Thursday, May 14, 1998 
                                    10:00 am 
                          South Padre Convention Center 
         Pursuant to a notice posted in accordance with Senate Rule  
         11.11, a public hearing of the Senate Committee on  
         Transportation (Interim) was held on Thursday, May 14, 1998,  
         at the South Padre Convention Centre,  South Padre Island,  
         MEMBERS PRESENT:                        MEMBERS ABSENT: 
         Senator Kenneth Armbrister              Senator David Cain 
         Senator Troy Fraser                     Senator Drew Nixon 
         Senator Mario Gallegos, Jr.             Senator Bill Ratliff 
                                                 Senator Carlos Truan 
         The Chair called the meeting to order at 10:25 am.  The  
         following business was transacted.   
         The following members arrived after the roll was called:   
         The Chair recognized Mr. Paul Cowen  with Senator Eddie  
         Lucio's office to read a letter into the record.  (See  
         The Chair recognized  Mr. Tom Goodman with the South Padre  
         Island Chamber of Commerce, written testimony attached.  Mr.  
         Goodman expressed support for the construction of a second  
         causeway from the mainland to the Island.  He also discussed  
         the different options available and stated that the most  
         support exists for the Holly Beach option.  The new causeway  
         is being proposed as a tollway, and the figures indicate that  
         with the Holly Beach option, they expect to charge $2 per car  
         per crossing, with 7 million cars crossing per year.   
         Questions and comments from the members followed.  
         The Chair recognized  the Honorable Connie de la Garza, Mayor  
         of Harlingen, written testimony attached.  The mayor expressed  
         support for the proposed I-69 corridor through Hwy 77/83.   
         Disappointment was also voiced about the current funding  
         methods that tend to favor areas with a 200,00 population or  
         more, and asked for a more equitable method of distributing  
         funds.  NAFTA has made this issue much more important.  He  
         also communicated his concern about the severe decrease in  
         funding for the Urban Street Program.   
         Questions and comments from the members followed.  
         The Chair recognized the Honorable Renato Cuellar, Hidalgo  
         County Judge. 
         The Chair recognized the Honorable Joe Ochoa, Mayor of  
         Edinburg.  Mr. Ochoa stated that the Valley is growing faster  
         than the rest of the state and voiced his concern for  
         achieving equitable funding for the Valley.  He also expressed  
         his support for the proposed I-69 Corridor.  
         The Chair recognized Mr. Mike Allen representing the South  
         Texas Manufacturing Association and the South Texas Border  
         Partnership.  Mr. Allen described the problem involving egress  
         of trucks from the area ports. He noted that there is no  
         transportation linkage from the ports and border crossings to  
         the interstate highways.  Mr. Allen asserted that there is so  
         much emphasis on drug interdiction at the border that the  
         border crossings are paralyzed and crossing it takes too long.   
         He supports a dedicated commuter lane at the border, with  
         "pre-screened" operators.   
         Questions and comments from the members followed.  
         The Chair recognized the Honorable Jose Pulido, County Judge  
         -elect for Hidalgo County.  Mr. Pulido expressed his support  
         for the concept of raising local funds to invest in quality of  
         Questions and comments from the members followed.  
         The Chair recognized Mr. Ed Molitor, Hidalgo County MPO.  Mr.  
         Molitor stressed that funding flexibility is very important.   
         He pointed to the fact that highway funds have never been  
         transferred to transit projects, but transit funds have been  
         transferred to highway projects.  Mr. Molitor also expressed  
         support for disadvantaged funding, more flexibility in  
         off-system projects, and more transferability between fewer  
         pots of money.   
         Questions and comments from the members followed.  
         The Chair recognized Mr. Larry Brown, Planner with the City of  
         Brownsville.  Mr Brown, stressed the need for an overpass over  
         77/83  extension, as it will alleviate congestions.  However,  
         the Urban Street  Program funds for Brownsville have been cut  
         in half, when they need to be increased instead. 
         Questions and comments from the members followed.  
         The Chair recognized Mr. Bill Card, former Mayor of Harlingen,  
         and a 6 year former MPO Chair.  Mr. Card strongly supported  
         the proposed I-69 Corridor , saying it will be a "big boom"  
         for Texas.  He also expressed strong support for a second  
         causeway to the Island, if only to address the safety issue.   
         Mr. Card stated his feeling that infrastructure needs to  
         become a state priority and that it doesn't make sense to  
         spend billions in transportation projects in North Texas when  
         traffic gets down to South Texas in a bottleneck.  He also  
         pointed out the fact that TxDot is considering making a  
         priority corridor from Laredo to Corpus, but Laredo has only  
         1/5 the traffic of the McAllen/Brownsville area.   
         Questions and comments by the members followed.  
         The Chair recognized Mr. Alan Johnson, Vice Chair of the Texas  
         Turnpike Authority.  Mr.  Johnson, summarized the history of  
         the Valley being left out of  the major highway system, when  
         the mobility study came out and helped them get Hwy 77/83.   
         This has set them up nicely for the proposed I-69.  Mr.   
         Johnson supported using tolls, and said the state needs to  
         take advantage of the SIB and tolling.  
         Questions and comments by the members followed.  
         The Chair recognized Mr. Raul Besteiro, Port of Brownsville.   
         Mr. Besteiro stated that Brownsville is the only port in the  
         US that isn't serviced by an interstate highway and that he  
         supported the I-69 proposal.  He made reference to the project  
         to route train traffic around Brownsville is almost complete  
         and so far they have removed seventy-four deadly rail  
         Questions and comments by the members followed.  
         The Chair recognized Mr. Gary Wayes,  former City Alderman.   
         Mr. Ways expressed his support for the second causeway as well  
         as the I-69 corridor.  
         The Chair recognized Mr. Charlie Brown, Valley Trucking Co.,  
         Brownsville.  Mr. Brown wanted to go on the record in support  
         of the previous groups' testimony.  
         The Chair recognized Mr. Paul Cown, Senator Lucio's office  
         with Amadeo Saenz, Tx Dot district engineer , and John Voss,  
         and Dr. Marge Ford, with the Long Island Association.   
         Testimony centered around the "swing bridge" at Long Island.   
         This is the only one in the state that is not maintained by  
         TxDot, so the citizens of Long Island must maintain it on  
         their own, and would  would  like it to change.  The bridge  
         has an appraised value of $30 million and an annual  
         maintenance cost of $300,000.   
         Questions and comments by the members followed.  Mr Saenz  
         stated they he would be happy to work with Senator Lucio's  
         office and the interested parties to try and arrive at a  
         solution to the problem.  
         The Chair recognized Mr. Robert Nichols, Transportation  
         Commissioner, with Amadeo Saenz, district engineer.  Senator  
         Fraser asked how we keep up with NAFTA traffic and with truck  
         crossings doubling?  Nichols' immediate response was to  
         increase the manpower available at the crossing gates so that  
         all of them can be operational and processing traffic with  
         maximum efficiency.   
         Mr. Nichols wanted to respond to testimony he heard in San  
         Antonio relating to TxDot trying to pool whatever money was  
         available in different funding categories to try and have an  
         amount available to meet the increased match that will be  
         required to draw down increased federal funds.  Nichols  
         asserted that TxDot is not pooling money yet for this purpose.   
         Senator Fraser moved the minutes from April 23rd be adopted.   
         There being no objection the motion prevailed.   
         There being no further business to come before the Committee,  
         at  4:15pm, the Chair moved the committee stand recessed,  
         subject to the call of the Chair.   There being no objection,  
         the motion prevailed.  
         Senator Ken Armbrister, Chair  
         Committee Clerk