Just one more reason TxDOT tolls come back to bite us on the ass. We all know that toll roads costs much more to build and maintain than free roads.
And now, Reporter Sam Merton of the Dallas Observer says AFTER regions build toll roads, they will get less gas tax dollars from TxDOT, than if they don't have as many tolls, in an article called "Paying the Toll, One Road at a Time":
"The way I saw it, TxDOT and the federal and state governments will be less willing to give funding to the region as a result of all the toll roads. When they look at Dallas, they’ll see a self-sustaining system with millions of dollars at its disposal."
Just one more reason TxDOT tolls come back to bite us on the ass. We all know that toll roads costs much more to build and maintain than free roads.
It's finally revealed that a portion of the CTRMA's first and only toll road to date (183A) is a bureaucratic nightmare. In an effort to force people to buy a TxTAG, a portion of the toll road has NO cash booths. The only way to pay properly for all sections of 183A has been to buy a TxTAG.
Since there are no cash booths, 20% of the toll road users were unable to pay and have been charged a violation penalty of $5 each, according to TRN:
Violations have been running about 20%, nine months after the pike opened.KXAN exposes the toll authorities waste and disregard for what drivers pay, as they give out special interest contracts to pals:
According to the authority, roughly $150,000 is collected in fines and tolls from those violators every month, but it costs almost that much, $135,000, to do it.That's a shocking amount of money per month! But hey, fat cat tollers like Gov. Rick Perry and Sen. Kirk Watson really don't care.
Now, the toll authority plans to pull the rest of the cash booths and do video tolling on 183A, according to KXAN:
Either you pay with a tag or with the help of cameras over the road, you get a twice-monthly bill in the mail for your tolls, plus 20 percent for expenses and $1 administrative fee per bill.You'll pay a "Hefty" fine if you don't pay that video tolling bill says Ben Wear.
relate to the CTRMA right HERE!
Like a fat lady jumping into a life raft with a gapping hole in it, Gov. Rick Perry dropped everything this weekend to fly off to Florida to help Rudy Giuliani campaign for president, with a desperate hope of becoming a vice president. None of it is meant to be.
After a shameful 15% (3rd place) showing in Florida last night, Giuliani is expected to formally drop out of the presidential race today. By endorsing Guiliani, Gov. Rick Perry has gambled what little political capital he had and lost.
Giuliani's strategy called for losing the important early primaries and then winning in Florida. Asking an unpopular Texas Gov. to come to the rescue in Florida appears to be yet another comical error in judgement.
Many were surprised with the unlikely relationship between Perry and Giuliani. Not surprising, the connection was money. Bracewell & Giuliani's political action committee gave $10,000 to Perry in 2006. The unpopular Gov. Perry created the Trans Texas Corridor (TTC), and Giuliani has already profited off the first leg of the TTC. Giuliani's lawfirm, Bracewell & Giuliani, represents Cintra, the Spanish Company who will be building one of the first portions of the massive TTC toll road (Nafta Super Highway). Another toll road giant Macquarie, purchased Giuliani’s investment bank last year.
Gov Perry (who won his own election with only 39% of the vote) was the only Governor to endorse Giuliani.
The Waco MPO voted to divert Tens of millions of tax dollars (intended for free roads) into new toll lanes for interstate I35 yesterday. From the Waco Tribune: During a heated condemnation of the I-35 toll plan, Dunnam blasted the state transportation department and Gov. Rick Perry, who has pushed toll road proposals. Dunnam pledged to fight to fix the transportation crisis, at least at the state level, when the Texas Legislature reconvenes in 2009. “At some point you are going to have to ask us as legislators, and I don’t mind putting myself out there,” Dunnam said. “I am an elected state official and we ought to be called on the mat when it is our responsibility. I think this is a state financial and a federal financial responsibility. I don’t mind y’all saying ‘Jim, you need to go take care of this.’ ” MPO board member Russell Devorsky, who works with Dunnam as a legislative aide, voted against the proposal. He said he philosophically opposes tolling lanes on a highway that was built using the power of eminent domain to obtain property.
“I think it is the stupidest idea I have heard in a long, long time,” said state Rep. Jim Dunnam, D-Waco.
During a heated condemnation of the I-35 toll plan, Dunnam blasted the state transportation department and Gov. Rick Perry, who has pushed toll road proposals. Dunnam pledged to fight to fix the transportation crisis, at least at the state level, when the Texas Legislature reconvenes in 2009.
“At some point you are going to have to ask us as legislators, and I don’t mind putting myself out there,” Dunnam said. “I am an elected state official and we ought to be called on the mat when it is our responsibility. I think this is a state financial and a federal financial responsibility. I don’t mind y’all saying ‘Jim, you need to go take care of this.’ ”
MPO board member Russell Devorsky, who works with Dunnam as a legislative aide, voted against the proposal. He said he philosophically opposes tolling lanes on a highway that was built using the power of eminent domain to obtain property.
Texas has three of the top ten populated cities in the country. Yet, Texas has zero cities ranked in the Top 10 US cities best prepared for an oil crisis, which lists cities with strong public transportation networks, access to locally-grown fresh food and robust wireless networks for telecommuting.
To search TTC News Archives click HERE
Hope Andrade, who has served on the TxDOT commission since 2003, has been appointed to a term to expire "at the pleasure of the Governor".
According to the Governor's Office, Gov. Rick Perry appointed San Antonio's Hope Andrade as the "interim" chair of the Texas Transportation Commission today - to replace Ric Williamson who died from a heart attack just weeks ago. Andrade is expected to continue to ignore Texans and the Texas ledge, to force freeway to tollway conversions (as well as the TTC land grab) just as Williamson did.
UPDATE: A REGULAR BLOG READER, WHO IS ALSO A PRACTICING ATTORNEY BRINGS UP A GREAT POINT about the statements found on the Gov's website, "interim" and "for a term to expire at the pleasure of the governor".
The Gov can appoint who he wishes, BUT state law limits the term of that appointee, AND the appointee must be approved by the Ledge for that position.
So I ask, how is an "interim" appointment to expire whenever the Gov wants even legal?
The Gov. can either appoint someone for the term or not at all.
The Gov has no authority to make "interim" appointments, which I assume was fabricated to run an end-around on the Ledge. After all, The Ledge can't approve or disapprove an "interim" appointment, can they?
While the Statesman produces uninteresting transportation puff pieces, the Houston Chronicle tells the story about the masses attending TTC public hearings across Texas and opposed to Rick Perry's TTC land grab.
The Statesman has endorsed the freeway to tollway conversion plan for Austin since 2004. They deleted my Statesman blog after only 3 months, because my blog, which stated facts about the double tax tolls, "was not in the best interest of the newspaper”, as stated by Statesman leadership.
Former Perry chief of staff (9/04 - 6/07) Deirdre Delisi (to the left) is on the short list to replace Ric Williamson as TxDOT chair, according to Quorum Report (who says that they have not gotten confirmation of the actual appointment):
"Reasonably reliable sources tell us that former Perry chief of staff Deirdre Delisi is, at the very least, under serious consideration to replace Ric Williamson as the new chair of the Texas Transportation Commission."
Gov. Rick Perry has flown off to help floundering presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani (the only Governor in the country to endorse Rudy) and fellow TTC profiteer, according to the Fort Worth Star today. Perry didn't endorse Texas's own Ron Paul, who has beaten New York City Giuliani in nearly every state.
As one of the most outspoken Representatives in Texas, Rep. Joe Pickett has been fighting TxDOT for years, which he has said uses threats and bribes to promote Regional Mobility Authorities across the state (I call them Freeway Tolling Authorities, Pickett has called them mini-TxDOTs). Today, Rep. Pickett has this article in the El Paso Times:
Who needs an RMA?
No one needs the Paso Del Norte Regional Mobility Authority. Double taxation, growing government, double talk.
The Inner Loop is, and was, the focus of the local Transportation Policy Board and Metropolitan Planning Organization's (MPO) most important project.
The Texas Department of Transportation's (TxDOT) most important project was tolling a route through Downtown.
The RMA means less money for construction; they make money from selling the bonds and your city tax dollars are involved too.
Quicker time? No way.
TxDOT and the back-door dealings in El Paso used the Inner Loop to try and trade votes for support of tolls.
TxDOT went against what is in the legislation and policies regarding projects like this and took more than twice the time to get it going.
The Northeast Parkway is moving because of new legislation. No major city in the entire state of Texas wants, or is planning, an RMA.
Why not? Not needed.
It is all political. Those who stand to benefit control the RMA, not just money, but prestige and power.
You have a voice on the MPO, you have no say on the RMA.
Beware the RMA!
Joe C. Pickett is a state representative from District 79.
by Editor of TheNewspaper.com
often go to buy influence in Washington, DC.
Texas lobbying effort may violate state law.
Toll road authorities across the country are taking the money collected from motorists and handing it to lobbyists hired to convince federal and state officials to expand tolling and protect the agencies' parochial interests. The toll road hired guns urged federal officials to add toll booths to existing freeways, including Interstate 80 in Pennsylvania and Interstates 10, 27 and 35 in Texas. Texas tolling officials may even have violated the law in their effort.
"Lobbying firms that specialize in working for local municipalities routinely boast on their websites how much return they can bring in, as one way to justify their costs," Center for Responsive Politics analyst Julia Pflaum wrote in an October study of public lobbying.
Pflaum listed the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission as the fourth biggest spender of public money on lobbyists, based on data provided in public disclosure forms. According to the figures, the Turnpike spent $280,000 in toll money last year to buy the influence needed to bring coveted federal earmarks to boost the Turnpike's budget and to convince state legislators to authorize a significant toll hike. Payments of between $200,000 and $20,000 went to lobby shops including the American Continental Group; Borski Associates; Baker, Donelson et al; and Hill Solutions. Similar spending reported over the past decade amounted to $2,030,000 in direct lobbying expenses. This represents more than a quarter of the total amount spent by the entire Pennsylvania state government on lobbying, but it does not represent the full amount of toll dollars diverted from improving the roads to influence peddling.
Read the rest of the article, which talks about TxDOT, Ted Houghton and Sal Costello HERE.
I expect some news next week...stay tuned.
Many see a lack of benefits in the TTC for their communities, says this Sealy News article.
Where do all your taxpayer dollars go? They get flushed down the TxDOT unaccountable toilet. It looks like even inspectors are charging for work they are not doing, since TxDOT is too busy seeking to steal our roads and our land.
Angelina County judge, Wes Suiter, asks about TxDOT accountability when it comes to inspectors...and says that inaccurate information is being disseminated to the public about the conditions of the county's bridges, in this Lufkin Daily News article:
"We've had some bridges that were supposedly inspected after they had been repaired, and we are getting the same report we got the inspection before that," Suiter said. "So I mean, what kind of accountability do we have on the people who are saying, 'I inspected this bridge'?"
Like the August report, the 2008 report contains several contradictions. For example, inspectors deemed several state-constructed bridges in Precinct 1 as hazardous or dangerous because they lacked a guard rail, while photographs reflected the presence of guardrails.
Milwaukee open records activist John Washburn has posted the first received batch of Gov. Rick Perry’s staff emails — minus the correspondence which the governor’s people are appealing to the state attorney general’s office. Email attachments with pics and other stuff found HERE.
Houston Chronicle found emails calling current and former lawmakers lunchtime drunks, another a racist and Sen. Judith Zaffirini was called an "evil, vindictive, mean woman."
At the packed Town Hall meeting in Hempstead on 1/22/08, TxDOT Commissioner Ted Houghton admitted TxDOT hired lobbyists to meet with county judges in the path of the Trans Texas Corridor TTC-69 as he defended the "necessity" of TxDOT hiring lobbyists to "lobby" elected officials (he used the word "lobby" multiple times). Scroll down to 1/22/08 to see the TURF lawsuit about this very issue...
This action is in DIRECT VIOLATION OF THE LAW:
Texas Government Code:
§ 556.005. Employment of Lobbyist
(a) A state agency may not use appropriated money to employ, as a regular full-time or part-time or contract employee, a person who is required by Chapter 305 to register as a lobbyist. Except for an institution of higher education as defined by Section 61.003, Education Code, a state agency may not use any money under its control to employ or contract with an individual who is required by Chapter 305 to register as a lobbyist.
Public Opposition to Toll Roads Leads to Arrest in NJ. Click HERE to read about it and see the video at TheNewspaper.com.
At last nights TTC-69 hearing (Wednesday), more Texans were turned away because TxDOT had the event in too small of a venue (again), according to a Huntsville Item article:
“We really got kicked around, and I feel like they should have just canceled this one when they realized there were too many people,” said Rose Mathis, whose family was unable to attend the meeting. “Even if you got up to the door of the meeting, you couldn’t hear anything and you definitely couldn’t get in.”and another:
Mathis said she and her family were neutral about the construction of the I-69/Trans-Texas Corridor and wanted to attend the meeting to gain more information.
“They should have had a bigger facility lined up, because we wanted to be able to hear about these developments and find out what’s going on so we can decide how we feel about it,” she said. “I feel like there’s a lot of work that needs to be done on the roads we already have that TxDOT isn’t doing, but what we’re really opposed to is that they’re not letting everyone hear this meeting tonight.”
Dee Patterson, who was also kept out of the meeting, said the entire meeting and its results were unfavorable.and another Texan:
“I think the meeting should be canceled and rescheduled,” Patterson said. “I’m definitely against the corridor because of higher taxes and because it affects everyone in Walker County and Texas.”
“I’m a state property owner, and I’m here because TxDOT is stuffing this down our throats and I don’t like it,” said Pat Muse, one of the attendants who signed the petition. “This construction is not in the best interest of our state, and the people organizing it don’t seem to care.
Over the past couple day's I've mentioned three different story lines (TTC-69 hearings, TxDOT illegal lobbyists, Joint Feb 5th Senate TxDOT hearing) - that are now coming together like a fine wine - according to this Houston Chronicle/San Antonio Express article today:
"A state Senate committee chairman said Wednesday the Texas Department of Transportation may have stepped over a legal line as it pushes the controversial Trans-Texas Corridor and toll roads.
"There is a possibility they may well have crossed a legal threshold because of the restrictions that exist in lobbying by state agencies," said Sen. John Carona, Transportation and Homeland Security Committee chairman.
"The even greater issue is just why they would continue with an agenda that is so unpopular with the public. That is the most distressing thing of all," Carona, R-Dallas, said after an anti-toll activist group released documents obtained from TxDOT in an ongoing lawsuit against agency officials.
The TxDOT documents include invoices from a firm that the agency contracts with totaling $63,450 including lobbyists and a poll, and an e-mail on "draft quotes" sent to local officials for their approval or edits.
The poll was conducted by Baselice & Associates. Mike Baselice also is Gov. Rick Perry's pollster.
Noting a Feb. 5 joint hearing on TxDOT by his committee and the Senate Finance Committee, Carona said, "TxDOT has a lot of explaining to do.
"In this next legislative session, I look to see even tighter reins placed upon TxDOT and the commission by both the House and the Senate, and I think that's regrettable" because it shows a loss of trust, he said.
Ted Houghton of the Texas Transportation Commission, which oversees TxDOT, said he's confident the agency hasn't violated the law as it works to secure resources and inform the public."
This Waco Tribune report says that Gov. Rick Perry's TxDOT wants to build a bridge on I-35 as a toll, and 60% of it would be funded with our tax dollars. No mention of how many tax dollars have already been spent for the right of way. TxDOT is eager to become a taxing authority. More elected officials call TxDOT's mafia like style "Extortion":
Councilman Randy Riggs said it was “almost extortion” to have to choose between adding toll lanes to I-35 and losing funds for other projects in the Waco area. He blamed federal and state lawmakers for not taking action
More than 800 people packed a meeting hall in Hempstead last night for a public meeting on the Trans-Texas Corridor (TTC-69). KHOU article and video, "Opposition to Trans-Texas Corridor growing" is HERE.
Last night, TxDOT commish Ted Houghton claimed the meeting with opposition is unique. Was he sleeping through the 2006 hearings for TTC-35?
UPDATE BELOW IN GREEN
Statesman transportation reporter Ben Wear has a rare blog/online article up today, called, "TxDOT on the legislative griddle Feb. 5":
I'll be there with a bowl of popcorn in the front row.
Shine your shoes and haul out a clean shirt, TxDOT. The Legislature wants to see you on Feb. 5. All day.
The Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee and the Senate Finance Committee have called what would be a very rare joint meeting at 9 a.m. Feb. 5. The meeting would be in the Finance Committee’s meeting room in the Capital Extension, E1.036.The subject: “The Texas Department of Transportation’s 2008-09 appropriations.” Translated, that means, we want to pin you down and find if you really and truly are suddenly out of money. TxDOT shook up the Texas transportation world, and quite a few powerful legislators, over the past two months by suddenly cutting money for project engineering and right of way and announcing it will award no new road construction contracts after Feb. 1. Frankly, a lot of lawmakers think TxDOT is playing politics with its books.
You can click the link above and leave a comment, although it seems that snail mail is faster than Ben approving on-line comments. Sometimes it takes him a day or two. Perhaps someone should tell him that these new fangled computers allow approvals in an instant, with the click of a button - which could help create an efficient community dialog on these important transportation issues.
WHAT IS TXDOT REALLY DOING?
TxDOT claims to have run out of money for free roads, while they divert Billions of our tax dollars (that they claim they don't have) into freeway to tollway conversions. The new toll roads allow TxDOT and RMA's to become taxing authorities.
Sadly, our families pay more and most of the money collect goes to the special interests who have been advocating for toll roads. Toll roads cost much more to build and maintain than free roads.
More spankins are coming down the pike for the rogue TxDOT with the Sunset Review in the next year.
I spoke with one of the committees. They expect 9am-noon to be filled with questions committee members have for TxDOT. Then the afternoon is devoted to HB 792 discussion. And, although not scheduled to date, the committee will have hearings for the public to speak - coming soon. I'm still going.
registered lobbyists to lobby & engage elected officials to
quell opposition to the Trans Texas Corridor.
As part of TURF’s lawsuit against the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) for its ad campaign to promote toll roads and the Trans Texas Corridor (in violation of Texas Government Code Chapter 556), new evidence has been discovered.
Documents from a FIOA request now prove TxDOT hired 4 federal lobbyists with $5,000 and $10,000 monthly retainers to Chad Bradley, Drew Maloney, Garry Mauro, Billy Moore and one state lobbyist with Alliance for I-69, Gary Bushell, in order to lobby elected officials and solicit them in selling the public on the controversial Trans Texas Corridor TTC-69 privatized toll project. On March 23, 2007, Bushell met directly with four Waller County Commissioners Glenn Beckendorff, Bill Eplen, Terry Harrison, and Milton Whiting.
TURF uncovered detailed logs showing a concerted campaign to lobby politicians, particularly newly elected officials, which is ilegal for a state agency that must remain apolitical. Bushell personally lobbied more than two-dozen elected officials in the path of TTC-69 prior to the Town Hall meetings. http://www.texasturf.org/images/stories/pdf/legal/Email_mtgs-with-electeds.pdf
TURF also discovered in a memo to TxDOT dated November 8, 2007, that Rodman & Co. marketing gurus seem to have drafted quotes on behalf of elected officials in order to place them as positive quotes in press releases about the TTC-69 project.
TxDOT also hired Governor Rick Perry’s political polling outfit, Bacelice & Associates, to conduct a poll that included asking one’s political party affiliation in its questions.
“TxDOT has patently and repeatedly denied that they’ve been illegally lobbying elected officials, yet they secretly and knowingly hired registered lobbyists to do the Governor’s dirty work in ramming toll roads and this Trans Texas Corridor down the taxpayers’ throats!” said Terri Hall, Founder of Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom (or TURF)
What TxDOT calls “outreach” is, in reality, an ad campaign (www.KeepTexasMoving.com) using public relations firms and political strategists to “sell” the public on a privatized, tolled trade corridor from Laredo to Texarkana.
I sent out a FIOA request and found something of a surprise, I am just getting ready to look it over. It's called "Traffic and Revenue Estimate" for 183 and 71 on the East side of Austin. It was just finished last month (12/07). CTRMA paid URS to create it. I'll let you know what I find right here on this blog. IT'S LOOKING JUICY!
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; instead, it produced just $14 million. URS predicted the Osceola would bring in around $9.4 million in tolls every year. It Instead, brought in less than $6 million annually and could end up going $1 billion or more over its original $150 million budget.
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."If you'd like to get the 40 page doc, just email me and I'll send it no questions asked.
Sure the Texas freeway tolls steal our tax dollars and right of way, but bonds are also part of the mix - so the special interests can leverage our assets for maximum profits.
And, within the toll road bonds the toll authorities make a bad investment look better by purchasing very expensive bond insurance, just like the CTRMA purchased to make 183A almost junk status bonds look like top notch bonds:
Rated BBB-/Baa3 underlying and AAA/Aaa with bond insurance.A new Forbes article called "Bond Issuers Face New Costs In Insurance Crisis" tells how the insurance crisis is effecting bond insurance:
"The perfect storm took time to brew, but it hit hard and fast when it came--much harder and faster than we expected," says Banc of America Securities analyst Tamara KravecThe 2005 Comptroller's report said the 183A bond insurance was vital to CTRMA:
As mentioned earlier, CTRMA insured the $168 million in senior lien bonds. CTRMA’s financial advisors considered bond insurance vital, as they were concerned that there would not be a market for uninsured bonds issued by a start-up toll road authority. Financial Guaranty Insurance Company (FGIC) insured the revenue bonds at a cost of approximately $9 million to CTRMA. The insurance helped CTRMA obtain a better rating for their bonds, thus reducing the total amount that the authority needed to borrow to support the project.
Trinity County officials are fighting mad over the Trans-Texas Corridor (TTC), according to the Trinity Standard. “I for one am not willing to sit back and let it gut this county,” said Suzanne Waller, chairman of the Trinity County Historical Commission (TCHC).
Sen. Kirk Watson, who led the effort to divert nearly a Billion tax dollars to shift Austin's freeways to tollways last October, is already considering amending the toll tax plan, once he hears back from TxDOT - according to a new InFactDaily.com article called, "Watson waiting for answers on CAMPO spending plan".
So which tolls might be shaved off next?
On her website, Travis County Commissioner Sarah Eckhardt targets two "overbuilds", 290 West and 45SW, to be pulled from the plan:
"I suggest that the first two projects trimmed be 45SW and 290West. Most recognize that these two roads, as designed, are out-and-out over-builds. First, 45SW should be eliminated entirely. The project addresses future growth, while all others address current demand. Given the present crises, we cannot justify including 45SW. Second, every viable option for shrinking the Sasquatch-like footprint of 290 West should be explored, resulting in a significant trimming of its width, height and cost."
Since 2004, we've been able to shave many portions of the Austin freeway tolls from the plan, saving our communities hundreds of millions of dollars in double tax tolls. More roads may be pulled from the plan in the coming months, with many mounting problems pressuring crooked politicos. And, a couple very viable lawsuits we are planning could help nudge that process along.
Re: "Hike in federal gas tax floated – Perry, others condemn panel's plan, want more private funding of roads," Wednesday news story A gas tax is a much better solution than toll roads. I find it interesting that Gov. Rick Perry condemned the idea of a national gas tax increase, while at the same time, he backs shoving toll roads down our throats. Privatizing roads as toll roads is just a politician's way of hiding a tax. Ill take a gas tax over a toll road any day. It's puzzling why Mr. Perry would condemn the gas tax proposal, while at the same time advocating privatizing our infrastructure with for-profit toll roads. Does Mr. Perry have a hidden agenda? A gas tax is a much better solution than making every highway a toll road. Ralph Bouvy, Plano Fuel tax per gallon in Texas is .184 cents Federal, .20 cents state. Total: 38.4 cents. For a vehicle that gets 20 miles per gallon, this is a little less than 2 cents per mile. If the proposed increase is implemented, then in five years, the tax will increase to a little less than 4 cents per mile. Gov. Rick Perry condemned the proposal, saying that toll roads are the better answer. However, on the North Texas Tollway Authority, the toll is 20 cents per mile cash or 14 cents per mile with the Toll Tag. Why the difference? Well, the NTTA has to make a profit for investors, whereas the government does not need to make a profit. John Knutson, Dallas The problem is not having enough money to build or repair the road infrastructure, but rather using those revenues for their intended purpose. Get rid of the earmarks and loosey-goosey use of such revenues for other unrelated purposes, and I suspect we can have some pretty nice roads. R.H. Grimes, Dallas
Letters: Gasoline tax vs. toll roads
Re: "Hike in federal gas tax floated – Perry, others condemn panel's plan, want more private funding of roads," Wednesday news story
A gas tax is a much better solution than toll roads. I find it interesting that Gov. Rick Perry condemned the idea of a national gas tax increase, while at the same time, he backs shoving toll roads down our throats.
Privatizing roads as toll roads is just a politician's way of hiding a tax. Ill take a gas tax over a toll road any day. It's puzzling why Mr. Perry would condemn the gas tax proposal, while at the same time advocating privatizing our infrastructure with for-profit toll roads. Does Mr. Perry have a hidden agenda?
A gas tax is a much better solution than making every highway a toll road.
Ralph Bouvy, Plano
Fuel tax per gallon in Texas is .184 cents Federal, .20 cents state. Total: 38.4 cents. For a vehicle that gets 20 miles per gallon, this is a little less than 2 cents per mile. If the proposed increase is implemented, then in five years, the tax will increase to a little less than 4 cents per mile.
Gov. Rick Perry condemned the proposal, saying that toll roads are the better answer. However, on the North Texas Tollway Authority, the toll is 20 cents per mile cash or 14 cents per mile with the Toll Tag.
Why the difference? Well, the NTTA has to make a profit for investors, whereas the government does not need to make a profit.
John Knutson, Dallas
The problem is not having enough money to build or repair the road infrastructure, but rather using those revenues for their intended purpose. Get rid of the earmarks and loosey-goosey use of such revenues for other unrelated purposes, and I suspect we can have some pretty nice roads.
R.H. Grimes, Dallas
Freeway toller Rep. Dawnna Dukes life just got a whole lot tougher, as Capitol Annex just outed her for number of corrupt and possibly illegal activities with Catellus. It's just a matter of time for the mainstream press, the DA and others to start digging deeper into dirty Dukes.
Low Income Families
With First Freeway Toll: 290 East
The Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority (CTRMA) released a tentative schedule this week for its plan to toll a portion of 290E from east of US 183 to east of FM 734 (Parmer Lane). The release for the 290E toll road is the first movement seen of any Phase II toll, since the original problematic vote took place in the Summer of 2004.
The CTRMA schedule for 290E was released on January 16th, and includes the following dates:
Fall 2008 - Environmental ClearanceA source employed within one of the CTRMA/CAMPO agencies tells me the toll authority saw 290E as the easiest Phase II toll to move forward for quite some time, due to the poorest community participation for the early community meetings.
Winter 2008 - Construction Begins
LOW HANGING FRUIT
I believe those early East Side meetings were contracted out to Rep. Dawnna Dukes sister, Stacey Rhone Dukes. Low income families were easily marginalized since advertising for the Phase II toll meetings was virtually nonexistent. Many East side families are pressed for time, some working two jobs, and have limited access to transportation, to attend public meetings in mass numbers. One of the public toll hearings I attended on the East side, in 2004, had less than 10 people show up, while West side hearings were often flooded - with hundreds.
The East Side of Austin, known for low income families, currently has many times the double tax toll lane miles planned. When you also add 130 toll road, the disproportion is even more skewed, as East side residents would be "caged in" by toll roads. Federal law, Title VI (Environmental Justice) says must avoid disproportionately high economic effects on low-income populations. Title VI also states that we must “prevent the denial of, reduction in, or significant delay in the receipt of benefits by minority populations and low-income populations.”
See this Chronicle article: East Austin activists Protest "Economic Racism".
MOST OF THE TOLL TAX FOR 290E GOES TO SPECIAL INTERESTS!
A TxDOT Preliminary Revenue Analysis for 290E shows the toll authority plans to suck $625 Million from East side families in the next 40 years.
AFTER the special interests profit off the operations and maintenance, where the majority of the toll tax gets gobbled up, the toll Authority will take $156 Million! All that toll tax on our families, and the theft of our public right of way, just to feed the rich.
The TxDOT Analysis also states that the tolled version of 290E needs about 8 more acres of land/right of way than a less expensive nontolled expansion option.
A Statesman article from 2007 says this about Phase II tolls:
"Either way, the plan was huge and conceived wholly behind closed doors, introduced in April 2004 as an all-or-nothing program, rammed through the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization board three months later — and enduringly unpopular.The Phase II tolls have been plagued with problems since they were originally voted on in 2004, then with some roads pulled from the plan in 2005 - and again with more freeway toll segments pulled for the 2007 freeway toll vote, which diverts $910 million tax dollars, spearheaded by Sen. Kirk Watson.
Almost immediately, it began to molt. Contrary to supporters' early claims, well, changes to the list were in fact permissible, and Austin could still get state funds associated with the plan."
Sources behind the scenes say the process for the freeway toll roads is moving slower than expected. And - that the schedule release for 290E is an effort to give the impression that everything is moving along as planned, but new major problems are slowing the freeway toll plan down.
The problems are many, and include a TxDOT bait and switch of pulling $1.4 Billion tax dollars promised, which would to help shift portions of Austin's freeways to toll ways (71E, 71W, 290E, 290W, 183 and 45SW). See the Sen. Kirk Watson vs. TxDOT article.
Texas Comptroller did an investigative report on the CTRMA in 2005 and found “Double Taxation Without Accountability” and “Favoritism And Self-Enrichment”. The Comptrollers report also found the CTRMA gave out NO BID contracts (Millions of dollars worth) to themselves and their friends. See the NO BID contract list here.
May I suggest we all start writing letters to the editor, suggesting 290E toll road be named, "Kirk Watson Tollway".
by David Tanner, Land Line Magazine
Hundreds of residents are showing up at public meetings to speak their minds about the Lone Star state’s controversial Trans-Texas Corridor.
Meetings began Tuesday, Jan. 15, in Texarkana with a reported attendance of 150 people. The next two meetings in Carthage and Lufkin drew hundreds according to news reports.Read the rest of the article HERE
Here in Austin, Better Austin Today Political Action Committee (BAT PAC) was born this week, to fight City Hall and the special interests which control it. The main reason BAT PAC was formed is to remove elected officials from office (perhaps a focus on City of Austin council members) who fail to represent the people, and replace them with responsive leaders.
As the founder of PET PAC (AustinTollParty and TexasTollParty), I was invited to the big coming out party last Sunday night. It was exciting to see so many different citizen groups represented under one roof. Cars filled up the parking lot of the Moose building and stretched far up and down the street. It looked like it was a success, BUT I ALSO NOTICED SOMETHING VERY STRANGE.
Keep in mind this group was essentially created to remove and replace council members who have been major disappointments as they listen to special interest developers over the cries of our neighborhoods.
Well, to my shock, some real Jokers actually showed up to the BAT PAC party!
Only a shameless politico would have the nuts to come to a party that was created to remove them from office. Right?
Well that didn't stop Council members Mike Martinez and Lee Leffingwell, two of the biggest disappointments since Brewster McCracken was elected. Martinez and Leffingwell were there trying to blend in, but folks I talked to were also surprised to see them at this party. I also noticed the red headed female joker, Valinda Bolton, State Representative of District 47 was looking for babies to kiss. You know, Bolton promised to fight against freeway tolls during the election, then quickly removed herself from CAMPO and did nothing to stop them. Yup she was there.
It wasn’t all bad, one of the rare good guys was there, Elliott Naishtat, State Representative of District 47. Naishtat is a fantastic man, who always listens to the public and votes the right way. As a member of CAMPO he voted against Phase II freeway tolls every time, and his votes as a Rep show he's a rare breed on all other issues as well. We need to clone him and Eddie Rodriguez ASAP.
Brian Thompson, who is looking to dethrone toller Rep. Dawnna "Corrupt" Dukes (District 46), was there. Brian is against freeway tolls. He gave Dawnna a shutout this week with a massive-endorsement-bonanza (5-0!).
If you live in Dist 46, get a yard sign up for Brian Thompson HERE.
The Better Austin Today Political Action Committee (BAT PAC) website has this mission statement:
"...to help elect officials who are responsive and accountable to our community, through building a strong, diverse coalition, developing leaders and supporting candidates who share our vision for a better Austin today."Jokers, get a clue.
by TheNewspaper Editor
A new study questions federal efforts to promote the use of toll roads throughout the country by documenting certain negative side effects tolls have on secondary road networks. Researchers Peter Swan of Penn State University and Michael Belzer of Wayne State University presented their findings Monday to the Transportation Research Board annual meeting in Washington, DC.
"If private operators -- or public operators for that matter -- set toll rates to maximize profit where congestion is not a significant problem, they can introduce substantial inefficiencies in the overall road transportation network and actually increase congestion and safety hazards in other parts of the system that they do not own and control," Swan and Belzer wrote. "These inefficiencies, the cost of which are borne by the public and not by the private toll road owner who is focused on profit for his particular part of the network, can only exist when private operators control particular strategically located roads through a purchase or long-term lease."
The researchers analyzed decades of data from the Ohio Turnpike and nearby alternate routes in Ohio, comparing both to national data to determine the effects the toll rates had on nearby free roads. Ohio raised toll rates in the 1990s and subsequently lowered them, allowing an easier calculation of the effect of different rate levels. The study showed that as the Turnpike toll increased, truck traffic increased on alternate, free routes as truckers balanced the monetary savings with the cost of the extra time needed to take an indirect route.
Swan and Belzer's economic modeling showed that the Turnpike could maximize its revenue by setting a truck toll rate of 46 cents per mile and collecting $111 from each truck driving the length of the Turnpike. At this high rate, however, the number of trucks avoiding the toll road would quadruple and place 608 million vehicle miles of added traffic and wear on secondary roads.
Read the rest of the story and find a PDF of the study HERE.
By Jimmy Isaac, News Journal
James Mason doesn't want a new highway cutting him off from his property. James Boggs wants to keep American jobs here.
They were just a sample of about 140 residents who asked, commented and listened during a public forum with state transportation leaders Wednesday night in Carthage. It was the second of several forums scheduled along the Interstate 69/Trans-Texas Corridor, a proposed superhighway that likely will parallel U.S. 59 from Texarkana to the Mexican border.
Read the rest of the story HERE.
Special Interests, who profit off tolling our public highways are hard at work using every excuse on the planet to become the middlemen, as they feast on our tax dollars, debt and infrastructure. Elected officials gain fat contributions to ignore the publics will. In Austin, Sen. Kirk Watson and other tollers voted to spend $910 million tax dollars to shift our freeways to toll roads in Oct of 2007. Tolling freeways create traffic congestion. And, they are a wasteful way to collect taxes.
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: MANY 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. But freeway tolls are costing more like 45 cents a mile to 65 cents a mile.
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.
I mentioned this report was coming out a couple days ago.
As Gov. Rick Perry goes ballistic, the Dallas News article today states this of new federal Study, "If recommendations are passed into law, fewer tolls would be necessary than are currently planned in Texas".
Hundreds of news reports have come out today across the country about this report, which will effect the Gas Tax vs. Toll Roads dialog here in Texas. Read the whole federal report that suggest boosting the gas tax over tolling everything: Transportation for Tomorrow: Report of the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission, here.
Toll roads cost MORE to build and maintain than free roads. That doens't even consider the added bureaucracy, debt and the corruption that comes with tolls. Toll roads need a larger footprint - which means extra right-of-way land must be acquired and utilities must be relocated. This can be surprisingly expensive. For example, TxDOT is on record as saying that Austin phase II tolls would cost over $100 million more than if the same roads were built as non-tolled roads!
Indexing the gas tax is simple and the most fair way to pay for our roads.
After a case of political "Stockholm Syndrome" for a couple years the TFB seems to have found it's way back to reality.
The TFB supported Perry during his relection, even with the TxDOT/Perry TTC land grab taking many of their members property. But now, in this Lone Star Report "Interview with TFB President", it looks like enough farmers gave them hell over the past years that the Bureau is forced to fight for those Texans they represent.
A snip of the heat Texas Farm Bureau president, Kenneth Dierschke, is finally dishing up:
"It was inconceivable to us that the Governor that has stood in front of Farm Bureau members at dozens of meetings, who was professing his support for property rights, turned his back on farmers and ranchers and property owners."