Sen. Kirk Watson vs. Ric Williamson Spat in the Statesman - The Real Skinny.

Ok, there’s a lot happening in the last few days, many of them are not ripe enough to share, but they are coming soon, so check back.

The whole freeway tolling planning process, from top to bottom is in turmoil. The political infighting below is just a snapshot of how the foundations are continuing to crack.

In 2005, when the CTRMA borrowed $200+ in debt for a few miles of 183A, toll bond dollars were easy to get.

But today, the cost of driving (gas) is high, and gas prices are not expected to drop again. AND, the costly bond insurance, like the ones used to bump up the US 183A bonds to investment grade, are now under severe Wall Street pressure for all the risky municipal debt they insured.

SA Express wrote about the effects of gas prices on tolls last year - HERE.

The overall US and global economy are both in terrible shape.

And Texans are driving less.

According to the Federal Highway Administration, Travel Volume Trends and Energy Information Agency, Short-Term Energy Outlook, Traffic volumes on urban arterial roadways in Texas in September 2007 were 1.3% lower than in September 2004. Over the same period, the U.S. retail gasoline price increased by 49.9%. The Energy Information Agency’s December 11, 2007 Short-Term Energy Outlook predicts that the average U.S. gasoline retail price will increase by another 21.6% between September 2007 and May 2008.

The pressures above are mounting to get the freeway tolls in, before it gets worse.

And, you add the chemically imbalanced Ric Williamson to the equation - then you've got real fireworks.

Sources say, the real reason for TxDOT (Ric Williamson) giving Sen. Kirk Watson a hard time about the nearly $1 Billion tax dollars (to shift Austin freeways to toll ways) was because Watson allowed the Eckhardt Amendments, (which some tollers feel “ties their grubby little hands”).

That is why Williamson is torturing Watson. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, see the Statesman article from yesterday here.

So, what can happen?

Well, perhaps TxDOT/Williamson is just torturing Watson, or maybe they are trying to get the unaccountble toll authority (CTRMA) to cover some or all of the debt.

In any case, it’s a bunch of crooks fighting over how they set up this unaccountable taxation of tolling our freeways with nearly $1 Billion tax dollars.

Also, I hear that perhaps CAMPO Executive Director Micheal Aulick’s retirement, might not have been his idea, but perhaps Kirk Watson’s. Sources say that Watson (and a couple other CAMPO members) were not happy with how Aulick was doing his job, and they want a more politically seasoned person to carry the toll road message.

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