In late 2004, Perry began scaling back his grand vision. He quietly dropped the idea of building rail lines and highways side by side, shrinking the amount of private land that would be required. The governor "did a very effective job over time in backing away in steps from that idea, while keeping the concept alive," said Allaway, who calls it one of the hallmarks of Perry's style. "He makes a decision and he will back it until he can't any longer."
Mike Krusee, a former Republican state lawmaker, drew a comparison with Perry's ill-fated executive order in 2007 that required girls in Texas to be vaccinated against the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus. The mandate, which has backfired on Perry in the presidential race, was blocked by the Legislature after blindsided opponents rebelled.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday, November 22, 2011 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 News Desk 1 inches; 56 words Type of Material: Correction
Rick Perry: A Nov. 21 article in Section A about Texas Gov. Rick Perry's failed plan in 2002 to create a massive transit system said the Texas Farm Bureau had "endorsed his previous campaigns." While the bureau had endorsed Perry in most of his races, it backed his opponent in the 1998 election for lieutenant governor.
"Again, he talks to people who are close to him -- whether it's his wife or others -- he had a vision and put it out and then got push-back from the Legislature," said Krusee, now a lobbyist in Austin.
Ray Sullivan, a Perry campaign spokesman and onetime chief of staff to the governor, acknowledged that in presenting the transit project, "we could have used more coalition-building and communications with citizens, elected officials, legislators and stakeholders prior to that major policy announcement being launched."
He added that while it is "wonderful to live in a conservative state" like Texas, "it's important to remember as well that conservatives can be as resistant to change as anybody else." The governor, who according to the aide has never spoken at length about what went wrong, declined an interview request, as did several others who were top advisors at the time.
By 2007, it was clear that the Republican-dominated Legislature, which initially authorized the ambitious project, wanted nothing more to do with it. Lawmakers overwhelmingly voted to curb new public-private toll road deals.
Williamson, the man who conceived the plan and spearheaded the drive to build it, told Reason magazine in fall 2007 that the "retrenchment" would be temporary. Three months later, not long after being described by Texas Monthly as the "most hated person in Texas," Williamson was dead of a heart attack.
A year after that, following a series of noisy public hearings around the state, his brainchild was gone too.
"The name Trans-Texas Corridor is over with," said Perry in January 2009, as state transportation officials announced they were dropping the plan.
Sullivan points out that Texas is still building toll roads through public-private partnerships. "So even if one argued that the original plan was unsuccessful, the thrust and goals of the public policy have been achieved in a different way," he said.
Still, even the wariest opponents say the governor's dream is dead. Conservatives cheered last spring when the Legislature unanimously approved a measure expunging all references to the Trans-Texas Corridor from state statutes. On June 17, Perry signed it into law, effective immediately.