TxDOT report says AT&T cost taxpayers $21 million

TxDOT construction sign (KXAN File Photo)
TxDOT construction sign (KXAN File Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) – The Texas Department of Transportation says $25 million of your tax dollars have been spent on road projects because of utility company delays.

The longest delay in the Austin area is along US 290. It was for 11 months.

Tracy King, Vice President for Public Affairs for AT&T Texas gave KXAN a statement saying: “We don’t believe it is that simple. As you heard during the hearing, there are many reasons these projects can and do experience delays; any conclusions regarding the role of a specific company’s involvement could be assigned erroneously, leading to ongoing conflict resolution for all parties.  It would not generate the collaborative environment we are working to enhance today.”

Road projects can get complicated with the pipes and electrical lines that criss-cross our state. Officials from AT&T came to a hearing at the capitol Tuesday to answer questions about causing $21 million in delays.

“We do take them very seriously. We don’t sit around a table and plan on how to delay a project,” said John T. Montford, representing AT&T, in the hearing.

Montford said factors like endangered species studies and security laws on telecommunication equipment can delay their work. AT&T says they’ll work better with TxDOT.

“Relocation projects are very complicated but there is always room for improvement by all of us”, King from AT&T also stated, “When road projects are planned, we work collaboratively with local officials on city, county and state levels, as well as the design engineers, construction contractors and other providers to orchestrate the digging and relocation of facilities.  Such close coordination is vital to ensure no interruption in communication service to police departments, fire stations, hospitals or the school trying to reach a parent. As a Texas-based company with a substantial fleet and employee base, we also have a vested interest in well-maintained and safe roads. To ensure AT&T is doing all that it can to complete relocation projects in a timely manner, we are proactively implementing a number of process improvements including working with TXDOT to establish a system to escalate and address any issues that may contribute to a delay, and assigning a manager in each market that has responsibility for all government projects.”

“We’re losing time, which is really precious in a state that’s growing the way we’re growing, and we’re losing money,” said Rep. Celia Israel, D-Austin.

Both lawmakers and the communication company left the hearing agreeing that more communication is needed between them. They plan to bring the up issue again at a hearing in six weeks.

This is important because Texans have the opportunity this November to dedicate more than $4 billion a year to Texas Roads. Many proposed projects could involve AT&T.

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