Sen. Watson gets a back door deal - YOU get double tax tolls in Austin Texas!

Read about that scumbag crook (Gov. Perry's best Democratic pal — Sen. Kirk Watson) HERE.

A Case For The TTC?

Is the TTC actually a good idea? Eye on Williamson County has the article HERE.


"I don’t want this on my credit report."

Keep tabs on your toll-road balance

By GORDON DICKSON, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

If you drove on the all-electronic Texas 121 toll road north of Grapevine but haven’t gotten a bill in the mail, don’t assume everything is OK.

Norma Bartholomew, a Fort Worth resident and a research associate at Texas Christian University, drove the road in Denton and Collin counties one day in February 2007.

Like many other drivers, she doesn’t have a TollTag, so she expected the Texas Department of Transportation to photograph her license plate and mail her an invoice.

From what she had read, that’s how electronic toll roads work.

But the bill never came.

Then a few weeks ago, a collection agency called on behalf of the Transportation Department.

The caller accused her of ignoring 14 attempts to collect $1.90 in tolls during the past 15 months.

Bartholomew was told she owed the state $101.90, including $100 in administrative and late fees.

This month, she finally cleared up the matter.

The Transportation Department realized it had made a mistake and mailed the bills to the wrong address.

The department waived all but $2.90 — her original toll plus a $1 administrative fee.

But getting her name cleared and most of the fees waived took weeks of stressful calls to several department offices.

Read the rest of the article HERE.


U.S. House votes to fill $8 billion transportation hole

by Ben Wear, Statesman

The U.S. House voted 387 to 37 Wednesday — a veto-proof majority — to transfer $8 billion from the government’s general revenue kitty to the Highway Trust Fund, which without an infusion from somewhere would go into deficit in the 2008-09 fiscal year.

If the Senate were to go along — and President Bush either pulled back from a veto threat or Congress were to override a veto — then the move would increase federal highway funds in Texas by $859 million. TxDOT in recent years has been spending $3 billion to $4 billion a year on new construction, but had been expecting to slow that pace considerably given the federal and state funding situation.

The federal Highway Trust Fund is fed by an 18.4 cents-a-gallon federal gas tax, a levy which Congress hasn ‘t increased since 1993. The fund had developed a surplus of several billion dollars, but with needs increasing and revenue from the gas tax flattening, that surplus has fallen to near zero. The money raised by the gas tax in the fiscal year starting Oct. 1 would be at least $3 billion short of what Congress in 2005 had voted to spend on transportation.



F.B.I. Involved In Possible Multimillion Dollar Fraud at TxDot Credit Union

By Katie Crosbie, Texoma News

KFDX has learned that the F.B.I. is investigating a possible multimillion dollar fraud case at the TexDot Credit Union in Wichita Falls. We're told that the former president of the TexDot Credit Union is under investigation and has resigned.

John Buckley, president of the Postel Family Credit Union, is now serving as acting manager of the TexDot Credit Union. He says the investigation began after an annual state examination. The credit union serves around 400 TexDot workers and their families. Buckley says all customers' accounts are federally insured, up to 100 thousand dollars. He says the credit union is continuing with normal operations during the investigation and that the credit union is cooperating fully with the investigation.

The rest of the article is HERE.


Is a Meeting Really Public if it's Not Announced?

Did you know that TxDOT is having a public meeting tomorrow night to take invited and public testimony about the transportation needs through 2030? Here is the info:


The 2030 Committee and its purpose were announced here on the TxDOT web site a few weeks ago:


They just announced the time and location on the Pickle Campus today for a meeting tomorrow. There are supposed to be 4 other meetings around the state as the notice says.

Raked over the Coals

Did you know that you are a frog, and you are in a pot of water that is slowly beginning to boil?

If you live in Central Texas and have Pendernales Electric as a provider, the rate went up like 3/4 of a cent last January, which a couple months ago I figured was like a 16% increase. The new rate was .09618 per kWh. I don't recall the Statesman doing a story on that massive increase - do you?

NOW I Notice, in this months statement that they have yet another increase! WTF? Another increase at .0106 cent this month! The new rate is now .10678 per kWh.

And they blame LCRA within the text on this recent statement (someone please start a blog on all these crooks, especially the LCRA quasi government scam). Most folks will not read the paragraph on the statement, so they won't even know about the steep increase.

HERE IS THE REAL KICKER: Pendernales does NOT list the cost of the kWh anywhere on the statement! I just called them and their excuse is "we've never done it". THAT is just as absurd as increasing rates under the radar.

If you want to know more about how life as you know it will continue to change, watch the award winning movie "Crude Impact" (dvd).

Thornton: Toll Opponents to Blame for 281 Toll Road

Thornton: Toll Opponents to Blame for 281 Toll Road

tells legislative committee that 'litigation' filed by anti toll groups drove up the project's costs

By Jim Forsyth, WOAI

Former Mayor Bill Thornton, who now heads the toll road planning Regional Mobility Authority, today blamed toll road opponents themselves for the fact that the 281 expansion project is being built as a toll road, 1200 WOAI news reports.

"While allegations have been made that previously planned improvements could have been fully funded without tolling, delays in the project, caused in part by litigation over environmental issues, initiated by TURF (Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom, an anti toll group) and others, corresponding cost escalations due to inflation and highway construction costs, has eliminated the possibility of paying through the improvements through the traditional gas tax," Thornton said.

Thornton made his surprising comments to the Joint Legislative Committee on Toll Projects meeting at UTSA.

Anti toll groups have long claimed that building overpasses for through traffic at the major intersections on U.S. 281 would have cost roughly $140 million, far less than the estimated $1.3 billion cost of the 281 North Tollway, which was approved in December.

Read the rest of the article HERE


As read in the Dallas News Today

A Letter to the Editor, as published today in the Dallas News:

Toll roads give me heartburn

Re: "There's no stopping toll roads of future – On tour, world summit delegates welcome NTTA's collection system," last Monday Metro.

Am I the only one in Texas, and the rest of the country as well, who still has heartburn over toll roads?

Those yahoos in Austin use what is obviously good judgment to conclude that no matter how much the public is irritated about anything, ignore it. The dummies will get over it. And from the looks of it, they may be right.

I still have a problem with our elected officials charging me to drive on roads that my tax money built.

The fact that Gov. Rick Perry is still pushing them is reason enough to vote against him and anyone else who is on the record as endorsing toll roads.

Don Hopper, Flint

"We're paying to build a road for private companies, and now we're continuing to subsidize the private company. This just gets worse and worse."

Toll-Lanes Contract Could Cost State

Deal to Allow Free Carpooling on Beltway Project Might Leave Virginia Owing Millions

By Eric M. Weiss, The Washington Post

Rising gas prices are increasing transit and carpool use, which normally would be a good thing in the traffic-choked Washington region.

But under an agreement Virginia signed with the private companies building high-occupancy toll [HOT] lanes on the Capital Beltway, the state could be liable for millions of dollars a year if too many carpoolers, who will be exempt from tolls, use the lanes.

Read the whole article HERE


TxDOT's Amadeo Saenz On Hot Seat — Can't Be Truthful

TxDOT Director: "People didn't understand toll roads."

Government advertising under scrutiny

TxDOT campaign at center of debate over $100 million in ad spending

By PEGGY FIKAC, Houston Chronicle

AUSTIN — Government spending on advertising is being put under a microscope by state lawmakers who say they want to ensure public funds are used to inform, not unduly influence Texans.

The effort was sparked by concerns over a divisive toll road campaign by the Texas Department of Transportation, which was in a familiar spotlight at Friday's House State Affairs Committee hearing on the issue.

"We get all of the advantages of the toll roads, and yet there are a lot of people that see a lot of disadvantages," said Rep. Dan Flynn, R-Canton, a State Affairs member. "It seems like there was almost an effort to go beyond what the legislative intent was ... We have an agency here that kind of has their agenda that is different from ... legislative intent. I guess that's what our concerns are."

Coby Chase, director of TxDOT's government and public affairs division, responded, "We have most certainly, certainly heard that." He said that the agency is "reassessing everything."

About $4.5 million has been spent on the Keep Texas Moving campaign, but there are no additional big advertising pushes in the works under its banner, according to TxDOT. The campaign originally was proposed at $7 million to $9 million.

Chase called it a response to concerns that people didn't understand toll roads.

The ad campaign had a ripple effect by prompting Rep. Ken Paxton, R-McKinney, State Affairs vice chairman, to call for the committee to study advertising practices across state government.

State agencies' public awareness campaigns often give useful information, but "some state agencies may have overstepped their bounds by actually advertising their programs in an effort to lobby the public to support their agenda or utilize a particular service," Paxton said.

The committee gave an initial look Friday at everything from health officials touting the benefits of breast feeding to promotion of state agricultural products to the Texas Lottery Commission's advertising.

It's unclear just how much state agencies spend on promotions, since state records don't precisely track them.

But an examination of state records last year by the Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News found the tally for advertising, publications and promotional items could easily reach $100 million or more in state and federal funds just for fiscal year 2008.

Read the rest of the article HERE.


Iola-Grimes County 391 Commission (to stop TTC) is formed

Commissioners say yes to 391

By DAVE LEWIS, The Navasota Examiner

After a few months of pressure from the public and taking time to become comfortable with the idea, the Grimes County Commissioners’ Court Monday voted unanimously to create a resolution that would allow the county to form a 391 sub-regional planning commission.

The county’s move would follow the City of Iola’s action last week to form its own 391 commission. Plans are for Grimes County to participate with Iola to complete the process of two founding entities providing the formation and leadership of such a commission.

County Attorney John C. Fultz was instructed to frame the county’s 391 resolution, which is expected to mirror Iola’s. Passage of the resolution is expected this month.

Read the rest of the article HERE.


Governor Perry rejects call for voters to choose TxDOT head

By PEGGY FIKAC, San Antonio Express-News

Lawmakers should look at allowing voters, rather than the governor, to choose the overseer of the Texas Department of Transportation, a member of a legislative body studying the controversy-stirring agency said Tuesday.

"I think that we ought to have everything on the table," said Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon, D-San Antonio, a member of the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission, at a hearing on possible changes at TxDOT. "We ought to look at leaving it like it is. We also ought to seriously look at an elected commissioner."

McClendon asked Sunset staff — who earlier issued a report urging other major changes at the agency, citing an atmosphere of frustration and distrust — to study the pros and cons of an elected commissioner.

Critics of TxDOT and the commission that oversees it applauded the idea, and one man said, "Amen!"

The idea was seconded by Rep. Linda Harper-Brown, R-Irving, who said the proposal would make a "bold statement" that the agency must rebuild trust and address the state's transportation needs.

She said 76 percent of people who have commented during the review process want an elected commissioner.

"I think that if we did not look at that, we would be as guilty as TxDOT is of not listening to the public," Harper-Brown said.
The idea met with resistance from Gov. Rick Perry's office. His spokeswoman, Allison Castle, said that TxDOT "is part of the executive branch of government, and the governor believes that's where it should stay."

Read the rest of the story HERE.


Dan Jasinski Speaks Out About TxDOT Sunset Hearing Yesterday

I, Dan Jasinski, was present from start (8:45 a.m.) to finish (~10:00 p.m.) taking only one 5-minute break ~11 a.m.

I found this Sunset hearing quite informative and entertaining! The Sunset staff and panel members (their questioning and listening/HEARING) are to be commended for their exemplary demonstrated efforts and sincerity!

As one of the last grass roots testifiers after 9:00 p.m., I can attest to the actual fireworks beginning around 6:00 p.m. with a grand finale occuring after my own inputs with (1) two long-term, former TxDOT employees testifying to internal TxDOT corruption (begun 2002 timeframe by new political supervisors replacing en masse old guard retirees), (2) a New Braunsfel decorated veteran surgeon testifying to obvious fraudulent TxDOT planning documents that would allow eminent domain land seizures, and (3) a TURF/co-chair exposing yet another TxDOT "work-around" against legislative oversight. TxDOT/CEO Amadeo Saenz returned twice to respond to panel questioning and Amadeo's bumbling performance has certainly painted a darker future Sunset for TxDOT.

I was able to relay this info to American Statesman editor Fred Sipp (I was pleasantly shocked he actually picked up his publicized phone number) because Ben Wear obviously left the Sunset meeting prior to any entertaining fireworks base upon another unprofessional (i.e. incomplete like a 4th-innning baseball score and/or inaccurate -- hey, Ben, you missed the fat lady singing and must think Dewey beat Truman!) newspaper report by Ben in today's paper (Dallas newspaper did report on the first Saenz recall, or memory lack thereof).

BOTTOMLINE -- Sunset is still accepting remarks 7 or 10 more days. I, for one, intend to provide them another thought-through input emphasizing the "new and improving" TxDOT regime operations demonstrated and documented during the July 15 Sunset hearing as we present did experience.

TxDOT’s Top Brass Perjures Themselves

Nobody Fired After $1.1 Billion TxDOT Error!

The 10 hour sunset hearing yesterday included State Sen. Glenn Hegar, R-Katy, saying he was disappointed that TxDOT's executive director Amadeo Saenz did not fire ANY staff members after the $1.1 Billion error was found earlier this year, as stated here in the Star Telegram:

"Somebody is to blame," Hegar said. "Those are taxpayer dollars."


TxDOT hearings continue into the evening, turn testy

TxDOT hearings continue into the evening, turn testy

by Michael Lindenberger, Dallas News

After hours of mostly polite, if often pointed, questioning by members of the Sunset Advisory Commission, a hearing in Austin turned uglier late Tuesday.

Rep. Ruth McClendon, D-San Antonio, questioned the honesty of TxDOT executive director Amadeo Saenz when he said he couldn't immediately recall the details of State Highway 281 in south Texas. "After we started off on such a positive start, and after all this talk of honesty and transparency, you sit here in front of us and say you do not know."

No, Mr. Saenz repeated, he did not have the details in front of him, but said he would get the information and meet separately with the commission members when he did.

Ms. McClendon and the 11 other members of the advisory committee are grilling TxDOT today over allegations that the agency has lost its way.

Other areas of disagreement that led to sharp questioning by the lawmakers include the question whether TxDOT is illegally spending millions of dollars to advance its preference for toll roads and, in many cases, private toll roads.

State Rep. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, asked TxDOT executive Coby Chase how much the agency had spent in the past year on Keep Texas Moving, the agency's public campaign supporting its road-building agenda. "$4.5 million," he said, to the guffaws of some in the audience who have seized on the spending as evidence of the agency's improperly politicizing transportation.

State law prohibits state agencies from lobbying, and Rep. Kolkhorst said TxDOT spending money to promote toll roads is just as illegal as if the education department ran ads encouraging vouchers.

Read the rest of the article HERE


Attend the TxDOT Sunset Public Hearing TUESDAY!

Demand that the Sunset Commission abolish the Texas Transportation Commission and replace it with a State Transportation Board comprised of an appointed Commissioner of Transportation and six elected members.

The time is now.

The most important public hearing takes place Tuesday. Be there to SPEAK OUT AGAINST freeway tolls and the TTC — or forever hold your peace.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008 - 9:00am
House Appropriations Committee Room
Capitol Building Extension, Room E1.030
1400 Congress Avenue

Oil hits $147 a barrel for the first time today!

Your "Marriage" With Gas Prices,
Gov. Perry, Sen. Watson and Their
Double Tax Freeway Tolls.

Oil hit $147 a barrel for the first time today, experts say oil could hit $200 a barrel in just a couple of years. Compare that to $28 a barrel in 2004.

Skyrocketing oil prices means YOUR gas prices will be even higher in the weeks and months to come. Some experts say gas prices will hit $8.00 a gallon, as we look ahead.

Skyrocketing gas prices equal even more bad news for YOUR FAMILY when you consider Gov. Rick Perry and Sen. Kirk Watson's double tax freeway tolls, which futures are financially fused together.

Perry and Watson could care less about you and your family.

The San Antonio Express came out with an article last year that tells why high gas-prices negatively effect the prospects of more toll roads. The feasibility of all toll roads are based on traffic and revenue projections, which are tied to gas prices.

The Traffic and Revenue projections for SH 130 toll road is based on the assumption that motor fuel will remain in "adequate supply and motor fuel prices will not exceed $2.50 per gallon".

130 toll failed to meet it's 1st year projection by over $11 million dollars reported the Statesman. Who do you think pays for a failed toll road? Look in the mirror. Who do you think still makes a profit? Yup, the banks that floated the BILLIONS of debt.

Many folks are having a hard time affording $4.00 a gallon, and less folks will be able to afford $8 a gallon. It is time to sell your SUV, and move closer to your work.

Just a couple of months ago the Energy Watch Group put out a report that states that the worlds oil supply peaked in 2006, and production will start to decline at a rate of several percent per year. That means gas prices will only rise, and in the months ahead, you'll be thinking of the good old days when gas only cost $4.00 a gallon.

Hell, when the real shit comes down in the years ahead, Gov. Perry and Sen. Watson will be out of office, sitting on an island somewhere enjoying time with their family and the security of tons of money in the bank.

Read this article from The Australian Newspaper:

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Smart growth is suddenly winning everywhere in response to energy economics

Roger Baker speaks out at AustinatIssue.com:

"The smart growth advocates have already won, and will keep winning so long as oil becomes less affordable. As it will so far as anyone can see into the future. Cities that do not adapt will lose.

Every city is going to have to make major adjustments to peak oil, if for no other reason than that their taxpayers are experiencing money stress rather suddenly, making oil a top political issue."
Read the whole article HERE.


Central Texas Toll Shark elected to board of international toll association

When I read this crap it makes me feel like I'm going to throw up in my mouth. Read the TRUTH (my report from 2006) about Mike Heiligenstein HERE.

Mike Heiligenstein elected to board of international toll association

Austin Business Journal

Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority Executive Director Mike Heiligenstein has been elected to the board of directors of the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association, the worldwide association for toll facility owners and operators and businesses that support them.

Heiligenstein's term on the board will extend through 2012.

"As the dynamic leader of an innovative and highly successful startup toll agency, Heiligenstein has been a tireless advocate for addressing transportation funding challenges," says Patrick Jones, executive director and CEO of IBTTA. "With his knowledge, experience and vision, Mike will be a tremendous addition to the Board."

Heiligenstein has been at CTRMA since its creation in 2003 and oversaw the financing and construction of the independent agency's first toll road, 183A, which opened in March 2007. Heiligenstein has advocated innovative funding mechanisms to make $1.5 billion available for regional transportation.

"As more and more communities face the harsh reality of funding shortfalls, tolling is going to play a greater role in financing transportation," Heiligenstein says. "As communities struggle with the problem, I want IBTTA to be a resource they can turn to."

Prior to joining CTRMA, Heiligenstein spent more than 23 years in public service, first as a Round Rock city councilman and later as a Williamson County commissioner. He served as chair of the Clean Air Force, was a founding board member and two-time vice chair of the Austin-San Antonio Corridor Council, a founding member and board member of Envision Central Texas, and a member of the Air and Water Quality Subcommittee of the National Association of Counties.

Political Contributions Buy The Right To Toll Tax Drivers

New Virginia Toll Lanes Designed to Create Congestion
Illegal political donations helped give Australian company full control over Virginia transportation until the year 2087.

Illegal political contributions helped an Australian firm land a lucrative toll road deal that grants the company unprecedented power over Northern Virginia's transportation future. Last week, Transurban wrote and asked state lawmakers to return checks that the Melbourne-based toll road operator had written in violation of federal campaign laws. But the deal these contributions helped bring about has already been finalized.

In June, the US Department of Transportation created a first-of-its-kind $1.6 billion financing package that consisted of tax-free bonds, loans and state taxpayer grants to support the project that will add a pair of High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes to the Interstate 495 Capital Beltway just outside of Washington, DC. To this amount, Transurban only added $349 million of its own capital -- less than the cost of interest -- toward the construction of the toll lanes.

In return for that small investment, Transurban received from Virginia officials the right to demand payment from state taxpayers any time that improvements are made to a number of free roads near the Beltway. In effect, the contract between the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and Transurban is designed to ensure the area remains sufficiently congested so that motorists will have an incentive to pay to use the toll lanes.

Read the rest of the article HERE.


Texas Visitors: Beware the Unaccountable Toll Tax Trap

By Ben Westhoff, freelance writer for the Dallas News

I visited Dallas, on business, for the first time in March. I enjoyed the local sights, shuttling around the northern suburbs and coming into the city for delicious Tex-Mex and an excellent rock show. The weather was great; everyone was kind.

But one aspect of my Texas odyssey left a bad taste in my mouth. Upon returning home to Hoboken, N.J., I received a notice in the mail from a Montana-based collection agency called Violation Management Services. It indicated that I had been billed for four 60-cent tolls in Texas , plus a $5 service fee for each. These $22.40 worth of charges had already been conveniently – make that inconveniently – charged to my credit card.

I had no idea what this was about. Though I remembered handing over dollars to some toll attendants, I certainly didn't recall driving through any tolls without paying.

Upon investigation, however, I realized this was exactly what I had done. It turns out that I couldn't have paid even if I'd wanted to. And the same confusing system ensnares other visitors all the time.

Let's back up a little. Upon arriving at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, I endured a long shuttle ride to the airport's rental car center. After getting over the fact that I was going to have to pay a huge percentage of my Advantage Rent A Car bill in taxes and fees (including a 15 percent sales tax, an 11.11 percent airport fee, a $2.50-per-day licensing fee, a $4-per-day airport concession fee and a 77-cents-per-day transportation fee) I quickly scanned my rental agreement and signed it.

What I apparently glossed over – and what other Dallas renters miss all the time – is a clause permitting the rental car company to turn over the collection of any unpaid tolls to a third-party agency. Why would I have paid the clause any mind? I'm not the type to break any traffic laws, much less bust through tolls like this was an episode of Dukes of Hazzard.

Little did I know that along State Highway 121, physical tolls have been replaced by electronic tolls. Instead of humans or machines collecting change, cameras snap pictures of your license plate, and you aren't given the option of stopping to pay.

It works like this: If you have a TxTag, Toll Tag or EZ Tag, the charge is deducted from your account. If you don't, a bill is sent to the address corresponding with the vehicle's license plate number. That means that if you're driving your own car, the fee (plus a surcharge) is sent to you at home. (If your kid is driving your car, it still gets sent to you at home, but that's another matter.)

But if you're driving a rental car, the bill is sent to the rental car company. Then – in the case of Advantage and at least a few others – the rental car company passes it along to a third-party collection agency, which adds a service charge and bills you. I had to pay $5 per "infraction," but some companies hit you a lot harder; renters with Thrifty and Dollar are charged $25 each.

I called Violation Management Services, Advantage's collection agency, to complain. The agent said that although plenty of others like me have made similar complaints, we have no recourse.

But I should look on the bright side, she said; until last fall, the company charged $40 for each infraction of this type. Only after being besieged with complaints did they lower their fee to $5. Why? "Because it's not fair to you to have to pay $40 for something you don't have any control over," she explained.

But $5 is fair?

The agent next referred me to TxTag, the company that handled the Highway 121 tollway when I visited. (As of April 4, responsibility was handed over to the North Texas Tollway Authority.)

She explained that, yes, other people had the same complaint. But she implied that we were all a bunch of whiny complainers, since there are clearly marked signs on 121 explaining that the road is a tollway.

But there's no indication that 121 is a special kind of toll road. It's beyond me how a non-local can be expected to know the difference between (A) toll roads where you can pay with change and (B) toll roads that send you a bill in the mail. (Though more common in other countries, electronic tolls that employ video cameras are still quite rare in the U.S.)

Sure, if I'd seen a sign saying, "Renters, get the heck off the road now, or you're going to get stuck with surcharges!" I would have exited immediately and hoped my GPS could come up with an alternate route. But as far as I could tell, Highway 121 drivers aren't given any explanation of what's going on until they get to the toll itself, at which time they're informed that they can use a tag or else "Pay By Mail."

This is where it begins to seem like a cruel hoax. Pay by mail? Huh? Where does one get the envelope?

I next asked the TxTag operator what course of action she would have suggested for me. Avoiding the road altogether? "Pretty much," she said. "In the case of 121, that's what we would recommend. Otherwise, there will be extra charges, and there will be extra fees."

An NTTA representative was more sympathetic. "If I was from another state, I might not [understand] something like that either," he said, suggesting that the next time I'm in town I use service roads instead of Highway 121.

Perhaps Advantage would have more helpful advice, given the number of renters they send out on the streets of North Texas every day?

But no. An agent said that the next time I was in town, I had another option. She gave me an 800 number to call shortly after going through an electronic toll, and the charge would be excused. (They even have a sign saying as much on the premises.)

But that number is for TxTag, which no longer administers the road. And an operator with the new administrator, NTTA, said she had no idea what the Advantage agent was talking about; they would not, in fact, excuse these charges.

Read the rest of the article HERE


"The tollway to nowhere, courtesy of our commissioners."

Williamson's plans for highway causing small uproar

Officials say they are trying to prepare for expected growth.

By Ben Wear, Austin American-Statesman

GEORGETOWN — Adolph and Barbara Supak have plans for the land they live on west of Georgetown, 390 gorgeous, rolling acres in two large parcels tucked between Texas 29 and forks of the San Gabriel River.

At some point, their notion is to sell off some of the valuable land alongside the five-lane highway, a thin strip on the westerly parcel where someone might build stores or a restaurant. But behind that frontage, among the oaks, creeks and stock ponds where generations of Barbara Supak's family ranched and where the Supaks have lived for three decades, the plan is to sustain the Hill Country for their children and grandchildren to enjoy.

Williamson County, anticipating rapid growth from Georgetown to Liberty Hill, also has plans for that area. Big plans.

The county in a few weeks, after the completion of an initial $2.4 million engineering study of potential routes, will announce its preferred path for what would be a six-lane expressway (with up to six frontage road lanes alongside) on the Texas 29 corridor from just west of Georgetown to the Burnet County line a few miles past Liberty Hill. Those 12 potential lanes would require an Interstate 35-sized swath of right of way: 400 feet, more than triple the 120 feet the state owns on Texas 29 now.

Most of the route, if not all of it, will probably follow Texas 29, ballooning out north or south, or north and south, of the current pavement. The county, using money from a $228 million 2006 bond package, would begin buying that additional right of way once Williamson County commissioners make a choice. The county's engineers say 500 acres to 850 acres would be needed for the 400-foot width, at a cost of somewhere between $14 million and $41 million.

The county's intentions have caused what passes for an uproar in the still mostly rural northwestern quadrant of the county. The idea of a massive expressway, probably with tolls, replacing what is a lightly traveled highway is a concept many find outlandish. Especially with gas at $4 a gallon and Americans recalculating the math of long commutes.

Throw in Texas 29 landowners' fears that they'll be forced to sell their property — unfounded, it turns out — and you have the ingredients for a mini-rebellion.

"This is absurd," said Clyde Davis, a Liberty Hill real estate agent who owns several properties fronting Texas 29. "We don't have the money, and we don't have the need. The tollway to nowhere, courtesy of our commissioners."

Read the whole story HERE.


Fourth man indicted in connection with bribes-for-contracts scheme at TxDOT

Man accused of lying to agents about TxDOT bribes

By Jeremy Roebuck, The Monitor

McALLEN - A fourth man has been indicted in connection with a bribes-for-contracts scheme at the Texas Department of Transportation.

Federal prosecutors allege Ricardo Ballí lied to FBI agents and Texas Rangers when he said he had not witnessed TxDOT's local maintenance administrator extort cash payments from a contractor looking for work.

The administrator, Cresenciano "Chano" Falcon, 56, and two other TxDOT inspectors pleaded guilty in May to accepting bribes in exchange for certifying completed contract projects.

Authorities would release little information Tuesday about Ballí, including his age, city of residence and how he was connected to the case. But local TxDOT spokeswoman Amy Rodriguez said he had never worked for the agency.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Peter Ormsby ordered Ballí to present himself in court on July 8 for an initial hearing.

The investigation into the three TxDOT workers was initiated after a private contractor informed authorities he was being forced to pay bribes to the men in exchange for continuing to receive work from the agency.

Falcon and his two co-defendants -- Ray Llanes, 50, and Noe Beltran, 42 -- could each face up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine at a sentencing hearing scheduled for August. None of the three works for TxDOT now, but the exact circumstances and timing of their departures from the agency were not immediately clear Tuesday.

Read the rest of the story HERE

Texas tollers' bureaucratic dispute over cash leads to bottleneck

Unaccountable toll taxes always cost more, especially as toll bureaucracies expand. And, don't forget, when they talk about one agency or another paying money...thats your tax dollars!!!

Gov. Perry (R) and Sen. Kirk Watson (D) and other crooks keep using our tax dollars to shift our public highways freeways to tollways in Texas. THAT'S A DOUBLE TAX!

From the Fort Worth Star Telegram:

The North Texas Tollway Authority will consider paying $26 million to the Texas Department of Transportation to end a dispute that threatens to delay the widening of Northeast Loop 820.

Bidders for the roadwork, which would
widen the four-lane bottleneck to six free lanes and four toll lanes, have been critical of the project because the tollway authority would collect the tolls but isn’t required to post a bond guaranteeing that the developer will be paid.

The $26 million would be placed in a special account that would be tapped only if the tollway authority is unable to perform its duties. In that event, toll collection would be turned over to the Transportation Department, which is already capable of collecting tolls electronically.

Grand Theft Auto

Nonsensical surcharges for road tolls

Editorial, The Dallas Morning News

Using local toll roads can be a royal pain in the tailpipe for rental-car drivers.

But it doesn't have to be that way. Many rental companies are the culprits here and should quit looking at Dallas-Fort Worth customers like they are a bunch of suckers.

Here's how the public gets hosed: Some stretches of road controlled by the North Texas Tollway Authority are equipped with cameras – not coin baskets – for toll collection. If a driver doesn't have a TollTag to accept automatic charges, a camera shoots the license plate.

Regular drivers get a bill in the mail. Rental drivers might get an awful surprise on their credit card statement in the form of hefty "administrative" fees imposed courtesy of their rent agreement.

Thus, a few dollars in tolls can turn into hundreds of dollars of charges against the unsuspecting customer.

Read the whole story HERE.


Sunset Review Comments Online

The Sunset Review Commission has posted the comments received on the TxDOT sunset review (sans my comments) HERE.

"TxDOT is doing a little better job working some legislators."

TxDOT moves forward
on Trans-Texas Corridor 69

by Will Lutz, The Lone Star Report

Both the Republican and Democratic platforms oppose it vigorously, with the former going so far as to demand an investigation into why it continues.

The Legislature revolted against it, forcing a compromise with the governor.

Candidates for Texas House and Senate either run from it as fast as possible or run against it.

Yet the Texas Department of Transportation is continuing full-speed ahead.

It’s, of course, the Trans-Texas Corridor. The Texas Transportation Commission voted June 26 to take the next step toward building an addition to the corridor (the Interstate 69 Corridor), and — believe it or not — the political fallout may be muted.

The commission awarded a Comprehensive Development Agreement to Zachry American Infrastructure and ACS Infrastructure to plan Interstate 69 from the Brownsville area to Texarkana. The commission action does not actually authorize construction of the road, only the production of a plan for the road’s segments, including the financing.

As usual, TxDOT put on a dog-and-pony show about the joys of the contract. And the long-term consequences of TxDOT’s actions remain to be determined. Here’s what we know so far:

TxDOT is doing a little better job working with some legislators. Senate Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman John Carona (R-Dallas) told LSR he was briefed in advance about TxDOT’s actions. That’s a dramatic improvement for an agency whose board chairman, less than two years ago, wouldn’t even meet with Carona until he was confronted about it in public at the House Transportation Committee meeting.

The action follows the letter of the moratorium. There is an important fact about the moratorium, passed in 2007 as part of SB 792 that many do not realize. It is not a moratorium on the Trans-Texas Corridor. It is a moratorium on “permitting the private participant to operate the toll project or collect revenue from the toll project.” TxDOT can plan. It just can’t toll.

Read the rest of the article HERE.