Thursday, September 15, 2005

PET takes a toll on Central Texas RMA

CTRMA ordered to pay legal fees of anti-toll group

Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority has been ordered to pay legal fees for a group opposed to the region's toll plan -- a decision it says it will appeal.

The CTRMA will appeal Travis County District Court Judge Darlene Byrne's ruling requiring the authority to pay People for Efficient Transportation Inc. a portion of their requested legal fees.

The CTRMA was ordered to pay roughly $18,500 of the requested $28,000 total, according to PET Founder Sal Costello.

The ruling was issued Wednesday.

Costello says the decision "supports that our grassroots citizens organization stands for accountability and the RMA violated the constitution."

CTRMA reps see the situation differently.

"The court gave little indication as to why the Authority should now be responsible for funding the efforts of this anti-toll group to challenge an act of the legislature that the Authority was required to follow," says Brian Cassidy, legal council for the authority. "Therefore, we do not believe the payment of legal fees is warranted and the (CTRMA) will appeal."

This latest round of legal wrangling happens after the anti-toll group initially attempted to stop the CTRMA from issuing bonds for the 183A Toll Road Project, the authority said, in a statement on Thursday.

After that law suit proved unsuccessful, PET challenged a state law that allowed Mobility Authority Board members to serve six year terms.

In mid-July, Byrne found the term limits to be unconstitutional.

An amendment has been placed on the fall ballot that, if approved, would allow Mobility Authority Board members to serve six year terms.

The CTRMA was formed in 2002 by Williamson and Travis Counties and is charged with improving the transportation network in Central Texas. The agency is currently building the 183A project in Northwest Williamson County and has begun planning work for a new toll road that will run parallel to US 290 east of Austin.

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