Victoria officials speak out at state meeting against transportation program

Melissa Crowe By Melissa Crowe

Aug. 29, 2013 at 3:29 a.m.
Updated Aug. 30, 2013 at 3:30 a.m.

Victoria County officials took their complaints to Austin against a state program that could cost the city and county millions in road maintenance.

County Judge Don Pozzi said he, the four members of the commissioners court and Administrative Services Director Joyce Dean arrived at the Texas Transportation Commission meeting at 8:30 a.m. Thursday, ready to oppose the Texas Department of Transportation's "Turn Back Program," which proposes transferring 38 miles of roadway within Zac Lentz Parkway to the city and county.

"We told them that we were more than willing to continue to work with TxDOT as we have done in the past on projects in and around Victoria - right of way acquisition, the overpass issue or simply road improvements - but that we were in total opposition to taking back any of the roads if they were forced upon us," Pozzi said.

The Turn Back Program could save the state $165 million by transferring the burden of about 1,900 miles of urban highways to cities and counties with populations greater than 50,000. In the Crossroads area, the city of Victoria and Victoria County are the only areas affected.

Before leaving for Austin, Commissioner Gary Burns said if the Turn Back Program goes into effect, it would impact all the county precinct budgets even though the majority of the 14.2 miles for the county are in his care.

"Our budgets are based on the percentages of roads we maintain," Burns said. "This would throw the other guys off and cut the money down, which goes to their precincts. There's going to be a heck of a ripple effect."

Mayor Paul Polasek said the 24 miles of roadway could rack up $2.5 to $3 million in maintenance annually for city residents.

"That equates to a 7-cent to 9-cent increase in taxes if we had to assume those duties," he said.

Judges and city officials were notified by letter mid-August about the plan.

"As far as the way this was communicated to us, it was handled rather poorly," Pozzi said. "That was the same feeling as the remainder of the county judges and mayors who were there."

Although Polasek was unable to attend the Austin meeting, Pozzi said officials from Arlington, Dallas County, Harlingen, Midland, Port Arthur, San Antonio and Tarrant County spoke in opposition to the program.

The transportation commission did not take action on the issue.

"I think the message they (the commission) received today from the elected officials was that they needed to have a better line of communication and needed to keep us involved in the decision making and that we were going to oppose anything that was not voluntary," Pozzi said.



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