The Fight Over Tolls In The 80th

Posted in 80th Legislature, Road Issues, Around The State at 8:15 pm by wcnews

This SAEN article, Some lawmakers want to rein in TxDOT toll roads, shows that the Senate and the House will be coming at toll roads this session from two different directions. The main reason is because of who chairs of the transportation committee in each chamber are coming at it form different directions. One, Mike Krusee, has never met a toll road he doesn’t like. The other, John Carona, is, apparently, the only sane person on the Republican side, with any power, when it comes to toll roads. Again, Krusee and the Republicans who’ve always held themselves out a “free-market” types have sold their souls when it comes to these toll raods. Just read this quote:

Krusee also expects tweaks to tolling laws, but he won’t get on board with major changes such as blocking non-compete agreements. There’s a tradeoff for everything, he said, and allowing more competition for toll roads means less private investments and more strain on tax funds.

Yes, that’s right, the whole conservative mantra of the market being the best thing is good, except when it comes to my pet project. That trade off, non-compete agreements, mean than nothing can be allowed to compete with a toll road, unless the corporation that running the toll road says it’s OK.

Again there are many problems with toll roads, and the TTC in particular.

The list of objections to the TTC is long enough to draw all kinds of groups to oppose it. The huge costs, the loss of immense tracts of agricultural land and major problems caused for farmers and ranchers, the costs and controversy associated with making currently free highways into toll roads, the displacement of thousands of people, privatization of state infrastructure, and the governor’s refusal to release key documents about the initial TTC contract — all have combined to produce a groundswell of grassroots opposition.

But with all of that, the non-compete agreements are as bad as they come. Texans will be ceding their major transportation decisions to corporations, foreign and domestic. And for all the TTC is supposed to be, the rail lines won’t be built until the car and truck lanes are profitable enough for the corporations to allow it:

Maybe you figure that if the tolls are too high on the TTC and the exits won’t let you get where you’re going very well, you’ll just stick to the old roads. Well, good luck. The TTC legislation forbids improvement of any road that runs parallel to the TTC corridors beyond what’s already in the works. That means no beautification, no widening, no new exits or entrances for the life of the contract — 50 years in this case. “Imagine if you live in a little town on a two-lane farm-to-market road that runs parallel to this thing,” suggested former Fort Worth City Council member Clyde Picht. “And then a subdivision gets built, and suddenly you’ve got 3,000 homeowners and cars fighting for space on that two-lane road. Well, you need to widen it to accommodate people. But your hands will be tied.”


Gilbert is also unsure what the public’s financial investment in the TTC will be. “The governor and TxDOT signed off on a contract not made public in many parts, so we don’t have any idea what our fiscal responsibility will be. We do know that initially this will be a roadway with four lanes in each direction, two for passenger cars, two for trucks. There’s no guarantee they’ll have to put rail in, or utilities. The contract says things like ‘if and when they are deemed necessary.’ Well, if and when means when they look like they’ll be profitable. But who knows if that means they or us are responsible for putting them in at that time, because Governor Perry isn’t releasing those parts of the contract.”

The last three quotes are from a Fort Worth Weekly article, Detours on a Super-Highway, that’s a must read for anyone interested in the TTC debacle. And the secrecy, well that’s just the way Republicans do the state’s business. Even though the people of Texas pay the taxes it’s none of our business unless they say it’s our business.

Sen. Carona has filed two bills and anyone who wants sensible highway legislation passed this session needs to pay attention to them and let their representatives, in both chambers, know about them and tell them they should support those two bills. This is where the fight over toll roads will be this session.

(As usual Tip to Sal on this).

1 Comment »

  1. Eye on Williamson » Texas Road Kill - My Take On Last Week’s Senate Hearing said,

    March 5, 2007 at 1:45 pm

    […] Another main selling point was to lump in rail and utilities with the toll roads, therefore justifying the name corridor. We’ve since found out that the toll road portion will be built first and other parts won’t be built until the tool roads become profitable enough that adding rail won’t take money away from them. Which brings back us to the non-compete/comprehensive development agreements (CDA) associated with these roads. Building other new roads or upgrades to existing roads that would keep traffic off these toll roads is not allowed under these contracts. Not only that we’ve learned from the recent SAO report that a 12% profit is guaranteed, by you the taxpayer, for these corporations to “take the risk” to build this project. […]

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