Austin Toll Roads to fund Williamson County Freeways.

Today's article in the Statesman, "Travis officials call for toll road vote" tells the story of two Travis County Commissioners, Judge Sam Biscoe and Gerald Daugherty, who now, after almost two years, are asking that Travis County citizens be able to vote on a plan that tolls our Austin's freeways.

Of course we should be able to vote on these freeway tolls. Traditional toll roads in our country have been whole new route's designed and built as toll roads and the money collected funds the road you drive on. Austin's toll plan privitizes and tolls our freeways and the money collected goes into a slush fund, since the roads are already paid for.

The Statesman fails to point out that the opposition of allowing us to vote on tolls comes from Williamson County officials. Williamson County will syphon toll tax dollars from Travis County citizens for the benefit of Williamson County freeways.

The Statesman has also failed to report a host of disturbing inequities for Austin and Travis County:

For two years Travis County has been told, by the powers that be, that we must toll our freeways because there is no more money for free roads. Yet somehow, over the same two years, Williamson County has been given numerous free roads, without toll booths. Amazing.

The toll plan has 100% of the tolls on current freeways placed in Travis County. 0% of Williamson County’s current freeway's will have tolls on them. Zero.

It gets more absurd. Even though Travis County has three times the population than Williamson County, the majority of the toll authority board is made up of Williamson County people. Four of the seven are from Williamson County. The enabling legislation for the freeway tolling authority, a whole new layer of bureaucracy was created by Williamson County's Mike Krusee. And of course, the executive director of the toll authority is Williamson County's Mike Heiligenstein.

Before he was executive director, Mike Heiligenstein was a Williamson County Commissioner who focused on getting more freeway built for Williamson County. Heiligenstein voted to create the toll authority. Heiligenstein also named and voted for the Williamson folks who he wanted as toll authority board members.

Those board members Heiligenstein selected - later thanked Heiligenstein by hiring him for the $130,000 a year plus perks executive director position.

The Comptroller's report found these same board members giving No Bid “gas tax dollar” contracts to themselves and their friends. In 2005 Comptroller demanded that chairman Robert Tesch and board member Johanna Zmud resign because of conflicts of interests. A year has passed and the two board members continue to refused to resign. (http://www.window.state.tx.us/news/50309ctrma.html) The Comptroller's in-depth investigative report calls the toll plan “Double Taxation without Accountability” (http://www.window.state.tx.us/specialrpt/ctrma05/).

Records show, Mike Heiligenstein was divorced by his wife Anne in 2004, and she filed papers in Williamson County to garnish Heiligenstein's toll authority (CTRMA) wages for child support. If Heiligenstein can't be trusted to give money to his own kid's he'll have no problem funneling Travis toll tax dollars for free roads in Williamson County.

Since the Austin roads are already paid for, the toll revenue collected will go into a slush fund the Williamson County toll authority controls. Revenue collected in Travis County will be controlled and spent by those in Williamson County.

All the blame does not lie with the Williamson County crooks. Austin and Travis representatives voted for this unaccountable scam and ignored 93% of the public feedback that told them to vote NO on the double tax tolls. Here's the list of who voted FOR tolls on roads we've already paid for: Mayor Will Wynn, Councilmember Brewster McCracken, Rep. Mark Strama, County Commissioner Gerald Daugherty, Rep. Dawnna Dukes and more (make sure you remember them the next time you vote).

When you see the toll booths being built around Austin, just think about how they represent your $1,000’s of dollars a year helping Williamson County to build more free roads.

Sal Costello is the founder of www.AustinTollParty.com. The Political Action Committee he formed helped fire Karen "Toll Road Queen" Sonleitner, one of the Travis County Commissioners who voted to toll roads we've already paid for.

1 comment:

Sal Costello said...

Commissioner Ingalsbe concerned for “token study”





Rich Bailey, Exec. Asst. to Austin City Council Member Brewster McCracken, spoke of numbers given to

CAMPO – because of lack of public confidence they are requesting an independent review of the analysis and

they have contracted with a firm that is experienced with toll road plans. The cost for a more thorough review

will be $350,000. He spoke of entities that have agreed to contribute toward this review. CAMPO will accept the

report and act on the recommendations. Commissioner Ingalsbe voiced her concern about putting money into a

study that is a “token study” – she wants the study to be taken seriously. Mr. Bailey advised that there are no

toll roads proposed at this time for Hays County but many county residents will be using the toll roads to go to

work in the Austin area. Commissioner Carter voiced her concern about representation for Hays County – she

feels like this is an Austin problem. Judge Powers spoke of this being a regional problem and he feels like it is

important that Hays County have a voice. Commissioner Conley spoke of need for public confidence in the

figures being used and he supports this agreement. Mr. Bailey stated that the goal is to improve the mobility

situation. Commissioner Molenaar spoke of toll roads that will affect citizens of Hays County – he does not

support toll roads but he will support the study. [T1-601] A motion was made by Judge Powers, seconded by

Commissioner Conley to participate and contribute a sum of $10,000 to be taken from the consultant

line item/engineering assistance line item and the court furthermore agree to have Judge Powers be the

county representative. All voting “Aye”.