy off the hook for this boondoggle since it was obvious that outspoken toll opponent¬†Terri Hall was the real culprit pulling the strings behind the scenes and I believed¬†he just didn’t understand what he was getting himself into.¬† His¬†declaration after the vote that he was done with toll road issues and wanted to move on to more substantive discussions, such as mass transit, also led me to believe that he was sincerely¬†jaded on the whole 281 debacle.

But obviously not.

According to reports published in the Express-News, Adkisson wrote a letter to the chairman of the Texas House Transportation Committee, state Rep. Joe Pickett, prior to the Texas Transportation Commission’s approval of funding to complete the Wurzbach Parkway¬†expressing a frankly delusional belief that US 281 should have¬†been considered for¬†the funding instead of Wurzbach.¬† The word he used to describe the Wurzbach funding was ‚Äúincomprehensible.‚ÄĚ

Say what?

Once again, Adkisson demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of the highway planning and funding process, not to mention a myopic focus on 281 that, unfortunately, is shared by a fair number of the citizenry.

Here are¬†the parts of the puzzle that Tommy missed: the batch of projects approved during this round of funding all had to essentially be ‚Äúshovel-ready‚ÄĚ to comply with a legislative directive to have $1 billion of these funds (Prop. 12 bonds specifically) spent by the end of the state’s 2011 fiscal year.¬† US 281 is nowhere near being shovel-ready because, as a¬†result of the fallout¬†from previous lawsuits files by Terri Hall et al., there is no federal clearance to build any major capacity¬†projects in the US 281 corridor at this time.¬† In fact, because there is a new environmental study in progress, there isn’t even¬†a “preferred alternative” (technical jargon for a recommended project) yet¬†for 281, meaning that there¬†aren’t even any approved¬†schematics or design plans.¬†¬† As such, there is no project that could be funded now even if they wanted to.

Adkisson’s letter prompted the Wolffs– Kevin and Nelson– to travel to Austin¬†to¬†show the¬†flag for¬†the Wurzbach funding and fortunately it was subsequently approved.

Afterward, Tommy reluctantly expressed gratitude for the funding: ‚ÄúI still think US 281 North is easily the¬†number one project in Bexar County that should get our focus, but I’m happy to have any money come to Bexar County.‚ÄĚ

Then, he articulated a most palpable verity:

‚ÄúI don’t think TxDOT and I are on the same wavelength, and what I say means little or nothing to them.‚ÄĚ

To me, it seems like that’s¬†a two-way street.

UPDATE 12/8/09 – Maybe Tommy is starting to see the light.


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