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Toll rates to be up to 50 cents a mile in SA
Written by Terri Hall   
Tuesday, 17 April 2012

So if San Antonio wasn't awake to the runaway, punitive taxation of toll roads before now, let this article below be a wake-up call...can you afford to pay 50 cents a mile in NEW taxes to get to work? Didn't think so...also consider, do you want the toll tax rates to be in the hands of an unelected board whom taxpayers cannot hold accountable? Do you want this unelected toll authority, RMA, to own these state highways in PERPETUITY versus have these roads revert back to free parts of the state highway system once the improvements are paid for? Well, If your answer to all of the above is 'No,' then you had better start getting involved in nixing these ill-conceived toll schemes...

On March 26, 2012, the San Antonio Bexar County Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) voted to take certain segments of 281 & 1604 out of the toll plans and make them non-toll projects. After a seven year long grassroots tax revolt, vigilance finally PAID OFF!

US 281 from Loop 1604 to Stone Oak Pkwy and Loop 1604 from Hwy 90 to Bandera Rd on the west side and from I-10 E to I-35 on the east side will now be done WITHOUT TOLLS. But the remaining portion of Loop 1604 from Bandera Rd. to I-35 will have added 4 added toll lanes (2 each direction) called ‘managed lanes.’ Over 50 toll projects still remain on the books at the MPO at this moment, including adding toll lanes to I-35, I-10, the southern leg of Loop 1604, and tolling most all upgrades to every interchange between these highways.

Can you pay 50 cents PER MILE in tolls?
At it’s Board Meeting April 12, 2012, the Alamo Regional Mobility Authority (RMA) adopted a range of toll rates they plan to charge motorists to use the new managed toll lanes. The RMA will charge from 17 cents up to 50 cents PER MILE -- often the highest rate will be charged during peak hours (or commute hours, when most people need to use the road).

They’re ‘managed’ lanes because this un-elected government bureaucracy wants to ‘manage’ your morning commute and charge you a premium to access these lanes during rush hour.

The tolls may be variable rates that change with time of day and level of traffic on the toll lanes.  If too many people use the lanes, they’ll change the toll in real time to bump cars off the lanes by increasing price.

Government no longer wishes to fix congestion, it wishes to manipulate congestion for profit. These new-fangled toll lanes added to existing, paid for, right-of-way also have non-compete agreements that limit or prohibit the expansion of free lanes/routes surrounding the toll lanes -- guaranteeing congestion on the free routes and forcing us to pay the new tax on driving.

Also, none of these toll projects are toll viable, which means they know up front there won’t be enough projected traffic to pay for the cost of the expansion. Rather than nix the toll project, the RMA plans to SUBSIDIZE the toll lanes by building them with gas taxes and other public money in addition to the toll revenue bonds. But you won’t be able use the lanes without paying ANOTHER tax, a toll. So these toll schemes are DOUBLE TAXATION!

Tolls in perpetuity? Permanent NEW tax on driving
The Texas Legislature passed a bill, HB 1112, in the 82nd session in 2001, that gives RMA’s ownership of these segments of state highways in PERPETUITY. Why would they seek ownership of our state highways in PERPETUITY? Because they want to charge you tolls in PERPETUITY! On October 26, 2009, Terry Brechtel, the Executive Director of the RMA admitted they plan to keep the toll in place in perpetuity, after the improvements are paid for.

Toll rate range approved

Published 02:38 p.m., Thursday, April 12, 2012

The public got its first preview of the tolls Bexar County drivers might one day pay, after the Alamo Regional Mobility Authority board amended its policies Thursday afternoon to include a range of possible toll rates.

The range, which could be anywhere between 17 and 50 cents per mile, would increase by a certain percentage every year, once a toll road is built and operational.

The board also formally exercised the RMA's right to build tolls on Loop 1604, should those projects ever come to pass.

The decision will not impede the recent proposal by Bexar County Commissioner Kevin Wolff to expand parts of Loop 1604 without tolls; but it ensures the RMA will be in charge of any future toll projects along other parts of the corridor.

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 18 April 2012 )
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Hempstead tollway nixed, but tolls coming to Hwy 290
Written by Terri Hall   
Tuesday, 17 April 2012
So while one toll road gets nixed, the Hempstead toll road, commuters can still expect to pay more for congestion relief on Hwy 290, despite paying gas taxes to build and maintain roads. Also note, toll users from elsewhere in Houston will be footing the bill for three projects that are advancing to the tune of $480 million. So when you hear toll advocates preach that tolls are better than gas taxes because its a user fee where the user pays for the actual road they're using, don't believe it. It's propaganda designed to make you think tolls are better when, in fact, it's far more costly per mile to use (12 cents to 50 cents or more per mile) than a gas tax funded freeway (1-2 cents per mile), and the toll tax rate is in the hands of unelected boards that the voters cannot hold accountable. So it's runaway Robin Hood taxation, pure and simple.

by Marie Leonard

Community Impact Newspaper - April 10, 2012

ImpactNews.com


Construction to begin on Hwy. 290

Photo by Andrew Richardson

Work will begin on projects that will eventually help ease congestion until Hwy. 290. construction is completed.

Following years of planning and debate, Harris County Commissioners Court approved an initial agreement April 10 with the Texas Department of Transportation to add toll lanes to Hwy. 290.

“All the commissioners know what’s needed in their precincts, and this helps all of you make those improvements that will keep your communities growing,” said Judge Ed Emmett. “I think this is a great step.”

The proposed project—which would be constructed between Loop 610 and the Grand Parkway—calls for building a two or three-lane reversible managed lane facility for high occupancy vehicles and toll traffic, and includes the addition of one general lane in both directions. The project will be similar to the Katy Managed Lanes on I-10, which consist of toll and HOV lanes in the middle of the freeway, according to Eric Hanson, media relations coordinator for the Harris County Tollroad Authority.

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WSJ: Why your highway has potholes
Written by Terri Hall   
Tuesday, 17 April 2012
Link to article here.

It's hard to disagree with much of what this Wall Street Journal editorial advocates, however, where they're missing the boat is this notion that private money will be the silver bullet to fix road funding issues. There's a hefty price that comes with seeking private money to build public roads using public private partnerships (P3s), as well as loss of sovereignty and control over the surrounding free routes. Not only are toll rates on these privatized roads punitively higher than public toll roads (75 cents a mile versus 12-15 cents per mile on a public toll road), heaps of taxpayer money subsidize these government-sanctioned monopolies (so having to pay a toll, too, is DOUBLE TAXATION) and the sweetheart deals are structured to GUARANTEE private profits at the public's expense. On the North Tarrant Express project (I-820) in DFW, taxpayers brought three-quarters of the money to the table, the Spanish firm, Cintra, only one-quarter, yet Cintra gets the exclusive right to set and collect tolls for the next half century in return for their paltry investment.

So while we need to get a fiscally responsible federal highway bill passed and while we need to give the states back the money they send to Washington, advocating P3s as part of the solution to make-up structural shortfalls is fiscally irresponsible and a taxpayer rip-off, putting the cost of transportation so far out of reach for the average person that these toll roads will go bankrupt from lack of use, necessitating more taxpayer bailouts.

Why Your Highway Has Potholes

Americans don't want to live in Ray LaHood's car-free utopia. 

Wall Street Journal - Editorial

April 16, 2012

Nothing shows off the worst of Congress like a highway bill. And this year's scramble for cash is worse than ever because the 18.4 cent a gallon gasoline tax will raise $70 billion less than the $263 billion Congress wants to spend over the next five years. Let the mayhem ensue.

The Senate has passed a two-year $109 billion bill sponsored by Barbara Boxer of California that bails out the highway trust fund with general revenues, including some $12 billion for such non-essentials as the National Endowment for the Oceans and the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The bill requires little or no reform. The prevailing Senate view is the more concrete that gets poured, the more jobs back home. So more "shovel-ready" nonstimulus.

House Republicans oppose the Senate version amid a $1.3 trillion deficit and have their own bill to give states more flexibility—though still not enough—on how to spend transportation dollars. Congress had to pass a temporary 90-day extension of highway funding through June 30 because the two sides can't agree.

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Increased speed limits more about profits than safety
Written by Terri Hall   
Friday, 13 April 2012

TxDOT increases speed limits to 80 MPH, why may surprise you

By Terri Hall

Examiner.com

April 13, 2012

The Texas Transportation Commission recently passed a Minute Order allowing the posted speed limits on Texas highways to go up to 80 MPH, if traffic studies show its safe.

At a time when motorists are more concerned than ever about ways to conserve fuel and stretch every gallon of gas, this move by the Commission seems ill-timed, and some would even say, reckless (regarding safety).

However, the most disturbing reason for this change in speed limits is what we warned the Texas Legislature of in 2011 -- this is about maximizing toll revenues for a private, foreign corporation, Cintra, as well as for the State of Texas. Both our lawmakers and TxDOT are making transportation decisions based on profit potential, not public safety.

It's no secret that the traffic levels on SH 130 have been abysmal, and TxDOT has been searching for ways to boost the number of cars that take the toll road, even lowering toll rates 67%. But this move to increase speed limits is based solely on the prospect of a higher share of toll revenues TxDOT will split with Cintra when its two segments of SH 130 open later this year.

Last Updated ( Saturday, 14 April 2012 )
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TexPIRG: Hidden Costs of road privatization
Written by Terri Hall   
Tuesday, 10 April 2012

The hidden costs of road privatization

By Melissa Cubria, Advocate, Texas Public Interest Research Group

 

“When infrastructure is privatized (or corporatized), the decisions about its size, shape and placement are driven by market demand. The private partners are interested in elements of infrastructure that can yield the longest and strongest streams of privately capturable revenue not the ones that yield the largest public benefits.”[1]

 

A WORRISOME TREND

It is easy to see why many states are turning to infrastructure privatization in order to repair, build, modernize, and operate highways and other infrastructure. Cash-strapped states and cities are drawn by up-front payments or other ways to move costs “off budget,” such as shifting to private user fees rather than taxes to address their budget deficits. They may also see privatization as a way to shift future financial risks to private contractors.

In Texas, proposals for private toll roads have come under much criticism, prompting heated debates with most public attention paid to soaring toll rates, seizures of ranch land through eminent domain, and concerns about foreign corporations owning vital Texas roads. Largely neglected from these debates has been a discussion about the long-term effects of standard provisions of privatization contracts. The common terms of road privatization deals restrict the public’s ability to act on its own behalf, force the state to pay privatization companies when those companies claim they would have reaped more revenue if not for state actions, and reduce the public’s right to know information about how public functions are performed and how public dollars are spent.

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Tolls coming to Hwy 288 in Pearland
Written by Terri Hall   
Tuesday, 10 April 2012
Link to article here.

This story also fails to inform the public that a controversial public private partnership (P3s) toll contract is being contemplated for this project. We've spoken to the folks in Brazoria County and they don't want their sovereign public roads being ceded to private corporations whom they cannot hold accountable for toll tax rates. In fact, just last year at a Tea Party meeting where TURF spoke about the 82nd legislative session, a county commissioner tried to allay public opposition to tolls on Hwy 288 by stating it would be a LONG time before tolls would ever be put on Hwy 288, yet a year later, here it is.

Toll lanes may soon be coming to Highway 288

Friday, April 06, 2012
 

There's finally talk about adding toll lanes on Highway 288. It's a proposal that's sure to excite a lot of folks who live in Pearland. We're talking about toll lanes from Highway 59, all the way down to near the Brazoria County line, so down to the Beltway area.

It is three lanes in each direction -- north and south that link Harris and Brazoria counties, carrying tens of thousands of commuters to and from Houston each workday. But during rush hours...

"Scary, it is; have to slam on brakes," said Crystal Meredith, who commutes from Pearland.

Since Pearland began growing, there's been talk about putting in a toll road on Highway 288. Harris County had the option given to it by the legislature, but in recent years, it didn't have the money to build it. Under the plan, the county will forego that option and the state would do the job.

"If you just look at 288, it was designed from the beginning to be able to have the toll lanes down the middle, so I think the state can move fairly quickly," Harris County Judge Ed Emmett said.

And yet, the toll lanes couldn't cross the Brazoria County line just outside the Beltway because that county has first claim on building a toll road, but no toll road authority. It also has property owners tired of tall he traffic on the only freeway in town. It's enough that one homeowner is considering moving.

"Matter of fact, the thought has crossed my mind going a little farther that way," said Dennis Meredith, who commutes from Pearland.

 

(Copyright ©2012 KTRK-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)
Last Updated ( Tuesday, 10 April 2012 )
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TxDOT Exec resigns

Link to article here.

Question now is, his replacement will be named AFTER the Legislature leaves. So will the new Director keep the status quo, or lead the agency to restore the public trust?

TxDOT chief executive Amadeo Saenz to resign

2:57 PM Wed, Jan 26, 2011 | Dallas Morning News
Michael Lindenberger/Reporter    This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

Texas Department of Transportation executive director Amadeo Saenz resigned today, just weeks after a hand-picked panel of advisors urged his bosses to make leadership changes at the highest levels.

He will remain in his spot, however, until Aug. 31.

Saenz, who has been chief executive of the 12,000-employee agency since 2007, is the first hispanic to lead the department, which is famous for its tradition of hiring from within. Saenz joined the department 33 years ago in Pharr District.

"Throughout the course of his career, Amadeo has earned a reputation as a leader and coalition builder, and earned the respect and trust of his peers across the country, our partners here in Texas, and most importantly, his employees.

"Amadeo has served his state with honor and integrity. TxDOT is a better agency today thanks to his leadership," said Deirdre Delisi, the chairwoman of the Texas Transportation Commission, the five-member panel that oversees the agency.

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