After six months of being shelved, these new Phase II freeway tolls are back on track (the new toll on MoPAC is not shown on the map above). Sen. Kirk Watson must have gotten a very sweet deal for himself, behind closed doors.
In October 2007, CAMPO chair Sen. Kirk Watson led an effort to divert nearly $1 Billion tax dollars to shift Austin freeways into tollways (scroll down to see the article and map from a few days ago below). The vote passed with months of Watson twisting arms. Then TxDOT tried to pull a fast one in December — they told Watson to use local tax dollars. Watson threw a fit and now after six months of back door deals Watson got them to use State tax dollars to shift our Austin freeways to tollways.
A deal has been made behind closed doors.
First, a little more history. The group I formed and myself have been fighting these freeway tolls since 2004. We've gotten a lot of them pulled from the plan since 2004. But Watson came on the scene in Jan 2007 to get this double tax done for his special interest pals on the Austin Chamber of Commerce.
From the Statesman TODAY (buried in a "compiled from staff report" - don't forget the Stateman endorsed this phase II toll plan in 2004) :
Work on six projects can go on
Engineering work on six toll road projects, which the Texas Department of Transportation's money crunches shelved for six months, can move forward after a 4-1 vote Thursday by the Texas Transportation Commission.
The commission's nod essentially puts the projects — adding managed lanes to MoPac Boulevard (Loop 1); expanding portions of U.S. 290 East, U.S. 183, Texas 71 and the "Y" at Oak Hill as toll roads; and building one new road, Texas 45 Southwest — in the hands of the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority.
That agency plans to borrow $65 million for engineering and right-of-way costs and needed the commission vote to move forward. Actual construction on the first of the projects, U.S. 290 East, remains at least a year away.