Corporate Toll Raods, Wither The Free Market

Posted in Around The State, Had Enough Yet?, Privatization, Road Issues at 11:37 am by wcnews

Patrick Driscoll over at the SAEN has an eye-opening article (Tip via Sal) on one of the schemes involved in the Comprehensive Development Agreement (CDA) that was agreed upon between TxDOT and the two corporations that will build the toll road - one foreign, Cintra, and one domestic, Zachry. Here’s the article, Slower I-35 part of deal on toll road, and the main sticking points of the agreement.

A recent toll road contract that shoehorns market incentives into a government monopoly would reward the state for lowering speed limits on Interstate 35, effectively steering drivers to the toll road.

The privatization contract for Texas 130 from Austin to Seguin, cutting a parallel path east of I-35, was quietly signed in March amid a legislative furor over whether to freeze such agreements. It includes a controversial clause that penalizes the state for widening or building competing roads.

If a project over the next 50 years — with some exceptions — interferes with Texas 130 toll traffic, the Texas Department of Transportation would have to pay Cintra of Spain and Zachry Construction Corp. of San Antonio for their lost profits.

But the state can also get credit, though not payment, for driving traffic to the tollway, including by lowering posted speeds on I-35.

Not that TxDOT would do that, and certainly not for financial gain, spokeswoman Gaby Garcia said.

Oh, of course not. If that’s the case then why in the world would the corporations want that in the contract? Taxpayers are not happy about this and for good reason.

But toll critics say a gate is open to the manipulation of I-35 traffic to ensure toll profits, and they don’t trust TxDOT as the sentry.

“Our highways are being hijacked for private interests,” said Terri Hall of Texans United for Reform and Freedom. “Who’s going to rein in this agency? It just baffles me.”

I can remember long ago when a road like this was first discussed. It was supposed to be a road that would get mostly truck traffic off of I-35 between San Antonio and Austin, thereby alleviating traffic on I-35. But that was long before anyone thought about selling our roads to a foreign corporation for them to fatten their wallets with taxpayer money. When the “profit motive” enters the equation then all these silly games have to start being played.

From this article it seems obvious that the corporations already know that high toll charges on SH 130 will probably do little to divert much traffic from I-35. Now, along with the governments help (TxDOT), they’re going to try a new scheme to “drive” people to the toll road - higher speed limits. Along with those 80+ mph speed limits come many other issues to think about - lower MPG, more accidents, etc.

But without these schemes that penalize the freeways the taxpayers have already paid for and give benefits to the for profit corporate roads, the corporate roads wouldn’t be able to compete. So much for the free market.

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