Skip to Navigation Skip to Main Content

Coleman, Mitchell stick to their guns

County Commissioners Hugh Coleman and Bobbie Mitchell may not prevail in insisting that the widening of Interstate 35E include a new free traffic lane for each new toll lane, but they're still in there pitching, and we're glad they are.

Back when the proposal was wending its way through the state Legislature, it was advertised as a plan that would have added an equal number of free and "managed" lanes. (The Texas Department of Transportation calls them managed lanes instead of toll lanes because no actual toll is paid by the driver; electronic devices scan license tags and drivers are billed later for using the lanes.)

TxDOT now says there isn't enough money to build the project as planned, and more managed lanes than free lanes will be built.

That may be inevitable, given the economics of the project, but we can't help but admire the efforts of Coleman and Mitchell, who have raised an appropriate amount of oh-Billy-Ned over TxDOT's apparent bait-and-switch.

Coleman was manning the barricades Tuesday at the regular commissioners' meeting, complaining that a provision drawn up by the legislatively mandated 1420 Committee had muddled the wording of a mandate that free and managed lanes should at least be built simultaneously.

He and Mitchell are continuing to fight the good fight, even as most of the commissioners seem anxious to marginalize their objections by intimating that all would be sweetness and light on the Commissioners Court were it not for that pesky pair of dissenters, Mitchell and Coleman.

County Judge Mary Horn even led a delegation of commissioners, along with a couple of state legislators and some suits from TxDOT and the county's transportation consultant, John Polster, to meet with this newspaper's editorial board a while back to assure them that "everybody was on board" with TxDOT's revised plan. Coleman and Mitchell were conspicuous by their absence.

The bean counters at TxDOT have estimated that it would cost an additional $980 million to widen I-35E as first envisioned, and we lack the expertise to dispute their figures. For that reason, we imagine that at some point, objections to the revised plan may become futile.

But for now, we do not mind at all that Hugh Coleman and Bobbie Mitchell are pointing to the overpriced 1941 model we're now being asked to purchase and asking what happened to the shiny new Corvette that was in the original advertisement.