Tuesday, October 25, 2005

All toll roads lead to Williamson County

Many counties oppose TTC

Williamson County officials stand by plan

By Kurt Johnson
Taylor Daily Press
Copyright 2005

The Trans-Texas Corridor (TTC) has been supported by the elected leaders of Williamson County, and SH 130, the new north-south toll road opening in 2007, is a major piece of that statewide project.

But all Texas counties aren't as embracing of toll roads. Thirty-two counties have passed official resolutions opposing them, and opposing the TTC.

In addition to buying and donating right-of-way for the toll roads, Williamson County also helped by steering the project past environmental hurdles, including the protection of endangered species.

Since 2003, when the push to establish SH 130 and Texas 45 began, commissioners and legislators representing Williamson County have worked hard to make the projects happen. In two years of discussions at commissioners court meetings and other forums, officials have pointed to the need for toll roads as a means of solving the area's traffic congestion problems.

“Williamson County is growing so fast it would be impossible to keep up using normal highway funding,” Pct. 4 Commissioner Frankie Limmer said. “I don't know of any other way to do it so that people can get where they need to go.”

State Rep. Mike Krusee of Round Rock and Senator Steve Ogden of Bryan both represent Williamson County in the state legislature, and both have been proponents of toll roads as a means of solving the area's transportation problems.

Limmer replaced Pct. 2 Commissioner Greg Boatright earlier this year as Williamson County's representative on the board of the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO), and he said he feels the heat at every session of those in opposition to the toll roads.

“They're very critical,” Limmer said. “Trying to solve transportation problems is very difficult in the face of that.”

Resolutions passed by commissioners in the 32 counties opposing the TTC don't see it that way. Most of those counties are in rural areas and might be traversed by a transportation corridor up to a quarter-mile wide. The resolution passed by Fayette County is representative of the language the counties use in stating their opposition.

The Fayette County resolution says that the TTC:

“Would negatively affect rural Texas, splitting farms and ranches, uprooting wildlife, and have a negative impact on the local economy;

“Would place concentrated resource conveyances in a corridor that would allow terrorists to attack such resources;

“Is an outmoded technology, and that other technologies should be used that utilize existing rights-of-way;

“Would cost at least $184 billion if completely built out by the state.”

Limmer said in both county commissioner and CAMPO meetings that he understands the opposition to toll roads and the TTC.

“In a perfect world, we wouldn't want to do it,” Limmer said, “but in Williamson County, we desperately need the highways.”

The money side of toll roads also has drawn pointed arguments.

Limmer said it obviously takes money to build the roads. He also points out that the tolls that are collected will allow additional roadways to be built as they are needed in addition to providing maintenance dollars.

However, Williamson County stands to gain substantially from at least one aspect of toll roads - the fines collected from motorists who speed or who don't pay their tolls.

By Limmer's own estimate, the Pct. 4 justice of the peace will net more than $1 million per year from fines, and that's after expenses are paid for building and operating a new county annex in Hutto. Other county precincts will also collect revenues from the fines.

The 32 counties that have passed anti-TTC resolutions are:

Bastrop, Blanco, Bosque, Brewster, Colorado, Concho, Edwards, Falls, Fayette, Gillespie, Gonzales, Grimes, Guadalupe, Hill, Kendall, Kerr, Kimble, LaSalle, Lee, Limestone, Live Oak, McCulloch, McLennan, McMullen, Mason, Menard, Milam, Navarro, Raines, Real, Waller and Wharton.

Copyright © 2005 Taylor Daily Press: www.taylordailypress.net