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Texas: Gas Tax Dollars Spent to Build Park
Texas Department of Transportation that claims it has no money for roads uses $20 million in gas tax funds to build a park.

Woodall Rodgers ParkThe Woodall Rodgers Park Foundation announced yesterday that the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) would hand over $20 million in gas tax funds to help build a 5.2 acre park near downtown Dallas. The $67 million park is intended to serve as a model public-private partnership with a restaurant, a children's playground and a dog park. It will have no roads.

"The park... will connect Uptown, Downtown and the Arts District, and is expected to become a regional attraction," the foundation explained in a statement.

TxDOT on several occasions has made the claim that the agency is "out of money" and therefore has no choice but to convert existing freeways into toll roads (view TxDOT plan). In February, the state's top two legislative leaders called for an audit of TxDOT's finances after the agency admitted that it had misstated its finances by more than $1 billion, helping to create the impression that it was out of money.

People for Efficient Transportation founder Sal Costello questioned TxDOT's motives in spending gas tax funds on the project.

"I'm all for parks, but why is money from our transportation budget paying for a park?" Costello asked. "And why would TxDOT give $20 million to a foundation full of special interests instead of the city to do the job?"

Costello pointed out that the foundation's board and steering committee include key employees of companies that stand to profit from the agency's toll road plans that are in need of public relations support. JP Morgan is part of the team that intends to build the Trans Texas Corridor toll road. Carter and Burgess, a Fort Worth-based engineering consultant is heavily involved in tolling projects in the state. Both companies have seats on the foundation steering committee.

The park is scheduled to open in late 2011.