CONVENTIONAL TOLL ROADS vs. AUSTIN FREEWAY TOLL ROADS
Conventional toll roads in the U.S. have always been perceived as being fair, since they supplement our public highway system, and they offer a public expressway as an alternative. It's also important to note that conventional tolls have always been whole new routes and primarily funded with investor dollars.
Freeway tolls don’t offer crucial free expressways as an alternative. Instead, frontage roads with stop lights and growing traffic congestion are touted as an alternative.
With freeway tolls, TxDOT has a financial incentive NOT to address traffic congestion on frontage roads since increased traffic congestion provides higher toll tax revenues. This is a severe departure for TxDOT, since its focus has always been solving transportation issues -- not generating revenue through traffic congestion. Freeway tolls simply shift public
highways intended to be freeways into tollways.
Those who support tolling public expressways never mention the true cost of public subsidies involved. The total cost to the taxpayer, especially the taxpayer-funded right-of-way (ROW), is never shared with the public. Freeway tolls create expressway monopolies and are the most expensive solution to our need for roads.
For the most part, the finances of conventional toll roads have been segregated from public funds. While freeway tolls are primarily funded with tax dollars intended for free roads.
Pro-toll advocate and TollRoadsNews.com writer Peter Samuel made this statement about TxDOT and its freeway tolls:
"It has no coherent explanation for its project selection, or for the way tax and toll monies are mixed. It has been cavalier in proposing tolls on highways already funded -- breaching a long-established piece of political wisdom about tolling."TOLLS: AN INEFFICIENT FORM OF TAX COLLECTION
At a TxDOT commission hearing in October 2004, TxDOT had admitted it costs 25 cents to collect a cash toll, and 11 cents to collect an electronic toll. So, if the toll tax for a short span of road is 50 cents, 50% of the money paid for that toll goes to collect the toll.
NEW TEXAS TOLLS: 10 TIMES THE PROMISED RATE PER MILE
TxDOT and the local Regional Mobility Authority are on record promising a 12 to 15 cents/mile rate. Conventional toll roads in the US have an average toll rate of 9 cents/mile.
The Austin American-Statesman recently reported that the newly-opened Central Texas Phase I tolls cost as much as $1.50 per mile.
That's 10 times the cost promised, and 16 times the cost of the average toll rate in the U.S.
TOLL ROADS COST MORE THAN FREE ROADS TO BUILD
Toll roads cost much more for construction, right-of-way, utility relocation, maintenance, and service than do non-tolled roads. For example, Central Texas Phase II freeway tolls would cost $123 million more to build as toll roads than they would cost to build as free roads.
The footprint of a freeway toll project is larger than what's needed for the free road since toll lanes and free lanes must be separated. Therefore, extra land for right-of-way must be acquired and utilities must be relocated. Our existing roads have right-of-way corridors for expansion, but were never planned for the larger footprint required by freeway tolls.
To illustrate, a typical roadway project devotes about 90% or more of the cost to build the road. Compare that to TxDOT's toll analysis for SH 71 in Central Texas where only 35% of the cost of the project is for roadway construction. Over half the cost of the $168 million project goes to buying new right-of-way and having to relocate utilities for the freeway toll road.
COMPTROLLER REPORT: FREEWAY TOLLS CREATE UNACCOUNTABLE DOUBLE TAXATION
In 2005, the State Comptroller came out with an investigative report showing how Regional Mobility Authorities that 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 (using tax dollars) 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%.
TOLL TAX: 15+ TIMES THE COST OF INDEXED GAS TAX
Assuming your car gets 20 miles per gallon, and an increase in indexed gas tax was less than 20 cents a gallon, you would spend less than 1 cent a mile for an indexed gas tax. Compare that to tolls of 15 cents a mile, which would be 15 times the cost of an indexed gas tax. A 20 cent toll per mile would be 20 times the cost of an indexed gas tax, and so on.
The Texas Transportation Institute report says tolls are NOT needed, that indexing the gas tax and placing the incremental revenue in the mobility fund to pay off bonds allows us to build the roads we need now.