Thursday, July 14, 2005

"The time is ripe for the government to get rid of the plan all together.”

Toll roads must be stopped, citizens say

July 14, 2005

By Melissa Johnson
The Herald-Zeitung Copyright 2005

If a group of local citizens gets their way, toll roads will never be used in Texas.

Terri Hall, the organizer of the Texas Toll Party, encouraged approximately 65 attendees to mail letters to county commissioners in the Alamo Regional Mobility Authority and demand a third party review of the tollway plan, which Hall says takes away civil liberties.

Hall’s main arguments against the plan was that tolls on Highway 281 would double tax citizens because the road was previously paid for with gas tax funding. Hall was also concerned by the lack of a toll limit and sunset on when the toll would end.

“Our elected officials are ignoring us,” Hall said. “So we’re going to vote them out of office and show that the ballot box is stronger than special interests.”

The presentation also focused on the idea that the Texas Department of Transportation planned to manipulate alternative routes by adding stoplights and additional wait time along non-tolled roads. Hall emphasized the idea that the tolls have an economic impact on citizens regardless of whether they traveled Highway 281.

“Even if you and I choose not to pay tolls when we drive into town, it doesn’t matter when the H-E-B delivery truck uses the road to drive to the store,” she said. “Everybody who owns a business is going to be affected and they’re going to pass those costs onto you.”

Bulverde Mayor Pro Tem Sarah Stevick and Councilwoman Cindy Cross were also in attendance at the meeting. Stevick stood up and expressed personal concerns regarding right-of-way and increased taxes.

“The city has to pay 10 percent of right-of-way and for every $33,000, taxes go up 1 cent,” Stevick said. “This seems like a specialized tax for people who have to come into Bexar County to work.”

Bexar County resident Frank Flagg expressed his concerns over what seemed like ever increasing taxes.

“I’m paying my gas tax and high school and property taxes when I get low Social Security and retirement,” Flagg said. “All I need is another tax.”

Hall said an alternative to the toll road is traditional gas tax funding, which could support overpasses for traffic-filled intersections. Hall claimed that TxDOT’s budget allows for maintenance, right of way and new construction costs.

Nancy Ream of San Antonio said that when she attended a 2001 TxDOT meeting, the department said that funding for Highway 281 had already been secured.

“We were told that 281 was already funded,” Ream said. “It’s like where did the toll idea come from and what happened to the money earmarked for the flyovers?”

Hall said that the toll roads idea came into play because the plan was about building revenue for the state rather than reducing congestion.

“The time is ripe to get rid of RMA and the time is ripe for the government to get rid of the plan all together,” Hall said.

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