Toll Road Vote Postponed Until After The Election

Posted in Central Texas, Williamson County at 9:45 am by wcnews

This article appeared in the AAS yesterday, Vote on more toll roads delayed, Support for pay-to-drive plan may be eroding; decision not expected before fall elections. What’s at play here, best I can tell, is that the elected officials on the CAMPO board want to postpone the “vote” on Phase II of the toll road plan until after the November elections. At this time the delay is being blamed on the fact that the officials want to see the completed “independent” study before they vote on Phase II.

But the underlying dynamic of the postponement is political. A growing number of the 23 board members — 21 are elected officials — want to wait for results of a study before making the politically ticklish vote. A $300,000 financial review by a Boston consulting company of the $1.4 billion project won’t be done until October or so.

That consulting firm is CRA, International. With an assist, of course, from one of the firms named in this Denver Post series “Truth Be Tolled”, URS. The series basically told the story of how three consulting firms (Vollmer, URS and Wilbur Smith) – which do almost all of the traffic & revenue (T&R) studies for these CAMPO type boards around the country – almost always overestimate how much traffic and revenue these roads generate. I bring this up because at the end of the AAS article yesterday Rep. Mike Krusee is quoted:

State Rep. Mike Krusee, R-Williamson County, the House transportation committee chairman and architect of the toll road plan, said it’s too early to conclude that Phase II is in trouble. The study, he said, is unlikely to be the political magic bullet CAMPO members are looking for.

“What I presume it will say is, ‘Is there any possible way to build these roads without tolling them?’ and the answer will be yes,” Krusee said. “And ‘are there serious consequences for the future of road building if we don’t toll?’ And the answer to that will also be yes. So you’ll still face the dilemma.

“When we do take that vote, I just want to make sure everyone understands the consequences of what we’re doing.”

Sounds like he’s in on writing the study or he knows what’s in it already. What he’s telling those elected officials on the CAMPO board is you can have all the “independent studies” you want but it isn’t going to change anything. If the elected officials want cover before the November elections on toll roads then they need to come out against them. Instead of trying to hide behind a jiggered study, showing how much money is to be made off these toll roads, will allay the public’s distaste for them.

The other thing I found curious about this article yesterday is why was it was written. There’s no “news” in the article. The last CAMPO board meeting was June 12th. My guess is, looking at this map (take special note of East and West and which projects are in and out of the plan), that it was a response to Rep. Eddie Rodriguez’s editorial in the AAS the day before. You’ve go to hand it to the AAS for their “fair and balanced” approach.

1 Comment »

  1. Eye on Williamson » The Plan Is To Toll Every Raod, From Here To Eternity said,

    November 14, 2006 at 10:58 am

    […] With the election over CAMPO’s consultant, CRA International, has released it’s report on “Phase II” toll roads in and around Austin. Here’s Ben Wear’s treatment of this report, Study no boon for toll opponents. No boon, funny that’s exactly what Mike Krusee predicted back in June. Well anyone who’s been paying attention to this debate knows that there are many issues with toll roads across the nation not, shall we say, showing taxpayers the money, as the consultants predicted.My main issue with this report is that all the projections are based on URS Corporations traffic and revenue analysis which have been shown to be flawed in the past. Here’s how the game works in case you forgot: Business is booming for URS and Vollmer because they have been using inflated numbers to help mislead investors about the risk of investing in bonds used to fund the projects. If the estimates are so inaccurate that the turnpike can’t pay its bills, they simply re-hire the same consultant to produce new exaggerated T&R numbers, then sell a new round of bonds. […]

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