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KSAT TV covers 281 Prop 12 story
Written by Terri Hall   
Saturday, 23 July 2011
Link to story here.

The expected objections from MPO & TxDOT bureaucrats have ensued since the grassroots have renewed their call to restore funding to fix 281 (using Prop 12 money) and keep it a freeway, rather than toll our existing road. Just as the MPO changed Wurzbach Pkwy from a toll project back to a free road project (when some stimulus money became available) and cobbled together several pots of money to get it done, the MPO can do the same on 281. To say otherwise is disingenuous. US 281 had gas tax funding to put in overpasses and expand the highway until the MPO decided (July 2004) to turn it into a toll project to make some money to build other area roads (particularly 1604) in a targeted tax. Watch the news coverage here. For more info on the history of the project cost escalation when 281 became a toll road, go to www.281overpassesnow.com.

SA, MPO Get Road Construction Windfall

MPO Set To Receive $54 Million.

POSTED: Thursday, July 21, 2011

The San Antonio Metropolitan Planning Organization is receiving $54 million from the state for roadway and bridge construction, part of $3 billion the legislature authorized of the remaining $5 billion from a referendum passed by voters in 2007.The local Texas Department of Transportation has been allocated $90 million. With the new influx of funds, advocates for Highway 281 are ready to finally finish off the project and keep it toll-free.

"The opportunity is here. ... It's way past due to get 281 fixed," said Terri Hall, the founder of anti-toll group Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom.

"I think we are morally obligated to address the great raging need in this county and it is 281, north of 1604, "said Tommy Adkisson, county commissioner and chairman of the MPO board.

Board Director Sid Martinez said the money sent to San Antonio would not be enough to cover the cost.

"Unfortunately, the cost is in the $400 million range. This funding is not enough for the project at this time.

"Hall disagrees with the cost estimate."I think the cost estimates have been monkeyed around with, just like our gas tax money," Hall said. She said it was closer to the $200 million to $250 million range and like other road projects, more money could be found."Like rehabilitation and safety money and other areas where they can pull together a lot more money," said Hall.

Adkisson said it would at least be a start.The money has to be spent by 2013; most of it by 2012. The 281 project is currently in the middle of a five-year environmental study but Hall said that it could be completed in the next year.If the MPO board decides to use the $54 million for other projects, one on the top of the list could be Interstate 35.

"Adding auxiliary lanes (which) ease traffic in and out of 35 through exit ramps," Martinez said.
Read more...
 
Cintra does damage control upon fears of default
Written by Terri Hall   
Saturday, 23 July 2011
Link to article here.

July 21, 2011


Read more: http://blogs.star-telegram.com/honkin_mad/2011/07/cintra-responds-in-more-detail-about-the-financial-shape-of-the-indiana-toll-road-north-tarrant-expr.html#ixzz1Sy5mRR00

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Pegging gas tax to inflation spells trouble for taxpayers
Written by Terri Hall   
Saturday, 23 July 2011
Link to article here.

There has been much discussion through the years about raising the gas tax and indexing it to inflation to pay for roads. We've seen interest only from transportation leaders, but there has been no commitment by these same leaders to end the reliance on tolling along with it. We've said all along, end the diversions of the gas tax to non-road purposes and put the lid on tolling first before there's ANY discussion about raising the gas tax. Indexing would mean automatic tax increases without limit using an index highly manipulated by the government (who benefits from the automatic tax increase). If fiscal discipline as it pertains to our current road taxes (gas taxes and vehicle sales taxes, too, which get dumped into general revenue and don't go to roads either) were restored, a fixed gas tax increase should be considered, not one pegged to inflation. But methinks if fiscal discipline were instituted, we wouldn't need to raise taxes to get our roads fixed since the vehicle sales tax represents $2-3 BILLION/yr, state gas tax diversions represent a billion a year, and billions more at the federal level.

Intellectual Dishonesty in Washington

Posted: Sunday, July 17th, 2011 at 10:20 am
By: Ken Bennight, San Antonio Tea Party

The United States is running up debt to previously unimaginable levels, and that debt is rapidly becoming impossible to repay. A technique countries have historically used to deal with excessive debt is to inflate the currency, thus making the debt cheaper to repay. Of course that works only so long as your creditors let you denominate your debt in a currency you control. How long before our external debt will have to be denominated in Chinese Renminbis, Saudi Riyals, or some other currency?

But the United States faces a more immediate problem in using inflation to mitigate the debt. Many U.S. obligations are indexed so that the obligations increase as inflation increases. Fortunately for Washington and unfortunately for America, that is a minor inconvenience. Just as the U.S. government controls inflation, it also controls the measure of inflation, the consumer price index. Washington can reduce increases in inflation-indexed obligations by manipulating how the consumer price index is calculated.

That’s already been done to some extent. If we still measured inflation as we did in 1980, the present inflation rate reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics would be much higher than it is. According to a recent report by Dow Jones Newswire, Congress is considering again manipulating the calculation of the consumer price index to further reduce the reported inflation rate. Reducing the reported inflation rate, of course, has no effect on the actual inflation rate.

In pushing this proposal, Congressman piously speak of getting a more accurate picture of inflation’s true effect. But given that reducing the reported rate makes Congressmen’s lives easier, it’s hard to believe there’s no self interest involved. Are any of us, Captain Renault-like, shocked!, shocked! to discover that even the computation of the consumer price index is corrupted by politics?

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Tollways to lack word 'toll' in their name
Written by Terri Hall   
Saturday, 23 July 2011
Link to article here.

These Regional Mobility Authorities are TOLL authorities, yet they lack the name in their titles, on purpose. Now their tollways lack the word as well in yet another deceptive way of getting more people to pay the CTRMA's toll taxes (likely only temporarily until motorists get their first bill with hundreds of dollars in fees and fines tacked onto it -- the norm with toll agencies in Texas).

A tollway by any other name

Ben Wear: Getting There

 

Austin American Statesman

Updated: 8:15 p.m. Sunday, July 3, 2011

Published: 7:33 p.m. Sunday, July 3, 2011

The big transportation news of the day is that you won't be tempted to get caught in a downtown traffic jam for fireworks tonight. No fireworks, no jam.

But in honor of the day, a couple of transportation tidbits:

Austin, unlike some cities, has never been much for slapping names on its highways. We tend to stick with the numerical designations that God and TxDOT gave the roads in the first place. But your Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority (note that the word "toll" does not appear in its name) is trying to change that.

Already, it has begun to call its under-construction toll road on U.S. 290 East the "Manor Expressway." Not tollway, expressway. We'll see how that catches on when the turnpike's first section opens in a couple of years. Sometime back, the authority also began to refer to its planned expansion of U.S. 183 in East Austin (which will have tolls on the main lanes) as the "Bergstrom Expressway."

The trend is expanding.

There is now, in concept, an "Oak Hill Expressway," meaning the short section where U.S. 290 West and Texas 71 meet that in a few years might be a tollway. The agency board voted last week to pay a consultant about $750,000 to manage that coming project. The board also approved $2 million for similar work, referred to as the "Manchaca Expressway," which you might know as Texas 45 Southwest. Which will also be a toll road.

As of now, the only Austin highway with a commonly used nickname is MoPac Boulevard (Loop 1), which is named after a defunct railroad company. Using that as a guide, perhaps Texas 71 East to Smithville and La Grange should become the Chicken Ranch Expressway.

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Cintra spokesperson sings sunshine to Seguin about its privatized SH 130
Written by Terri Hall   
Saturday, 23 July 2011
Link to article here.

Cintra-Zachry spokesperson, Victoria Miller, is already misleading the public. She said TxDOT sets the toll rate when that's not true. Cintra sets the toll rate based on an approved formula that can be highly manipulated based on what Cintra says its operating costs are. Then Miller tried to act concerned appearing to agree that I-10 needs to be widened, when a non-compete agreement signed by TxDOT restricts and can even prohibit the expansion of free roads surrounding Cintra's tollway. "Competing" free roads threaten Cintra's guaranteed profits. This is what Rick Perry has wrought upon the state of Texas....foreign-owned toll roads where the private investors are granted government-sanctioned monopolies over our public roads.

A savvy member of the audience brought out one of the key issues surrounding the SH 130 tollway boondoggle: why would trucks want to incur the cost of paying expensive tolls to take a road around Austin that's a much longer route? Her answer makes no sense. Current traffic patterns on the first four segments and basic economics tell us truckers WILL NOT take SH 130, despite TxDOT lowering the truck toll rate to try and incentivize truckers to take its failing toll road that's running with red ink. When the Cintra segments 5 & 6 open, we can expect the same.


Official answers questions about SH 130
By Bob Thaxton
Seguin Gazette
July 7, 2011

SEGUIN — A wide variety of questions about State Highway 130 were answered Wednesday during the monthly membership meeting and luncheon hosted by the Seguin Area Chamber of Commerce at the Seguin-Guadalupe County Coliseum.

Guest speaker for the luncheon was Victoria Miller, director of corporate affairs and public information coordinator for the SH 130 Concession Company.

A joint venture of Cintra, a multinational company based in Spain and Zachry American Infrastructure, headquartered in San Antonio, the SH 130 Concession Company is building segments 5 and 6, the southernmost sections of the 90-mile toll highway running from Interstate 35 near Georgetown to Interstate 10 east of Seguin.

“We’re hoping that the road will be done by the end of 2012,” Miller said.

After delivering a brief description of the project, she opened the proceedings to questions from the audience.


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Chance to fix Hwy 281 without tolls
Written by Terri Hall   
Thursday, 21 July 2011
IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Chance to fix 281 without tolls
MPO to vote on Prop 12 allocation Monday

(San Antonio, TX, July 21, 2011) The 82nd Texas Legislature authorized the remaining $3 billion in Prop 12 bonds to be issued for road and bridge projects. The MPO will be voting on which projects will receive Prop 12 money at its policy board meeting on Monday. The criteria for Prop 12 money is that it must fund a project listed in the top 50 of the 100 Most Congested Roadways list.

Here's a link to the 100 Most Congested Roadways list where US 281 is #38:
http://apps.dot.state.tx.us/apps/rider56/list.htm

Loop 1604 from SH 16 to FM 471, US 281 north of Loop 1604, and two segments of I-35 (from Loop 353 to 281 and from FM 1518 to Loop 1604) would meet that criteria.

“We know all of these projects are important and need to be addressed. The question is, in what order? We're asking the MPO to allocate Prop 12 money to US 281 first since it was previously funded with gas taxes for 7 years in the MPO's plan before they spent it elsewhere, and thousands of San Antonians have repeatedly asked that it be done without tolls,” advocates Terri Hall, Founder/Director of TURF.

Rep. Lyle Larson served on the MPO when he was a Bexar County Commissioner and said that projects that were previously funded that get bumped for any reason should be the first ones funded again when money becomes available. Since US 281 already had funding identified in MPO plans from roughly 2001 to 2008, TURF believes it ought to be the first project in the pipeline to receive Prop 12 funds now.
Read more...
 
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