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Local Government

Victor Vandergriff, North Texas’ TxDOT Commissioner, to Resign

The forward-thinking commissioner is widely considered to be why TxDOT is considering tearing out or rerouting freeways.
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Victor Vandergriff plans to resign on Monday as the North Texas commissioner for the state’s transportation department.

Vandergriff, who was appointed in 2013 and who D Magazine named the Best Elected Official last year, is widely credited with convincing the Texas Department of Transportation to study the opportunities of tearing out or rerouting freeways in Dallas. His resignation was confirmed by sources knowledgeable of the situation but who are not allowed to speak publicly. Vandergriff declined comment.

His resignation comes as numerous large-scale transportation projects are in limbo. The first, the long-planned expansion of a 10.8-mile stretch of LBJ Freeway, is on hold because of its plans to subsidize 10 free lanes with revenue from four tolled lanes. Councilman Lee Kleinman, the chair of the council’s Mobility Solutions, Infrastructure, and Sustainability Committee, has accused state senators Donald Huffines (R-Dallas) and Bob Hall (R-Edgewood) of siding with Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick over their constituents, arguing that the governor’s refusal of any toll lanes whatsoever is out of touch with the desires of the voters.

The commission deferred action last month on the expansion project, which has the backing of the cities of Dallas, Garland, and Mesquite, as well as Dallas County and the North Central Texas Council of Governments. The project has also disappeared from the commission’s 10-year plan. The project would encompass the stretch of LBJ from Central Expressway to Interstate 30, putting five new free lanes in each direction, four tolled — “managed” — lanes, additional express lanes, and new frontage roads. Huffines blames the stalled project on the cities, saying if they want to move forward, they should scrap the tolls.

Vandergriff has largely been praised as North Texas’ voice in Austin on transportation matters. While he was a commissioner, TxDOT spent 15 months crafting the CityMAP document, an unprecedented guide that helps the city and state coordinate policy to free its urban development from the chokehold of its freeways. The department is now studying the price and the timeline of tearing out Interstate 345, the 1.4-mile concrete thoroughfare that divides downtown and Deep Ellum. His resignation also comes as the city weighs how to join that study, which would include researching the housing and economic opportunities that would open up if the freeway were not there. Vandergriff has said that it is a “probability” that I-345 would be gone in the next two decades.

Last month, the Texas Tribune raised questions about Vandergriff’s billing of taxpayers for trips to Austin as a consultant for Berkshire Hathaway, a job he said was independent of his role as a commissioner. The Tribune identified five such instances, which Vandergriff said cost about $200 round trip in mileage reimbursements and between $225 and $275 a day in meals and lodging. He vowed to reimburse the agency.

Then Gov. Rick Perry appointed Vandergriff to the TxDOT board in 2013; his six-year term would’ve ended in 2019.

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