AUSTIN – Lawmakers are one step closer to tapping the brakes on the Texas Turnpike Corp., a private toll company that drew scrutiny last year for its attempt to build a rural toll road from Garland to Greenville.
The House on Friday preliminarily approved — with no debate — a bill to strip the company of its ability to use eminent domain power. The measure by Rep. Cindy Burkett would also require additional public notification before private toll road projects can be approved.
“Let’s prevent future situations from occurring that cause a high degree of anxiety,” the Sunnyvale Republican said at a committee hearing in March.
The House is expected to give the bill final approval next week. The measure would then have to be squared with a slightly different Senate bill, by Sen. Bob Hall, R-Edgewood, that passed that chamber last month.
Texas Turnpike Corp. is thought to be the only private entity in the state that can use eminent domain for roads projects. In 1991, lawmakers repealed a law that had allowed for such private toll companies, but Texas Turnpike Corp. was grandfathered in.
Public outcry last year forced the company to back down on its proposed 28-mile Northeast Gateway, pitched as a reliever route to Interstate 30 or State Highway 78.
John Crew, Texas Turnpike Corp.’s chief executive, told lawmakers in March that the company could still serve as a “good tool.” And encouraged them to reject what he called “draconian” rules that “would take us out of business.”