A Bridge Too Far

Sal Costello
In the spring of 2004, I found that TxDOT had a plan to toll a bridge near my neighborhood that had been under construction for years. It was fully funded with our gas tax dollars. I was astounded that a freeway, one that had already been paid for, would even be considered as a tollway. Through research I discovered that no city in the U.S. had ever converted ANY freeway to a tollway.

I also found disturbing evidence that many local and statewide politicians had sold us out to their special interests friends.

In the summer of 2004, 93% of the public feedback opposed the freeway toll plan that would privatize and toll almost every Austin freeway. Our elected officials, including Mayor Will Wynn, ignored the public outcry and voted for the double tax toll plan. When opposition to the plan was voiced by taxpayers, TxDOT repeatedly claimed that the toll plan could not be changed.

When I organized my neighbors to attend TxDOT and Metropolitan Planning Organizations meetings, to voice our opposition to the Toll Road Plan, the special interest politicians dismissed our concerns. They referred to us as NIMBYs (Not In My Backyard) complainers. As a marketing professional, I realized that the disgruntled taxpayers needed a unified organization to ensure that our concerns would be taken seriously. Thus, the AustinTollParty.com was born to protest taxation without representation Ð much like the "Boston Tea Party".

In December of 2004, TIME magazine reported what ATP had discovered months earlier. Rick Perry, the father of Freeway Tolls and the Trans Texas Corridor, had accepted well over a million dollars from the road and toll lobbyists.

In April of 2005, because Central Texans worked together to place political pressure on our elected officials, the toll plan in Austin (that "could not be changed") did change. The bridge near my home opened as a freeway - without tolls.

Central Texans opposing the tolling of freeways have forced politicians to revise a portion of the Toll Plan, re-evaluate the remainder of the plan and comply with the laws regarding terms of service, conflict of interest, etc. As we expand the concept of the ATP umbrella statewide, I am confident we can stop the conversion of freeways to tollways, stop the construction of the Trans Texas Corridor, and force the politicians to put the needs of the taxpayers before the desires of the special interest looters.

In May of 2005, TexasTollParty.com was born. Texas Toll Party encompasses the powerful strength of both Rural and Urban Texans. We are already tens of thousands strong. We are Republicans, Democrats and Independents, and together, with your help, we'll stop them from taking of what is already ours.

Please take a moment and help us spread the word thought Texas.

Sal Costello
Founder of TexasTollParty.com
(People for Efficient Transportation PAC)

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