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More toll lanes added to 183-A, to cost 29 cents a mile
Written by Terri Hall   
Saturday, 04 February 2012
Link to article here.

183-A tolls, length to change in April

By Ben Wear


Published: 7:43 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 28, 2012

Tolls on 183-A, the most expensive of Central Texas' five turnpikes on a per-mile basis, will get cheaper when a new 5.1-mile-long section opens in April.

Except where they get more expensive.

Driving the entire length of the road, which will run from Texas 45 North in Austin to Leander, will cost $2.80 for those with an electronic toll tag. That amounts to 29 cents a mile.

MoPac to be tolled and sold-off to private corporation
Written by Terri Hall   
Saturday, 04 February 2012
Link to article here.

MoPac toll lane project finally gaining speed

By Ben Wear


Published: 9:49 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 29, 2012

The move to expand MoPac Boulevard, which for several years has crawled along like 5 p.m. traffic on that overloaded highway, is about to enter the express lane.

"I would characterize it as a green-light go," Mike Heiligenstein, executive director of the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority, said last week.

A federally required environmental study is in its final stages, with approval likely in the fall. The mobility authority, deputized by the Texas Department of Transportation to develop the project, has refined what it will do: add a fourth express toll lane on each side of MoPac (Loop 1) from just north of Lady Bird Lake to near Parmer Lane in far North Austin.

Last Updated ( Saturday, 04 February 2012 )
Toll forecasting slammed, grossly overstated
Written by Terri Hall   
Saturday, 04 February 2012
Link to article here.

Wilbur Smith Assoc forecasting record slammed in report for Reston VA group

Toll Road News

Wilbur Smith Associates (WSA) record of traffic and revenue forecasting is blasted in a study done by a retired federal government economist Terry Maynard for the Reston Citizens Association (CRA) in northern Virginia. The report supports a call for an independent review of the WSA/CDMSmith traffic and revenue forecast of the Dulles Toll Road.

The analysis titled Traffic and Revenue Forecasts: Plenty of Room for Error by Terry Maynard finds that forecasts of revenue by WSA as it then was (just recently merged to form CDMSmith) are on average 2.27 times - or 127% too high - as compared with subsequently realized toll revenues.

This is based on the first five years of 12 toll projects forecast.

In addition Maynard finds that WSA had a pattern of understating the sensitive profit maximizing toll initially, then subsequently raising those estimates.

Maynard says that WSA routinely uses the highest population and employment forecasts for forecasting traffic.

Despite poor forecasts tollroads stuck with WSA.

WSA estimates for Dulles Toll Road revenues are suspect, Maynard writes, because they are already using numbers overstating Fairfax County employment by 25%.

What it calls the "pattern of overestimates" in WSA forecasting suggests a "substantial risk" in proceeding with the MWAA financial plan, Maynard writes.

Risks are:

- lenders won't fund the project without state guarantees or at investment grade rates

- tolls much higher than those forecast will emerge

- corridor economic growth will be hampered by the high costs

- MWAA may default and face much higher costs than cited

Terry Maynard: "RCA has long been enthusiastic about Metrorail to Dulles via Reston, but we do not want a rail line at any price, especially one that forces Dulles Toll Road users to absorb most of the financial burden and area communities to absorb added traffic on already crowded local roads. The prospects are even worse if the WSA forecasts overestimate revenues as much as our research suggests. We hope that an independent forecast, combined with ‘value engineering’ for Phase 2 and restructuring the financial arrangements will lead to a better outcome for everyone.”
Couple's eminent domain fight with pipeline company
Written by Terri Hall   
Saturday, 04 February 2012
Link to article here.

Couple's fight with pipeline company pits Texans' love of oil vs. love of land

By Dianna Wray
Originally published January 28, 2012 at midnight, updated January 29, 2012 at 8:38 a.m.
  • What is eminent domain?

  • Once used mainly to make way for roads and highways, the "public good" of supplying the rest of the country with oil and gas allows pipeline companies to compel landowners to sell. If they don't reach an agreement, the company ...

  • What is eminent domain?

    Once used mainly to make way for roads and highways, the "public good" of supplying the rest of the country with oil and gas allows pipeline companies to compel landowners to sell. If they don't reach an agreement, the company can sue for condemnation of the property, forcing a sale.

    The land is taken in a 50-foot wide easement, with a pipeline running down the center of it.

    If the landowners and the company don't reach an agreement beforehand, the case is heard by three special commissioners. The commissioners are local landowners charged with determining what the land is worth and what the landowners should be paid in damages for the property.

    They decide what the land being taken for an easement is worth. If the landowners and the company agree on the ruling, the matter is settled. If either side does not agree they can appeal to district court, then the court of appeals and, finally, the Texas Supreme Court.

Keystone to blow through Texas by summer
Written by Terri Hall   
Saturday, 04 February 2012
Link to article here.

Canadian oil could reach Texas by summer if Keystone alternative found

By Tim Eaton


Published: 10:38 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 26, 2012

President Barack Obama might have rejected the enormous Keystone XL pipeline, at least for now, but that doesn't mean heavy crude from Canada won't be flowing into Texas' refineries later this year.

TransCanada Corp. — the Canadian company that proposed building the $7 billion, 830,000 barrel-a-day pipeline — has some ideas that could lead to moving oil from the oil sands region in northern Alberta, Canada, to the Gulf Coast of Texas without the blessing of the president, the company said.

"We are still very much committed to building this pipeline," TransCanada spokesman Terry Cunha said in an interview with the American-Statesman.

But building the full Keystone XL pipeline could take a long time. So in the meantime, TransCanada is talking about alternatives.

One possibility of getting bituminous sands — a substance made of clay, sand, water and heavy black viscous oil that is sometimes referred to as "tar sands" or "oil sands" — to refineries in Houston and Port Arthur involves building only the southern stretch of the proposed Keystone XL.

Gas tax vs tolls
Written by Terri Hall   
Saturday, 04 February 2012
Link to article here.

Funding transportation: Gas tax vs. tolls

Thursday - 1/26/2012, 5:59am  ET

A new report prepared for the region's Transportation Planning Board says the easiest way to fund transportation improvements is with gas taxes. (WTOP)

Adam Tuss,

WASHINGTON - A new report says the easiest way to raise more money to fix crumbling roads and bridges and aging transit systems is to make drivers pay at the pump.

The report prepared for the Transportation Planning Board of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments says indexing gas taxes to the rate of inflation is the best way to increase transportation revenues.

However, a report by transportation police group Cambridge Systematics says that's the best solution for the short term.

In the long run, the report says the region will have to look toward transportation funding streams tied to how much drivers use the roads, not to how much gasoline they buy.

That could mean solutions like a vehicle miles traveled fee, where drivers would have to pay a tax per mile driven.

From the report:

"New financing mechanisms are important in view of the anticipated shift away from petroleum-based fuels. Broad-based user fees that are not dependent on fuel consumption but on the use of the system (will become necessary)."

Still, there remains the issue of actually implementing these policies and that won't be easy.

"The greatest challenge to the region is the existence of multiple jurisdictions at several levels, each with its own tax base, tax structure, and tax policy," the report says.

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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.



Should we privatize our highways?