NEWS ALTERT: CINTRA wins Hwy. 121 toll bid for 50 years

Cintra was selected today to operate State Hwy 121 and collect toll profits for the next 50 years. This will mark the second time in US history that a public highway, originally intended to be a freeway, is privatized and tolled for corporate profit.

The first public private partnership scheme for Hwy 91 in California cost taxpayers hundreds of millions more, not counting the high cost of tolls. A non-compete clause kept the state from increasing highway capacity on nearby roads. The state had to spend more tax payer dollars to buy back the toll roads for $207.5 million.

Right-of-way and a portion of the main lanes already built with public money will go to Cintra as a corporate subsidy. TxDot denies it was a freeway project “converted” to a toll road, because technically it was never open as a freeway, but we've paid well over $700 million plus the cost of right of way. Gov. Rick Perry announce the plan in North Texas just hours ago.

Perry's Transportation Advisor and lobbyist, Dan Shelly was rehired by Cintra in 2006. Cintra is also the majority partner in Cintra Zachry, which is planning the controversial Trans-Texas Corridor. Cintra Concesiones de Infraestructuras de Transporte SA will pay $2.1 billion for the rights to operate the very lucrative toll project through 2057, most probably with profits close to $100 Billion. THERE WILL BE NO TOLL RATE CONTROLS FOR 121...CINTRA WILL RAISE THE PRICE AS HIGH AS THEY’D LIKE OVER THE NEXT 50 YEARS.

From the Houston Chronicle/AP:

"The advantage is roads will be built sooner," (Sen.) Carona said. "What you won't hear about is toll rates will be raised unlike anything we have seen today."

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Steve Ogden, who pushed the 2003 bill that helped set up the toll road initiative, said he was "asleep or not smart enough" to recognize potential problems.

"We are giving away a public asset and don't have much say about it for 50 years," said Ogden, R-Bryan.

Former Toller Suits Up To Fight Tolls and TxDOT!

Sen. Ogden, co-author of Rep. Mike Krusee’s toll happy HB 3588, suits up to fight the good fight after he admits he was "duped" by Rep. Mike Krusee and others.

In a significant shift of the battle field, Finance Committee Chair Sen. Steve Ogden says TxDOT has gone too far. Ogden says TxDOT is “...Out of Control” via the Statesman. Here's more:

The powerful senator said the transportation department has “too many tools in their arsenal” to construct highways and the Legislature should take some of them back.

Ogden said he is concerned about the department’s plans to allow private contractors, for a large upfront fee, to build roads and charge tolls — perhaps forever. He said the department has as many as 21 projects under consideration.

“Do we really want to be turning over state highways to private contractors?” Ogden said.
The irony is that Ogden was the Senate author of the bill that in 2003 expanded the commission’s powers to construct roads. “I’m trying to correct the sins of the past,” Ogden said.
And from a Texas Observer article:
Ogden now feels he was duped, and said as much at the Senate Finance Committee hearing.

The 2003 transportation bill arrived in the Senate two weeks before the session ended, Ogden recalled, and was sold as a way to get roads built quickly without any public money. (In reality, the toll roads that will be operated by private companies will still be subsidized by taxpayers through tax breaks, low-interest loans, tax-exempt bonds, outright grants and in some cases, the actual pavement itself.)

In 2003, there also was no talk of privatizing the roads, he added. “The fact that it wasn’t brought up and we never got an opportunity to chew on it has created a huge political problem for us.”

Ogden glared at the cluster of TxDOT operatives. In another time, he might have ordered them to walk the plank or had them lashed to the sails. As it was, the only punishment he had available was a tongue lashing. “It’s not what TXDOT tells you. It’s what they don’t tell you,” he complained. He chided the department for its sneakiness and encouraged its bureaucrats to be more open about what they’re doing. “Running your own plays and hiding them from us is no way to run state business.”


We've all heard the repeated claim that when TxDOT converts existing roads into tollways we’ll have as many free lanes as exist today per state law? Right? Well, TxDOT LIES - ALL THE TIME.

TxDOT is no longer focused on transportation as much as revenue generation, and they need to steal our roads, our time and tax dollars to create money. This letter was
published as Statesman Letter to Editor on the 23rd:

We miss our lane

Before the MoPac Boulevard (Loop 1) toll road extension opened, residents of Wells Branch and the surrounding North Austin subdivisions had two free lanes that directly fed into southbound MoPac. Now these residents have the choice to pay 50 cents for about a half-mile on the toll road or enter the very congested one-lane free ramp onto MoPac.

The Texas Department of Transportation has robbed these residents of one of their access lanes to southbound MoPac — a lane that was paid for with our tax dollars.



Rep. Kolkhorst files bills to kill toll schemes

Rep. Lois W. Kolkhorst of Brenham has filed two bills which would stop the Trans-Texas Corridor and other toll road schemes.

HB 1881 will repeal the Trans-Texas Corridor from the transportation code. “Some toll systems work, such as Harris County, but many do not. Plenty of people share my concerns about these private toll roads and how they’ll threaten communities, violate our property rights, and create an unregulated transportation monopoly. My bill allows Texas to scrap the Trans-Texas Corridor plan and start over.”

Kolkhorst also filed HB 1880, which prohibits public pension funds from investing in a private toll road project. “No public money from a public pension fund should be used for a private toll road. It’s risky to invest our retiree pension funds into an unproven investment, especially with a foreign company. Texas doesn’t need a middle-man to build a road.”, Kolkhorst said.

Texas Monthly's detailed report of TxDOT Audit

Paul Burka of Texas Monthly has a great article with great insight, "Auditor's Report Calls for Legislative Reforms of Trans-Texas Corridor", HERE.

Road Kill

Road Kill
by Eileen Welsome, Texas Observer

Although the current Legislative session is only a few weeks old, Ric Williamson, the embattled chairman of the Texas Transportation Commission, has already incurred the wrath of numerous state lawmakers intent on curbing the Department of Transportation’s plans to pave the state with toll roads and a network of superhighways known as the Trans-Texas Corridor.

If recent incidents are harbingers, the road warriors at TXDOT will be forced to jettison their own aggressive agenda this session and focus on protecting the new powers they were handed just four years ago to radically alter the way roads are financed and built.

The showdown began a few weeks ago when Williamson, a friend of Gov. Rick Perry and an ex-legislator himself, failed to appear at a budget hearing before the Senate Finance Committee. One senator, pointing out that it’s customary for department heads to be present when their budgets are being considered, asked Mike Behrens, TXDOT’s executive director, where Williamson was. Behrens explained that Williamson’s schedule was too full, a remark that touched off an angry round of muttering. “Make sure he’s here on March 1st,” snapped one senator.

On March 1, the Lege will hold its first public hearing ever on the Trans-Texas Corridor and the plethora of privately operated toll roads being planned for the state. TXDOT has spent millions of dollars on advertising and consultants trying to convince the public that the best solution for Texas’ massive traffic jams is allowing private investors to build toll roads. But its public relations campaign has backfired, managing to enrage not only large segments of the driving public, but also state legislators, congressmen, and scores of local officials who sit on city councils, county commissions, and transportation councils. The chickens, as Malcolm X once said, have come home to roost.

Nearly a dozen bills have been introduced to rein in TXDOT’s plans, and more are expected. Leading the effort is Republican John Carona, a Dallas businessman and chairman of the Senate’s Transportation and Homeland Security Committee. Said Carona, “The Transportation Commission and the governor’s office are so focused on short-term cures that they have not studied the long-term ramifications of what they’re doing. And I think the long-term ramifications are disastrous for this state.” Read more of this great article (that keeps getting better) HERE.




Austin Mayor Kirk Watson’s (now Sen. Kirk Watson) back door deal with Intel cost city taxpayers $7.5 million in subsidies after they left us with the “Intel shell” eye sore (That deal should be a reminder of how Watson’s deals with special interests always costs the citizens more).

Watson’s City of Austin Prop 1, of the year 2000, diverted a whopping $67.2 million of our bond dollars, intended for free roads, into toll roads.

And, today tricky Sen. Watson is pushing Managed Lanes, a fancy way to say toll roads without using the “T” word.

If you want evidence of the $67.2 million diversion email me for the City of Austin document at sal@texastollparty.com

The Austin Chamber of Commerce loves them some tolls (click to read)


Call It What It Is TxDOT.

From a letter to the editor today, Tom Jeffrey says:

“Why not call a TxTag what it really is — a TaxTag!”.
And think about this. Have you seen the Tax-Tag marketing campaign via TV, billboards and more? Millions of dollars intended for freeways being spent to sell Texans on double tax tollways. Shameful.


BREAKING NEWS: State Auditor Warns TTC Costs and Benefits are Unknown.

Updated 2/24

A new astonishing State Auditor's Office report, raises grave concerns as the highest ranking Auditor in the state is unable to decipher how much the first part of the Trans Texas Corridor (TTC) project will actually cost, even though the first Cintra/TxDOT contract was signed two years ago.

The Audit also reveals TxDOT downplayed costs and withheld information.

The report focused on the Texas Department of Transportation's first of many sections of the TTC, the TTC-35 Comprehensive Development Agreement with Cintra-Zachry, LP.

Perhaps the most shocking part of the report is the fact that TxDOT could be required to forgo ALL the revenue it’s claimed the state would receive.

The revenue TxDOT promised to members of the legislature, the public and the press, has been one of the key selling points that TxDOT has used time and time again.

This new information ads fuel to the fire as thousands of Texans have attended public hearings to oppose the TTC. Many are outraged over TxDOT’s 90 day forceable eminent domain “quick-take” for over 500,000 acres of private land.

The report states that accounting “misallocations and exclusions” of work done to date on the 50 year contract, are of concern. Pulled from the report:

"Weaknesses in the Department’s accounting for project costs and monitoring of the developer create risks that the public will not know how much the State pays for TTC-35 or whether those costs were appropriate.

Not adequately monitoring developers also exposes the State to future financial liability.”
And, 53% of TTC-35 costs to date were incorrectly allocated to other projects. Invoices included hours billed that could not be tied to any progress reports or tasks performed. The report also states:
“The Department omitted indirect costs of $906,774 in fiscal year 2005 and $583,642 in fiscal year 2004.”
Also, from the summery:
There is a lack of reliable information regarding projected toll road construction costs, operating expenses, revenue, and developer income.”
UPDATE: The Houston Chonicle and Statesman offer articles, "Audit rebukes corridor costs, Report says TxDOT estimates unreliable for Trans-Texas plan" and "Auditor scolds agency for corridor project, Texas Department of Transportation downplayed costs, withheld information, audit says".

In 2005, the State Comptroller came out with an investigative report showing how Regional Mobility Authoritys that privatize and toll public highways are creating double taxation, by diverting tax dollars intended for free roads, into toll roads. The report also showed RMA board members giving no-bid contracts to themselves and their friends. Board members of RMA's have property in the vicinity of toll roads that have increased by as much as 989%.

Bureaucracy always costs more, and it allows much more waste and fraud.

The Texas Transportation Institute report that came out just weeks ago stated that tolls would NOT be needed if we indexed the gas tax to inflation, like most products and services we purchase.

The cost per mile for tolls, under the new TxDOT, is more than 15 times the cost of indexing the gas tax.

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"I THINK WE'VE CREATED A MONSTER" in TxDOT, says Sen. Kevin Eltife


Two TxDOT commission nominees got road hard and put away wet Wednesday after the Senate Nominations Committee grilled them with questions from tolls to secrecy to CDAs to big-ticket contracts.

A portion of the Statesman article:

The exchange in the nominations hearing marked the latest signal that many lawmakers are not happy with the transportation mega-agency, amid a continuing series of skirmishes between Senate transportation committee Chairman John Carona, R-Dallas, and Transportation Commission Chairman Ric Williamson.

During the nominations hearing, Ned Holmes of Houston and Fred Underwood of Lubbock at times looked like deer caught in headlights
, as senators grilled them about their views on controversies that have been swirling for months around the agency's management and operations.

In the end, assured by the two men that they support more openness and will get answers to lingering questions about tolls and financing, the committee voted unanimously to approve their appointments. Both need to be confirmed by the full Senate.

"I think we've created a monster" in the Texas Department of Transportation, state Sen. Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler, citing the agency's rush to approve toll roads and private financing packages that stirred continuing controversy.

"I think we're headed in a totally wrong direction,"
Eltife said. "I'm not so sure we haven't already signed away the farm."
Sen. Eltife says indexing the gas tax, the current form of taxation, is the most conservative way to pay for roads, instead of a whole new additional toll tax where companies will raise tolls for maximum profits.

Strangely, Sen. Kirk Watson, seemed concerned about accountability only, as he asked the two commission nominees questions of tolls. According to Watson, a toll monster is OK, if they appear to be upfront.

On the same day, one of the largest toll road operators in the world, Macquarie Infrastructure Group (MIG), reported gigantic profits of 76%, as it eyes to toll more Texas roads we've already paid for.

Senator John Corona has filed SB 149, which puts an end to non-compete agreements, which would put the brakes on efforts to toll Texas. An important transportation hearing is scheduled at the Texas Capital on March 1, at 8:30am. All citizens are encouraged to attend.

Video to come.


Toll Authority Admits it Impedes Traffic

Citizen says toll authority is impeding traffic.
Toll authority (CTRMA) admits, in an email, that it impedes traffic on free roads close to toll roads (even after it promised that additional lights would not be added to free roads to make tolls more attractive.)

Dear Toll Authority,

Just what in the heck are you doing with 183 just south of the San
Gabriel river? It appears, from I map I've seen, that you are going to direct all 183 traffic through a new stop light on 183A, instead of leaving the old road intact?

Malcom Terry
Toll Authority Responds:
From: spustelnyk@ctrma.org
Sent: Wednesday, February 21, 2007 8:38 AM

Subject: RE: Contact Page Request, CTRMA.org

Dear Mr. Terry,

Thank you for visiting the Mobility Authority Web site. Your observations
regarding US 183 are correct.

As you head south on US 183 from Liberty Hill you will automatically be shifted onto the new 183A frontage roads. If you want to stay on US 183 you will have to make a right hand turn at a traffic signal that is currently being installed. The 183A corridor will be the primary corridor for traffic in that area once it opens. In order to safely merge the two roads together we had to install a traffic signal. If I can answer any further questions, please let me know.

Steve J. Pustelnyk Director of Communications
Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority

(512) 996-9778(Office) (512)680-9997 (Cell)
Citizen replies:
Mr. Pustelnyk,

183A is not the primary corridor for those of us who have business in
Leander and Cedar Park. If this was purely to improve mobility, then there would be seamless flyovers to minimize the impact on existing roads.

183A is way over-priced with rates as high as $1.50 a mile in some places. The rate of $1.80 for the whole 11.6 mile trek, around Leander and Cedar Park, is still outrageous considering that the "free" frontage road system on the northern section will be just like
Parmer Lane, in that drivers will have to go through traffic signals every few miles. I just don't see how you can charge that much for and incomplete expressway. If you don't want to see a revolt, you had better advise those private investors to consider pricing the toll roads at a reasonable rate, put toll booths (with cash options) at every exit so that drivers pay for only the section they drive on, and to quit messing up the existing roads to favor the toll ways.

It has become obvious to me that this whole toll road system has less to do with improving mobility and more to do with lining the pockets of private toll road investors and property developers along the old and new routes. We were sold a bill of goods by being told that the toll roads would lighten the load on existing roads. What we were not told (although we should have known) is that the existing roads were going to have more traffic impedance via more signals, an explosion of development and therefore more traffic than ever before.
I will be contacting Senator Steve Ogden, Representative Dan Gattis, and Governor Rick Perry about this. You and I both know that the government can do whatever they want and if we turn-up the heat on those good ole boys who made this sweet deal for private investors, we may just get the roads put back into the hands of the people. I suggest you keep your resume updated.


Malcom Terry

Toller Mayor Wynn wants to also sell our Airport

The revenue thirsty City of Austin Mayor Will Wynn wants to sell Austin’s NEW airport to the highest bidder, according to the Austin American Statesman today. Will Wynn also pushed to privatize our public freeways over the past few years. He voted to toll roads we’ve already paid for, as a member of CAMPO, everytime. A few snippets from the Statesman article:

Mayor Will Wynn, at least, is convinced that the city should unload Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.

Wynn said he has been lobbying his council peers for several months on the subject, picking up on a move by Chicago Mayor Richard Daley to lease that city's Midway Airport.

"There's no financial reason whatsoever for the city to own the airport, as by law we can make not one penny from its operations or even property rentals," Wynn said Tuesday.
The privatization scheme, the selling of public assets, offers a short term financial quick fix for politicos and their campaigns. Short sighted politicians need to think and plan beyond the short-term gain. Whether we are talking about privatizing public highways, lottery or airport...it's all the same: Politicos we can't trust make the deal, give our assets away for cheap in exchange for campaign contributions. The special interests then sell it back to us for a big profits. That's dead wrong.

Now Mayor Wynn and others are out there pushing "Managed Lanes" - which are nothing more than tolls on roads we’ve already paid for - without using the “Toll” word. They are trying to trick the public by using the words “Managed lanes” instead of "Tolls".

TxDOT and the Toll Road "Super Lawyer" We Paid For.

"Who’s Your Daddy?"
by Eileen Welsome of The Texas Observer
February 20th, 2007

Who’s Your Daddy? Not TXDOT, Ric Williamson, the chairman of the Texas Transportation Commission, assured lawmakers this morning.

The pugnacious Williamson made another appearance before the House Transportation Committee to discuss the state’s toll-road-building binge. Accompanying him was Geoffrey S. Yarema, a soft-spoken attorney from LA who was recently dubbed a “Super Lawyer” by a California magazine and has become the go-to man for state agencies wanting to jump into the toll-road biz. (We put in a call to Yarema’s office to get his hourly billing rate and were informed he’d buzz us back just as soon as his plane touched down in LA.) Read the rest of the article HERE.


Sen. Watson Charges Forward with Impotent Legislation.

Sen. Kirk Watson Joins Forces with
Toller Rep. Mark Strama to
file Impotent Toll Legislation

Sen. Watson, the father of diverting tax dollars for toll roads (diverted more than $67 million bond dollars, intended for free roads, into toll roads) is trying to fool the public again.

Watson’s anemic bill (SB 668) would have MPO’s approve toll authority plans and try to forbid TxDOT from showing preferences to regions that don’t toll.

Sen. Watson has been strutting like a peacock, trying to sell the bill as the progress the public craves. The Stateman's article last week:
Other provisions of the proposal would allow local governments to be reimbursed for money they put into road projects that later become toll roads and would require the approval of metropolitan planning organizations on many decisions involving toll roads that the regional authorities now make by themselves.

In addition, the governing boards over local toll projects would have to include at least one elected official, and they would have to file an annual financial report detailing data about planned and existing toll roads.

"We need to have people accountable to the voters" on the regional authorities, he said. "There's a need for people to feel like the decisions are made in the open. . . . This bill would do that."
The public hasn't asked for accountable double tax tolls, it's asked politicos like Watson to stop tolling tax funded roads!

Watson's bill doesn't stop the freeway thieves, but it allows more crooks at the revenue generating table. The bill is the equivalent of asking tollers to wipe their feet on the doormat before they take our roads. It's kind of like going to war with two slingshots and a mildly retarded pal.

The fact is, the bill places more power into the hands of Watson himself. As chair of the MPO in Central Texas, Watson altered the local MPO rules in January to give himself all the power on that board. MPO board members can’t even place an item on the agenda, if it’s not approved by Watson and his hand picked executive committee.

The gatekeeper, Watson, has yet to allowed ANY citizens at the table of his new "Phase II" task committee. Why not? To re-sell the toll roads to us, Watson and fellow tollers must repackage the toll plans - without using the nasty "toll" word. Managed lanes is the new improved word for tolls. TxDOT is already out there selling managed lanes without using the "T" word - CLICK HERE, this Austin Business Journal is a must read.

State Rep. Mark Strama (who voted to toll roads we've already paid for in 2005) filed HB 1574 last week, the House version of Senator Kirk Watson’s SB 668. Strama released the following statement:
“This bill incorporates many of the fundamental principles that I believe should govern toll roads - transparency, accountability, fairness, and efficiency. I’ve been discussing these principles with my constituents, with transportation planners, and with Senator Watson for over a year, and I’m pleased to join Senator Watson in offering this legislation."
In contrast, Rep. Leibowitz, and Rep. Coleman have filed real bills that will really stop toll roads.

Tricking the public and amassing more contributions from the special interests will allow Watson to run for Gov, some years down the road. When you're a millionaire with a napoleon complex, and you have nothing else to do, why the hell not?

The Revolving Door - Professional White Collar Looting

The revolving door, an important tool used for looting from taxpayers, continues to turn for the special interests.

Some folks know about the bigger stories, like how Texas Gov. Perry's transportation advisor, former lobbyist Dan Shelley, was rehired by contract winner Cintra last summer. But there are many hundreds more that take place each year, under the radar, within all areas of our government, especially in the lucrative area of roads and tolls (like PBS&J, Cintra, Macquarie and URS to name a few). TxDOT is a out of control bureaucratic organization that creates traffic congestion - with an unending appetite for revenue.

The problem becomes clear, when it pays too well for public officials to support wildly unpopular road and land grabs.

San Antonio Express reports key (so called) public transportation people in Dallas and Houston moving to the private sector for the pay-off. Including North Texas Tollway Authority Director Allan Rutter resigned Wednesday after a closed-door board meeting. Harris County Judge Robert Eckels announced he will step down.

Just months ago, San Antonio Metropolitan Planning Organization Director, Toller Joanne Walsh, moved to Parsons Brinckerhoff. And, Alamo Regional Mobility Authority director Tom Griebel is now a vice president with Pape-Dawson Engineers.

And, when the individual enters from the corporate side to "represent the public" it's an issue as well.


Yesterday, Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports a former URS executive, Cinde Weatherby Gilliland, was hired as regional transportation coordinator for Forth Worth and in that capacity, Gilliland “will represent the city's interests in a slew of high-dollar projects”.

What do we know about URS?

URS, has one of the most disturbing records of inflating traffic forecasts, which allows doomed toll roads schemes to be built. The taxpayer always foots the bill, while the profiteers profit.

URS has produced inaccurate forecasts for nearly a half-dozen toll road projects in Florida. In some cases, the roads drew only half the cars URS predicted. One of those, the Suncoast Parkway, was projected to make $70 million; in tolls in its first year of operation, and it produced only $7 million.

Forbes, in 9/3/01, offered the following scathing statement:
"It has become painfully clear to bondholders and politicians that many of the public toll-supported projects built in the past decade, the majority blessed by URS and its ilk, have become financial albatrosses."
Standard and Poor's bond analysts, after reviewing forecasting case studies for years, have concluded:
"Optimism bias remains a consistent feature of toll road traffic forecasting."
City of Austin Councilperson Brewster McCracken's 'Independent Toll Study’, which was hijacked by tollers, hired URS. The study was completed months ago, and has proven to be a complete waste of $300,000. In Central Texas, Sen. Watson’s Toll Task force will have the same fate, if he continues to not allow the public a seat at the table.


Many would agree that one of the worst boondoggles in Texas history was the Camino Colombia toll road, which was promised to be a 'generator of regional economic activity'. Gov. Perry's TxDOT, who are now pushing the Trans Texas Corridor land grab and freeway tolls, also praised support for the Camino Colombia.

URS forecasted the traffic revenue for Camino Colombia at $9 million for the first year - but it only produced $500k. That is about 6% of the URS forecast!

Camino Colombia was quickly sold auction style on the steps of the Webb County Courthouse in 2004, with TxDOT in attendance. John Hancock Financial Services Inc. bought back its investment for $12 million at that auction. TxDOT then paid John Hancock a premium of $20 million, $8 million more than was needed.

Taxpayers keep paying for corrupt failures, while our "leaders" pretend to be working for the public best interest. They continue to profit - and use the revolving door to work both sides of the table - to continue the fleecing of the taxpayer.


Privatization is dismantling the nation's interstate highway network.

Privatization is dismantling the nation's interstate highway network, with the support and encouragement of the U.S. Department of Transportation and, until recently, without congressional review. Read about in Star Telegram's article HERE:

"Privatization, on the other hand, lets operators increase tolls rapidly, robs the public of a degree of control and does not guarantee service and safety levels. A year ago, highway privatization was a little-understood niche financing scheme. It is fast becoming the financing of choice, as public interest has been sacrificed for the almighty dollar."
The public chimes in on Texas Gov. Perry's Privatization schemes in the Dallas Morning news with seven (7) letters to the editor, including this one:
What is wrong with Texas government? Gov. Rick Perry wants to sell the lottery to a company that just hired his son. Sounds like nepotism to me. Why and how can Texas sell sovereign U.S. soil to Spain for the Trans-Texas Corridor?

The only person I see benefiting from any of this is Mr. Perry. Now he also has imposed mandatory shots for sixth-grade girls to prevent HPV.

Society is corrupt and collapsing. Chaos and crime seem to be the new world order. Texas had a chance to get rid of Mr. Perry, but it's still sleeping or just stupid.

Steven McNeely, Cedar Hill


Shouts of “Hitler” and "Imperialism" Ring at Anti-TTC Meeting

Gov. Perry’s Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) continues to “fast Track” Perry's vision of the Trans-Texas Corridor , TTC-35 and TCC-69, also known as the first step of the open border Nafta Superhighway, which will span from Mexico to Canada.

CorridorWatch and Citizens of Waller County led an Anti-TTC meeting in Wallis last weekend. The groups discussed how the TTC, the largest land-taking in Texas history will force Texas families from their home, via eminent domain. Foreign companies like Cintra and Macquarie will profit for decades off TTC Comprehensive Development Agreements (CDA's). Macquarie has recently purchased a group of Texas newspapers to silence critical press.

The state has attempted to create an illusion that there is nothing to worry about and the fears that have been expressed by the many thousands of Texans that attended hearings last fall, are unfounded.

In reality, a careful reading of their own web site reveals a confirmation of those fears. TxDOT’s own web site states that property will be taken through ‘Quick Take' authorized by HB 3588 to force homeowners out in just 91 days.

From the Sealy news report, “Citizens speak out against proposed TTC-69”, shouts of “Hitler” ring out at the Anti-TTC meeting:

"Hitler took the autobahn and took all the land," a concerned citizen said. "What are we going into? Imperialism?"

"Eminent domain has to pay you for your land," Linda Stall said. "But you will get what the TxDOT appraiser says it's worth. It's not a question of if. It's a question of how much."
This week, Paul Burka of Texas Monthly wrote about TxDOT's view that Gov. Perry is their one and only boss - TxDOT Chair Ric Williamson claims an imperial governorship. Burka states, "The governor is not the boss of the Texas Transportation Commission. Constitutionally, the governor is not Williamson's boss. The Legislature is."

Senator John Corona, chairman of the transportation and homeland security committee, has filed SB 149, which puts an end to non-compete agreements, which would put the brakes on efforts to toll Texas. Sen. Corona has scheduled a transportation hearing at the Texas Capital on March 1, and all citizens are encouraged to attend.


TxDOT's Ric Williamson: Human Piñata Part Deux

Before Sen. Carona knocked Williamson's head off (see part I: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jv2LpOhSquo) Rep. Linda Harper Brown gave him a few wacks.

Rep. Coleman’s Bill Would STOP NEW TOLLS DEAD.

Rep. Garnett Coleman filed a House Bill that calls for a Moratorium on all new toll roads in Texas!
(House Bill 998) In 2005, the great Rep. Coleman filed a similar bill, CLICK HERE to see what Reps voted YES (The Good Eggs) and what Reps voted NO (The Bad Eggs) - see the small print in the middle of page.

"Texans already pay for state highways through the gasoline tax and now they're being asked to pay twice with tolls," Coleman told KTVT-TV. "So clearly, the public is being nickeled and dimed."

Coleman believes it is more efficient to use gasoline taxes to pay for road construction than to use tolls, which require an extensive and expensive collection infrastructure. Coleman is supported by a Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) study that found the TxDOT had exaggerated it's needs by $30 billion to make toll roads appear to be the only option for lawmakers. The TTI report (watch video here) found indexing the gas tax to inflation could replace the need for tolls.

Be sure to contact your Rep today, and tell them to vote YES for Coleman's Toll Moratorium for TxDOT - HB 998.


Two ranking Congressmen Cast Doubt on Privatizing Roads (click here to read SA Express article)

Subcommittee Chairman Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., said some privatization deals favor investors over motorists.

BREAKING NEWS: PBS&J Overcharged States by Tens of Millions and PBS&J working with Austin Chamber of Commerce to hoodwink press.

PBS&J Hid Millions in Overcharges

The Miami Herald reports today, that PBS&J, a major toll road contractor with TxDOT, is using the $36.6 million embezzlement found in 2006, to hide millions in overcharges. Excerpts from today's news:
"PBS&J has attributed some of the millions in over billing to three former employees who tried to cover up a $36.6 million embezzlement. But in filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the firm also admitted to its own over billing, although it won't say by how much. One big client, the Florida Department of Transportation, estimated that more than half of the approximately $11 million it was overcharged had nothing to do with the embezzlement."

"Attorneys for Garcia said in a court filing that PBS&J is using the embezzlement to hide its own over billing."

TxDOT did it’s own secretive PBS&J investigation in 2006. When reporters found out about the fraud and that TxDOT had stopped giving out PBS&J contracts for some time, TxDOT refused to share details, including how many millions were stolen from taxpayers, and how many millions might be paid back.

A Federal grand jury is also investigating PBS&J for illegally reimbursing its employees for campaign contributions.

In Central Texas, PBS&J has joined with Washington Group International (WGI) and United Toll Systems (UTS) to track and trace all cars on the $2.5 billion Central Texas Turnpikes that have been opening over the last months. A database of ALL traffic is being created - Watch this KXAN video report of “Camera’s capturing license plates on toll roads”.

In a nutshell, here’s how it works: PBS&J illegally contributes money to local politicians, they get fat contracts, at times PBS&J charges millions just for studying a problem for years, according to a lawsuit:
"PBS&J had done nothing but spend millions of taxpayer dollars to 'study' the problem."
PBS&J working with
Austin Chamber of Commerce
to hoodwink press.

According to a confidential source, PBS&J's Alistair Miller sent out an email just 2 days ago, to help fill the upcoming Austin Chamber of Commerce press conference parking lot:
From: Miller, Alastair
Sent: Tuesday, February 13, 2007 3:11 PM
To: Austin (All Locations)
Subject: Vehicles for Press Conference

The Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce is facilitating a press conference at Zilker Park on February 20th at 10:00 am to discuss transportation related issues in our region. We have been requested by the Chamber to provide 20 vehicles in an effort to fill the parking lot where the press conference will be conducted. I am looking for volunteers to assist with this request. I anticipate it will require approximately 2 to 3 hours of your time. Please let me know if you have the availability and the desire to assist with this assignment and I will provide you with further details.

Alastair Miller
Find PBS&J connections with Rep. Mike Krusee/Melinda Wheatley, Sen Kirk Watson, Convicted Criminal Pete Peters, Alliance of Cities, John Langmore, Peggy Croslin, Councilman Brewster McCracken.

Costello vs. Williamson

CLICK HERE TO READ Costello vs. Williamson from 2004. The transcript between Ric Williamson and I proves TxDOT's top dog doesn't know his own toll plans. You'll also read how TxDOT says it costs 25 cents (a quarter) to collect a 50 cent or more toll at a cash booth. How's that for bureaucratic waste?


Burka's Texas Monthly Blog Reports: Williamson, Carona to Meet Today

From Burka's Texas Monthly Blog: "Toll roads aside, the most significant part of the exchange, which I have italicized in my transcription below, is Carona's challenge of Williamson's view of an imperial governorship (my description, not Carona's)."

"Williamson's "one boss to work for" comment, referring to the governor, was made during the committee hearing, before Carona began asking questions. The trouble is, Williamson is wrong. The governor is not the boss of the Texas Transportation Commission."

"Constitutionally, the governor is not Williamson's boss. The Legislature is. Carona is right and Williamson is wrong."

TxDOT Arrogance Displayed at House Hearing

More cocky Ric "Toll Everthing" Williamson:

The blog video is also here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jv2LpOhSquo

Ric Williamson Falling

What happens when an appointed chair of a powerful agency, in control of the states infrastructure, has gone off the deep end? Not playing with a full deck. The lights are on but no body is home. Fruit Loops. Bonkers.

At the very least, Ric Williamson is out of control.

Can Rick Perry's hand picked TxDOT chair be impeached?

Here's what happened yesterday.

State Sen. John Carona, slipped into Krusee’s House Transportation committee hearing to once again try to schedule a meeting with TxDOT’s Ric Williamson, who was testifying. Apparently, Williamson has been refusing to meet with Carona, the chair of the Senate Committee on Transportation and Homeland Security.

"I just wondered if I could ask you, Chairman Williamson, if you and I might meet sometime this week on important transportation issues," Carona said.

"You are a clever guy," Williamson said, which got some laughs. "But I have to be sure that I haven't worn out my welcome."

"Well, it will go a long way to the relationship if I can see you this week, at your convenience, this week, on some transportation issues," Carona said. "We might find we can have more in common on these issues than we realize, but we really can't achieve any of that unless we meet."

"I look forward to visiting with you," Williamson said.

"This week?" Carona asked.

"Yes sir."

"OK. All right, thank you." Carona said.

"Visiting with you about the appointment," Williamson added.

"Oh, you mean you can't commit?" Carona said, surprised.

"I'll call you," Williamson said.

"Can I expect sometime this week, an appointment?' Carona asked.

"I will call you," Williamson said.

This is where Carona laid in.

"Well, this highlights part of the problem right here," Carona said. "It is this kind of lack of commitment and artful dodging for something as basic as an appointment to meet with you that causes the hostility and the friction that exists right now."

Carona continued, "The fact that you would sit there and be so arrogant that you would not even commit to a meeting date when I'm telling you that over the next several days I'll be available at anytime that will work for you is very troubling," he said. "It certainly doesn't build the kind of relationship that I think any of us want to see."

To end the conversation Williamson said, "Thank you,"

"Sir, you're refusing to make a commitment with me this week?" said Carona, who was again surprised at the artful dodge.

"Uh, frankly senator, I'm speechless," Williamson said.
Williamson is an arrogant bully, who I now believe could have some mental problems.

The unstable Williamson claims he only has one boss, the Governor, when he is supposed to represent the people of Texas.
To Williamson, Texans are just fools to be harvested of our roads and our land.

But, don’t take my word for it, here’s what others have said about Williamson:

"This Ric guy is a piece of work.
Full of off the wall projections and recommendations

and yet does not know what his own agency is already doing."

— Texas Homeland Security Director Steve McCraw, 1/06

–Rep. Joe Pickett (El Paso), 7/06

Not only is that double taxation,
it is taxation without representation
Frisco Mayor Pro Temp Maher Maso, 1/06

"TxDOT leadership has begun to take on a very different
and mean spirited tone of late
— Bexar County Commissioner Tommy Adkinsson, 1/07

“I've worked with TxDOT very well, but not since
Ric Williamson has been onboard the
Commission and really
not since Rick Perry has been
Governor because they don't
like input, they don't want
comments that might be
constructive to this process.”

— Dallas County Commissioner, Kenneth Mayfield, 7/06

“Highway extortion” “Unreasonable”
State Sen. Jon Lindsay (Houston), 1/07

“local branches of government and the Legislature
are no longer part of the process.”
— Ft. Worth Mayor Mike Moncrief, 7/06

"State transportation officials have pushed San Antonio
leaders, treated them rudely and ignored them."
— Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, 8/05

"It's unfortunate that one individual would act so childish,
to boycott a summit that is so important to
this state simply
because of personal reasons."

— Rep. Linda Harper Brown, 8/05


SA EXPRESS: Profits Over Motorists? (click to read)

Perry's son Hired by firm that Stands to Profit from Privitization of Texas Lottery

TxDOT Forcing Texans to Acquire TxTAGs

Email from Rachelle, with her permission. If you are with the press, contact me at sal@texastollparty.com if you wish to reach Rachelle:

Hello Sal,

I didn't know who else to contact besides the news media. And they don't always understand our concerns.

I have been on the AustinTollParty.com email list for several years and feel strongly about putting a toll tag on my vehicle. I feel like it is a violation of my right to privacy for the government to be able to track my where abouts and daily travel. I do not mind paying to use I-130 or SH-45. Those roads were initially intended to be toll roads. However, I absolutely refuse to put a tracking device on my car.

None the less, I have been carpooling with a guy from work who also pays cash to use the toll roads. This has happened to us on two occasions. When using I-130 on February 6, 2007 at approximately 4:45-4:55pm, we entered the North bound ramp to I-130 from Pecan in Pflugerville. We through our change into the bucket only for the sign to read "Lane Closed". So we paid our money and the booth was closed. The only other lane at that on ramp is for Tx Tags ONLY. There is no other way to enter the tollway and pay cash. When exiting off of SH-45 we informed the attendant that the booth was closed and that there was no other way to enter the ramp and pay cash. We were told that we would receive a bill in the mail and that we could dispute the bill if we knew the date and time the booth was closed. This sounds like a lot of work for their mistake.

When we were headed to work this morning (February 13, 2007 at 7:15-7:20am), we exited I-130 South bound at Pecan. Again, the cash lane stated "Lane Closed". We through our money into the bucket anyway and drove on. This is outrageous that they let you get on the tollway with no way to pay cash to exit. If they are going to let you on the tollway their should be a way for you to pay cash to exit or give you ample notice so you can exit early or later if the lanes are going to be closed. I am very concerned about this situation. In my own vehicle I avoid the toll road all together, but when carpooling with the other driver it is his decision to use the tollway and pay cash.

Also, during the month of January, my husband used my car and went through several toll plazas in the TxTag lane. Abby Gonzalez with Tx DOT has stated numerous times on the local news that we would be billed in the mail for these miss happs. However, here we are half way through February and I have not yet received an invoice for the tolls in January. This is slightly irritating to me because I am totally ready to pay for our usage, however the State has not been prompt about billing. I am worried that I will get the bill and it will only give me one or two days to pay or it will be past due.

Please see what you can do. I'm not sure if anything can be done. I just want everyone to know how dysfunctional the tollways are. Not to mention the 183A fiasco. That is just infuriating!! They are forcing people to purchase a Tx Tag to use the tollway. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions, I have listed my information below.

Thank you for your time,

Lou Dobbs on selling U.S. highways

Lou Dobbs says "This is Outrageous!" and "Shortsighted" that politcos would sell taxpayers roads without a vote. Watch this important report, click the arrow.


Houston blogger reports another TxDOT Scandal


Sal, I managed to contact Art Zamorano by phone and he confirmed that CAMPO will meet at Joe C. Thompson tonight. Rich

Toll Tax Zombie/Vampires Hide within Layers of Toll Road Bureaucracy.

The national average of tolls per mile is only 9 cents a mile.

The unaccountable revenue hungry Central Texas toll authority promised citizens a cost of 12 to 15 cents a mile.

But they lied.

Drivers will pay 40 cents, 64 cents and even $1.50 a mile!
The toll roads induce traffic congestion to profit. A dollar here and the quickly adds up to $1,000's a year.

New Texas Tolls as
much as 16X the
National Average!

This is the complete article from the Statesman today. It fails to use the word “Bureaucracy”, nor does it mention the millions of tax dollars (intended for free roads) that were diverted into these toll roads:

Toll roads:
Paying a lot to drive a little

$1.50-per-mile spot near Lakeline Mall illustrates fee discrepancies.

By Ben Wear
Monday, February 12, 2007

So, what does it cost you to drive on Central Texas' emerging toll road system?

Well, about 12 cents a mile. Unless it's 18 cents, or 40 cents, or 64 cents. Or, in one notable spot near Lakeline Mall, a cool $1.50 a mile.

State and local toll officials chose to install a system that is based on paying every so often, rather than a more old-fashioned "closed road" system in which drivers pass toll plazas on the way in and out and pay a set per-mile amount for their exact mileage. Inevitably, the "open road" approach introduces sizable inconsistencies, with longer trips on the tollway typically more economical than a short jaunt.

Other decisions by toll authorities, particularly choosing to have almost all ramps cost 50 cents for cash customers, have only exacerbated the situation. For some drivers in an area unfamiliar with toll roads in any form, the system has been a source of puzzlement and consternation. Why are there some exits and entrances that are free, drivers wonder, while others nearby have booths and electronic gantries? How can it possibly be fair, they ask, to pay 45 cents to gain just 500 yards?

That will be the situation at the southern end of the 183-A tollway, just north of RM 620, after the road opens in early March and begins charging drivers in late spring.

Northbound motorists will be able to get off at Lakeline Mall Drive, ominously posted as the "last free exit." If they do, they'll have to get through a stoplight on the frontage road before proceeding north.

Or they can go to the next exit, Lakeline Boulevard. In that brief interval, however, they'll pass an electronic toll gantry and be hit with that 45-cent toll. To make it even more confusing, drivers without electronic toll tags are not even supposed to be on the road at that point and will get a violation notice in the mail if they are.

Total distance traveled between the two exits: about three-tenths of a mile. That equates to $1.50 a mile.

"It's just not right," said Cedar Park resident Tom Nehmzow, who would dearly love to exit for free at that second ramp because he takes Lakeline Boulevard home. The Lakeline Mall exit, he said, will be inundated with people looking to avoid paying.

"What they're going to create there is a tremendous traffic jam at Lakeline Mall Drive," he said. "You've got a stoplight at the very bottom of the ramp, so it's going to back up onto the tollway. It's got to."

The irony is that Nehmzow, a manufacturer's representative who drives a lot around the area, has a toll tag and supports toll roads in general.

"Overall, I would say the toll road system is pretty cool. I really enjoy it," he said. "I just think this particular situation is a rip-off."

Officials with the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority, which is building and will operate 183-A, have been bracing for this sort of reaction.

They have an even broader problem, however.

The startup agency originally was going to build 11.6 miles of tollway, all the way from RM 620 to U.S. 183 north of Leander. But a traffic and revenue study done about three years ago indicated that, in the road's first decade, traffic north of RM 1431 would not justify the additional $100 million or so necessary to build express lanes all the way.

So the agency decided instead to build about 4.5 miles of tollway on the south end and then free two-lane frontage roads for the seven northernmost miles. But to pay back money borrowed to build all this, the agency will charge $1.80 for that 4.5-mile tollway trip. That's 40 cents a mile.

Of course, if you happen to live in Leander or points north, or have other business up that way, you'll be able to drive the whole 11.6 miles for that $1.80, stopping at a few stoplights in the free part. Cost: 15.5 cents a mile.

"Admittedly, it does get confusing," said Mike Heiligenstein, executive director of the mobility authority since shortly after it was created in 2002. He compared the situation to a water system, in which early users of the system might have to pay for more of the startup costs of water mains but people in more outlying areas developed later get lower costs.

"We tried to hit the middle ground and give everyone a little something," he said. "Not everything's always fair."

As for that Lakeline Boulevard anomaly, Heiligenstein points out that originally the Lakeline Mall Drive exit was going to carry a 50-cent charge (45 cents for people with toll tags). But that would have put the last free exit on northbound U.S. 183 well south of RM 620.

"We added that as a sort of convenience, as a courtesy," he said.

And Heiligenstein pointed out, as did others, that if people stay on 183-A for those extra 500 yards and pay that 45 cents, they're actually purchasing time rather than distance: the time saved by avoiding a stoplight.

That same logic applies on the Loop 1 tollway just north of Parmer Lane, one of three new toll roads built in Central Texas by the Texas Department of Transportation, where going through a toll point south of Wells Branch Parkway for 45 cents gains just seven-tenths of a mile. That equates to 64 cents a mile. But those drivers won't have to stop at the Scofield Ridge Parkway traffic light on the frontage road.

The state and mobility authority could reduce these disparities, of course, by lowering the toll rate at particular ramps. But to satisfy the bond holders looking to get paid back, they then would have to raise the toll rates somewhere else.

And then there's the matter of quarters, dimes and nickels.

When the state was designing the Loop 1, Texas 45 North and Texas 130 toll roads more than five years ago, electronic toll technology was a generation behind where it is now. The bond community, recognizing that a sizable portion of the customer base would never get an electronic toll tag, demanded that the three roads have facilities at every tolling point to collect cash.

Toll authorities increasingly have been setting rates in multiples of 25 cents, because automatic coin collection machines operate better with a single coin size and because it simplifies the coin scramble for drivers. That shortens time at booths and thus reduces toll plaza traffic congestion.

So, to diminish the per-mile disparities, couldn't the toll on some ramps have been just 25 cents? The state Transportation Department decided against that, said Bob Daigh, the Austin district engineer. Daigh was in the agency's turnpike division when the Austin roads were in the final planning stages.

"It's driver expectation," Daigh said. "They need to know, 'This is a ramp plaza, and it's 50 cents.' If you make that one 25 cents, you've introduced a question in the driver's mind as he goes to the next one. He has his quarter out, and it's really 50 cents, so you stack up traffic while he's searching for a second quarter."

Joseph Giglio, a professor of corporate strategy at Boston's Northeastern University and an expert on toll systems, said drivers will sort all this out soon enough.

"We're not talking about introducing the metric system," Giglio said. And if people don't want to pay for a few hundred yards and an avoided stoplight, they won't.

"That's a discretionary choice. There's a willing buyer and seller. Nobody is insisting you pay that 45 cents."

Inconsistent toll rates

The approach taken by the Austin area's two tollway operators means that the cost per mile varies widely, depending on the length and specifics of any given turnpike trip.

Trip Length Toll cost* Cost per mile


Lakeline Mall Drive to Lakeline Blvd. 0.3 $0.45 $1.50

RM 620 to RM 1431 4.5 $1.80 $0.40

RM 620 to South San Gabriel River 11.6 $1.80 $0.16

Loop 1

Wells Branch Pkwy. to Parmer Lane 0.7 $0.45 $0.64

Loop 1/45 North

Parmer to I-35 in Round Rock 4.5 $0.68 $0.15

Loop 1/45 North/130

Parmer to U.S. 79 15.5 $1.80 $0.12

130/45 North

I-35 to U.S. 79 9.8 $1.13 $0.12


I-35 in Georgetown to U.S. 290 25.6 $2.70 $0.11

I-35 in Georgetown to U.S. 183** 49 $5.40 $0.11

* Cost for passenger vehicle with 10 percent toll tag discount. Vehicles with more than two axles are charged an additional toll amount for each additional axle.

** Full length of Texas 130 when final two segments are completed later this year.

Source: Published toll rates, staff research


New coalition calls privatization ‘pawn-shop mentality’

From Jami Jones of Land Line Magazine:

SPECIAL REPORT: New coalition calls privatization ‘pawn-shop mentality’

Friday, Feb. 9, 2007 – The united voice of the entire range of highway users and the highway-based service community told the federal government today that privatizing the nation’s roads is all about big-business profit, and that it short-changes the needs of the highway system.

The coalition, Americans for a Strong National Highway Network, held a press conference Friday morning at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, outlining the group’s concerns about the federal push to privatize more highways.

A letter was also sent to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary E. Peters Thursday afternoon.

Federal promotion of privatization deals that do not consider highway users’ interest as the top priority will not achieve your goals of promoting safety, mobility, economic growth, and congestion relief,” the members of the coalition wrote in the letter to Peters.

If ensuring the profit for private companies and quick cash for state and local governments remain the top priorities, these plans could actually lead to a decline in safety and mobility on both the privatized roads and the parallel public roads, as private companies try to maximize their profits and prevent competition.”

Read more HERE.


TxDOT's Dirty Tricks

TxDOT refuses to let the Public set up a table for a venue we paid for. And, read the SA EXPRESS 281 story, "Toll foes show up in force at hearing"

Revenue Hungry councilmember Jennifer Kim can't add

CLICK HERE to take the revenue hungry Jennifer "I don't want to wait in line at the airport" Kim's, Toll Poll. Our councilmember is so eager to suck us dry of our money that her toll poll number percentages don't even add up to the usual 100%. Who needs math when you just want more dollars from taxpayers? Money, Money, Money. 4:15pm Wednesday the messed up poll reads:

Tolled highways with free service roads

Managed lanes with free alternative lanes

Adjust the gas tax

Build fewer roads

Also note that the tricky Jennifer Kim, fails to tell folks that managed lanes would be toll lanes. I'm waiting for Kim to have a survey about her other revenue hungry deal - her Red Light Camera scam.

Austin Business Journal also has a poll and area for comments.