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Us motorists rage over toll rates on foreign-owned road
Written by Terri Hall   
Sunday, 03 April 2011
Link to article here.

Though we're not opposed to completely private roads that use no eminent domain, no public money, and have no non-competes prohibiting the expansion of public free roads, this private toll road operated by Macquarie still draws the same sort of backlash and protest. The most telling part of this story is the very last sentence. Macquarie declares it doesn't need to listen to the public because, "We're not a public entity." That sums up why we cannot let Texas roads fall into the hands of private entities...we lose control over the level of taxation, plain and simple.

US motorists rage against Macquarie toll

By Simon Mann
Sydney Morning Herald
March 28, 2011

Drivers are avoiding the Australian-run Dulles Greenway in Virginia amid anger over its high costs, writes Simon Mann in Washington.

 

Australian investors are being accused of highway robbery by motorists in Virginia who blame Macquarie Group for what they say are exorbitant road tolls.

The complaints have been taken up by a member of the US Congress and Virginia's transport authorities who have agreed to set up a committee to look at ways of making the 22-kilometre Dulles Greenway "more user-friendly".

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National Infrastructure Bank, another boondoggle for taxpayers
Written by Terri Hall   
Friday, 25 March 2011
National Taxpayers Union Foundation named the National Infrastructure Development Bank Act 2011 the Most Expensive Bill of the Week. Sadly, Texas has a State Infrastructure Bank that primarily loans money to toll entities in order to raise the cost of transportation through DOUBLE TAX TOLLS. These quasi governmental and hybridized public-private ventures caused the Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac mess. When TxDOT runs the State Infrastructure and loans out money to toll entities, they're not using the same lending standards private lenders would. So TxDOT props up loser toll projects and lends money the private sector wouldn't take the risk on (ie - toxic debt). So how does this serve the taxpayers exactly? It doesn't, it's a way to loan our money to irresponsible, unelected toll bureaucrats who make us pay back our own money through tolls, with INTEREST! What do you think about that government recycling program?

Most Expensive Bill of the Week

The Bill: H.R. 402, National Infrastructure Development Bank Act 2011


Annualized Cost: $5 billion ($25 billion over five years)

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (CT-3) introduced H.R. 402 to establish a public bank, which "would supplement other federal infrastructure programs, and provide investment opportunities to create jobs, spur economic growth, and help build an infrastructure for the future." As a wholly-owned government corporation, such as the housing entity Fannie Mae, the bank's financing would be backed by the full faith and credit of the US government.

The National Infrastructure Development Bank would issue bonds to eligible lenders, including regional, state, and local entities, as well as commercial banks. Funds would be directed to transportation, environmental, energy, and telecommunications projects, each requiring a different set of standards to be considered by the four committees within the bank.

The bill authorizes $5 billion for each of the next five years. Funds would serve as the base capital from which the bank would issue bonds. In the President's budget proposal, a similar bank was outlined at the same $5 billion annual cost but instead over six years.

 
Lawmakers push privatized toll roads, putting affordable travel out of reach
Written by Terri Hall   
Thursday, 24 March 2011
These articles show how out of touch our politicians are to the plight of every day Texans.

Lawmakers may like outsourcing the tax hikes to private companies, but taxpayers don't. When these deals mean paying 75 cents PER mile to access our PUBLIC roads, it's like adding $15.00 to every gallon of gas you buy! So when these lawmakers and so-called "fiscal conservatives" tell you they're balancing the budget WITHOUT raising taxes, you'll know they're lying to ya.

How many Texans can afford that? Even if you never take the road, you'll be paying for it. In the the last paragraph of the Statesman article below it says the 183 toll project in DFW will be 100% paid for by ALL Texans' gas taxes, yet they're still going to hand it over to Cintra or some private, for-profit toll road company (using a concession CDA or PPP) to collect the tolls (that will charge 75-80 per mile). If this doesn't tell you that this push to privatize and toll is NOT about a lack of money for roads, but rather a way to MAKE money for roads, then I don't know what would.

No Texan should have to pay a TOLL TAX (a DOUBLE TAX) to access a freeway that's ALREADY PAID FOR nor should a PUBLIC road that's paid for EVER be owned and operated by a private company! It's eminent domain for private gain and highway robbery. We're gettin' fleeced in broad daylight, Texas!

Then there's the toll collection problem. TxDOT has added up to 4000% administrative fees for pay by mail, for those who don't buy into the government TollTag system.

As an example of just what a taxpayer disaster it is to hand control of our public roads to private, foreign toll operators using CDAs, drivers on a road operated by Spain-based Cintra (who has won three Texas contracts already) in Canada receive their first bill totaling thousands of dollars in fines years after they supposedly took the tollway. The government has no power to step-in and protect motorists from runaway taxation nor disputed toll fines.

A 2009 article in the Toronto Star chronicles the nightmare:

"’We, as a government, have no control over that, as a result of the (Mike) Harris government's deal,’ to lease the toll road to a private consortium for 99 years and include a provision in the contract forcing the transportation ministry to deny new plates to anyone who doesn't pay the 407 whatever it demands, said Bradley.

“The 407 ‘negotiated a deal that was very favourable to them and they covered all the aspects of the deal that they would want,’ said Bradley.

“Many readers said they think the 407 deliberately holds back invoices on unpaid balances to allow interest charges to grow, but Bradley noted that it "is responsible for establishing its own business practices, and under its deal ... it has the right to set and collect tolls and administration fees and interest."


___________________________________________________________________________________

Link to Statesman article here.

Law would allow private tollway deals for MoPac, U.S. 183

Legislature warming to long-term leases with private companies after spurning the approach in 2007 session.

By Ben Wear

AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF

Updated: 5:15 a.m. Thursday, March 24, 2011

Published: 7:41 p.m. Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Private toll road contracts, which fell out of legislative favor in 2007, are making a comeback this session.

And that includes at least the potential that two such projects in Austin, the MoPac Boulevard (Loop 1) toll lanes and U.S. 183 in East Austin, could end up being financed, built and operated for decades by private firms.

State Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, who is carrying a bill that would allow such contracts on those two roads, said it is not necessarily an endorsement of that approach or an indication that the toll projects will end up in private hands.



Last Updated ( Thursday, 19 May 2011 )
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House Committee passes eminent domain
Written by Terri Hall   
Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Eminent Domain legislation inches toward reform, but still falls short


AUSTIN, March 22, 2011—Property rights activists and members of the Property Rights Coalition of Texas are commending members of the House Land and Resource Management Committee for helping to protect property rights of Texans today. Committee members voted unanimously to pass an amended version of SB 18, which includes provisions to help establish due process, ensure landowners are adequately compensated for their property, and makes private interests and condemning entities more accountable to landowners.

“On behalf of the Property Rights Coalition of Texas, I would like to thank Chairman Oliveira and Vice Chair Kleinschmidt for their leadership on this bill and all members of the committee for voting to adopt the Kleinschmidt/ Oliveira amendments,” said Melissa Cubria, Advocate, Texas Public Interest Research Group (TexPIRG) and co-founder of PRCT.

While PRCT is pleased that the Land and Resources made some improvements to the bill, coalition members acknowledge that to there are still significant changes that must be made to the bill as it heads to the House floor for debate. PRCT is calling on lawmakers to include strong language that defines critical terms, which will help enforce and strengthen landowner protections in the bill. They are pushing lawmakers to adopt the language “necessary public use” in the bill, which will protect  landowners from future eminent domain abuses and profit-driven land grabs for economic development purposes.

”We’re glad to see the Committee made some positive changes to SB 18 on the remedy side, but to truly protect property rights, the bill needs to say any taking must be NECESSARY for that public use,” says Terri Hall, Founder of Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom (TURF) and co-founder of the PRCT.

Cubria echoed that sentiment: “The easiest, simplest thing to do to protect property owners from unfair land grabs would be to add the word necessary to the definition of public use. Without the strict definition for ‘necessary public use,’ private corporations can condemn a landowner’s property, build a private toll road and claim that they did so in the name of public use. After all, the Trans-Texas Corridor was packaged as a ‘Community Development Association.’”

“We are thankful for the genuine concern expressed by House Land and Resource Management Committee members over the lack of property rights protections embedded in SB 18, but it is truly disappointing that so many elected officials believe they can hoodwink their constituents by empty rhetoric on property rights,” said Marc Scribner, land-use and transportation policy analyst at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a free-market think tank based in Washington, D.C. and PRCT member. “Legislators still have the opportunity to do the right thing, which is to reign in the government’s power to condemn private property for dubious reasons. Hopefully, they will heed the wishes of the public and support amendments that offer meaningful property rights protections. Otherwise, they will be turning a blind eye to the founding principles of this country: individual liberty and limited government.”
 
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TxDOT releases 100 Most Congested Roads List 2010
TxDOT released its 100 Most Congested Roads in Texas list for 2010. Here's the link to the list. To find out what TxDOT plans to do to fix the congestion, click on the "Mitigation Plan" icon.

Note that virtually all the "fixes" are tolled. Yet TxDOT and the Federal Highway Administration keep trying to reassure Texans that all options are being studied and evaluated for each of these projects. Yeah right! When the plan is to toll, exactly how are non-toll options being explored? Pre-determining the outcome of the environmental studies (which determine whether or not a project gets federal clearance) violates the National Environmental Policy Act or NEPA. Then, TxDOT and toll authorities scratch their heads and wonder why they're taken to court to stop toll projects...
 

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