Saturday, September 17, 2005

TxDOT commissioner derides Corridor "conspiracies"

Luncheon "dispels corridor concerns"

September 17, 2005

Victoria Advocate
Copyright 2005

Government and business officials in favor of the proposed Trans-Texas Corridor and U.S. Interstate 69 attended a luncheon Friday at the Victoria Country Club ballroom to dispel rumors and encourage state officials to decide on the location.

The lunch followed a meeting between the Alliance for I-69 Texas board and Texas Department of Transportation officials.

The Alliance for I-69 Texas is a membership-based organization created in 1994 to promote the development of I-69 in Texas. Membership includes government and business interests in 34 counties from East to South Texas, according to its Web site

David Garcia from Cameron County said that the board meeting facilitated a good dialogue between the alliance board and state transportation officials to make sure that the corridor is done in the correct way.

At the luncheon, TxDOT commissioner Ted Houghton Jr. discussed the recently passed federal reauthorization bill, saying that the bill did not provide any funds with which to begin "turning dirt" in construction of the corridor.

Houghton said that the Trans-Texas Corridor and Interstate 69 would link Mexico to Canada via Laredo and Port Huron, Mich., and that it has the potential to become the trade corridor in North America.

Houghton said that the corridor would create opportunities for economic development, citing the recently constructed 4 million-square-foot Wal-Mart distribution center in Baytown, but, "We all have to come together to make it work."

Ed Pensock Jr., director of corridor systems for the state, said, "Texans deserve more out of their transportation system than they traditionally get."

Texas has transportation problems that need to be resolved by more than highways.

"We do not know if there are going to be rails all the way up and down the corridor," Pensock said, "but it needs to be constructed so that the highway does not preclude rails."

When questioned about the possibility of tolls being charged on the proposed corridor, Pensock said, "There is a possibility of tolls."

However, he added that the state would not convert existing roads to toll roads, and that only new roads or new lanes could have toll booths.

Pensock dispelled the rumor that the corridor would result in foreign entities becoming owners of stretches of land in Texas. He said that, while foreign companies may be contracted to do construction work and may become investors in the corridor, "I-69 will always be a state highway, and the land will always be owned by the people of the state of Texas."

He also addressed the concern that the state wants to pump groundwater from beneath the proposed corridor and sell it to other areas.

"Everybody loves conspiracies, and everyone has their black helicopter stories," he said, adding that TxDOT, by state law, cannot pump groundwater and furthermore, never had any intention of doing so.

However, he said that the corridor would provide an ideal location to run water pipelines and electric utilities without having to divide the state any further.

"Existing facilities need to be a part of the Trans-Texas Corridor," Pensock said.

Former Victoria County Judge Helen Walker narrated a slide show that traced the history of roads in Texas from the Camino Real to the Chisholm Trail to the proposed I-69 project.

During the slide show, Walker went over some projected benefits of I-69/Trans-Texas Corridor: improving the quality of Texas air because of traffic diverted from Houston and Dallas, providing an alternative to shipping ports in California, and enabling quicker deployment of military forces stationed at forts in Texas.

Bee County commissioner Susan Stasny said that Bee landowners support expanding existing Highway 59 into I-69, because "their land has already been divided once."

Pensock said a primary Department of Transportation study is to transform portions of U.S. Highway 59 into Interstate 69.

If the state decides to do that rather than build a completely new highway, Stasny said, "Go for it."

David Flores, of the tri-county coalition of Bee, Goliad, and Live Oak counties, said his basic concern was the tendency of the transportation department to "paint everyone with the same stroke. You can't paint everyone in Texas with the same brush."

He said that someone in El Paso has different concerns and views than someone from South Texas, and the state needs to keep that in mind.

Flores added that he thinks the state should begin construction in Laredo, where international traffic is the greatest. "It only makes sense."

Larry Meyers, an Alliance consultant in Washington, D.C., said that the most pressing issue was for the transportation department to decide exactly where the corridor is going to be. He added that he is a proponent of converting existing U.S. Highway 59 and portions of U.S. Highways 77 and 281 in the Rio Grande Valley.

"The sooner they say, the sooner all opposition is going to go away."

# Patrick Brendel is a reporter for the Advocate. Contact him at 361-580-6535 or

The Victoria Advocate:


Six-year appointments of CTRMA board members violated the Texas Constitution.

Turnpike agency told to pay fees

September 17, 2005

Compiled from staff and wire reports
Austin American-Statesman
Copyright 2005

A district judge has told the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority that it must pay an anti-toll group at least $19,195 for legal expenses resulting from a successful lawsuit filed by the group.

And if the authority appeals the legal fee judgment -- and the agency says it intends to -- it could have to pay an additional $40,000 in legal fees to People for Efficient Transportation, state District Judge Darlene Byrne ruled this week.

That group sued the authority in March, claiming the six-year appointments of board members violated the Texas Constitution. Byrne ruled in July that the longer board terms do violate the Constitution.

The underlying issue could become moot if Texas voters in November approve Proposition 9, a constitutional amendment allowing the longer terms.

Austin American-Statesman:


Many motorists say toll roads are hard to swallow.

State surveys drivers on tolls


Patrick Driscoll
San Antonio Express-News
Copyright 2005

There's no point in building toll roads if nobody uses them, which is why state officials began a survey this week to figure out just how much motorists are willing to shell out.

Would drivers pay $1.70 to cut a half-hour commute on North Loop 1604 in half? How about $3.40 to shave time? Or a whopping $6.80?

Would they share a ride with one or two other people to get either a discount or pay nothing to use toll lanes?

Those are some of the questions being asked by the Texas Department of Transportation in a two-week survey that began Monday.

"It sort of hones in on what folks are willing to pay," said Julia Brown, TxDOT's deputy engineer in San Antonio.

TxDOT, maybe through a private consortium, plans to start building 47 miles of toll lanes next year on Loop 1604 and U.S. 281 on the North Side and open them by 2011.

Studies so far indicate that tolls could be 12 to 16 cents a mile.

The survey, which officials say is scientifically based, targets Loop 1604 travelers. Another will be done for U.S. 281.

"This survey will help improve the transportation system in our community," promises a mail-back card being handed to drivers stopped at red lights on Loop 1604 frontage roads. Police are on hand at distribution sites to supervise.

The card asks about travel habits, but a more detailed survey to test attitudes about toll rates vs. savings in driving time will be done next week by e-mail, the Web and at businesses such as gas stations, truck stops, Rolling Oaks Mall, San Antonio International Airport and Randolph AFB.

In a separate polling effort, the Alamo Regional Mobility Authority, which may take over control of toll roads here, had a polling company put in calls to 500 Bexar County residents this week to gauge attitudes about tolling.

They were asked about traffic congestion and ways to address it, such as paying tolls or higher gas taxes, property taxes or sales taxes, said mobility authority Director Tom Griebel.

"We're trying to get a community-wide sense of how people feel," he said.

Also, a focus group of about a dozen people who live and work near Loop 1604 were questioned a couple of weeks ago as part of the authority's effort.

Results are due later this month, Griebel said.

Many motorists say toll roads are hard to swallow.

A 2004 University of Texas study shows that a majority of Texans oppose toll roads but hate gas taxes even more. In San Antonio, only a fourth of respondents even knew about proposed toll plans here.

And a 2003 University of Houston survey has nearly two out of three Texans saying that state spending on highway building and maintenance should be cut.

San Antonio Express-News:


Friday, September 16, 2005

Opposition to toll plans reportedly reaches a boiling point


Elizabeth Allen
San Express-News
Copyright 2005

Alamo Regional Mobility Authority Chairman Bill Thornton said he plans to hire security for future RMA meetings after an anti-toll activist confronted Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff outside the courthouse Thursday and, according to Wolff, told him to "take the first shot."

Thornton said, "You know how you throw your chest out and get right in someone's face? And he challenged Nelson to a fight."

The incident is an example of how high passions are running over plans to add toll lanes to U.S. 281 and other roads in Bexar County.

The authority and the Texas Department of Transportation, after some sharp exchanges, have both softened their rhetoric recently in a disagreement over how much local control would guide a toll project.

But two Bexar County commissioners and a number of highway-commuting residents are still fiercely fighting the concept.

Wolff and Thornton were headed to lunch when they ran into two of those opponents: Terri Hall, organizer of the San Antonio Texas Toll Party, a group that advocates against tolled highway projects, and Brad Holt, a supporter of the group. Both are residents of Spring Branch.

Hall and Wolff began talking about the 281 project and the conversation quickly turned sour.

"The guy just got angrier and angrier and said something like, 'You are a sorry public servant,' and I was walking away," Wolff said. "He got right in my face and said, 'OK, buddy, you take the first shot.'"

At that point, Wolff said he summoned a deputy and asked that Holt be escorted away.

"Since he was twice my size and half my age, he would have beat the crap out of me," the 64-year-old Wolff said.

Hall and Holt had been attending the re-election announcement of County Commissioner Paul Elizondo, who got testy when they asked if he would support an independent review of the proposed toll roads, many of which are in Precinct 2.

"I need more information on that," Elizondo said.

When Holt continued questioning him, Elizondo cut in.

"Are you from Precinct 2? Are you from San Antonio? OK. Thank you," he said, and walked off.

Hall acknowledged Holt can be rather acerbic in his approach. She stopped short of saying he is hurting the anti-toll cause, but she did intimate that his participation is turning off some people.

"I'm not sure I want to be associated too closely with him," she said with a slight chuckle.

Holt acknowledged being passionate about the toll road controversy — he noted the 281 toll project would leave slow access lanes as the only option for commuters who don't want to pay tolls.

But he denied threatening the county judge.

"That's the first time that anybody's ever been able to call Nelson Wolff a little twerp to his face, and he's saying I'm threatening him. I never raised my hand to the guy or anything else."

Holt has developed a reputation for truculent speech. At a recent Metropolitan Planning Organization meeting he told a state highway engineer, "If that's a smug look on your face, you'd better take it off."

San Antonio Express-News:


Waller County will hold anti Trans-Texas Corrridor rally

Strayhorn to speak at anti-corridor rally in Hempstead


Billy Dragoo, Editor
Waller County News Citizen
Copyright 2005

HEMPSTEAD - State Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn, along with CorridorWatch founders Linda and David Stall, will be speaking at the 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 29, Citizens for a Better Waller County Rally at the Hempstead High School Football Stadium on Donoho Street, past the High School.

CBWC is fighting the proposed I-69 Trans Texas Corridor project, which if completed as proposed, will cut through the heart of Waller County. The proposed super highway and its utility easements is planned to run across Texas from the Texarkana area to the Mexican border.

Strayhorn, a Republican primary candidate in next year's gubernatorial election and a vocal critic of what she calls the "trans-Texas catastrophe, said, "... you know that Texas property belongs to Texans, not foreign companies.

"We will not sit quietly by and let this governor (Gov. Rick Perry) embark on the most historic land grab in history and cram toll roads down our throats. This is not the Texas way, and it cannot continue. This is the largest land grab in Texas history ... ."

The Stalls are founders of Fayetteville-based Corridor Watch,

One-hundred-seventy-three Texas counties are represented among their members and they are an umbrella organization for a diversity of interest and citizen groups.

At the Citizens for a Better Waller County meeting Sept. 1, Mark Holmes and Lisa Hill of Grimes County informed the group of its impact on their efforts. "If it were not for your efforts here in Waller County, we would never have heard about this project," said Holmes.

According to Hill, a local rancher, their community will be greatly impacted because there are several historical grave yards and family ranches in the pathway of the project.

The next public meeting of the Citizens for a Better Waller County will be in the Hempstead High School auditorium from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 15.

The group is joining forces with the Texas Toll Party to sponsor a general session from 5 to 7 p.m. and State Rep. Glenn Hegar is expected to address the audience at this meeting.

The CBWC is asking citizens to attend the various governmental meetings in their areas and ask the officials to take a position on the corridor. The audience was also asked to request the WISD officials to adopt a similar resolution of the Hempstead Independent School District, opposing the corridor. The WISD board met Sept. 12.

CBWC is encouraging residents to submit their public comments on the Interstate 69/Trans-Texas Corridor through: 1) the website at , 2) via mail at P.O. Box 14428, Austin, TX 78761, and 3) toll-free at (866) 554-6989.

For more information on the CBWC call (936) 857-3775 or check the website at

©Houston Community Newspapers Online 2005:


Thursday, September 15, 2005

"The court essentially erased any protection for private property as understood by the founders of our nation."

House Ag Holds Hearing On Kelo Ruling; STOPP Receives Support


Livestock Weekly
Copyright 2005

WASHINGTON — House Agriculture Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte recently chaired the first hearing in the House of Representatives on the potential effects of the U.S. Supreme Court's June 23 decision in Kelo v. City of New London, the controversial ruling that appears to give local governments greater eminent domain power than many in Congress — and a growing number of Americans — believe they should have.

A week after the Court's ruling, the House, by a margin of 10 to one, passed a motion disagreeing with the Court.

"Private ownership of property is vital to our freedom and our prosperity and is one of the most fundamental principles embedded in the U.S. Constitution,” said Goodlatte, R-Va.. “However, the Supreme Court's recent five-to-four decision in Kelo v. City of New London is a step in the opposite direction.

“This controversial ruling expands the ability of state and local governments to exercise eminent domain powers to seize property under the guise of 'economic development' when 'public use' is as incidental as generating tax revenues or creating jobs.

“By defining 'public use' so expansively,” Goodlatte continued, “the court essentially erased any protection for private property as understood by the founders of our nation, leaving state and local governments with the ability to use eminent domain powers to take the property of any individual for nearly any reason."

The committee also analyzed the merits of H.R. 3405, the "Strengthening The Ownership of Private Property" Act of 2005, bipartisan legislation introduced by Representatives Henry Bonilla, R-Texas, Stephanie Herseth, D-S.D., Goodlatte, Collin Peterson, D-Minn., the committee's ranking member, and a number of other House members.

This legislation mandates that if a state or local government uses eminent domain for economic development and takes land from one private entity to give to another, that state or locality will not be eligible to receive federal funding for any projects receiving federal economic development assistance.

"Chairman Goodlatte's leadership will be a key success point in this legislation. By securing early hearings and moving swiftly through the committee process, the chairman is helping ensure rapid implementation of our bill. I'm thankful for his support and look forward to the legislation's continued success," said Bonilla, chairman of the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee.

"The Supreme Court decision in Kelo v. City of New London dealt a serious blow to the fundamental rights of property owners. In essence, the ruling means that governments can take your property and give it to someone else,” said Herseth.

“I think this is a dangerous precedent that requires congressional action. In the short time since its introduction, the STOPP Act has garnered broad bipartisan support because it is necessary, common sense legislation."

"It is important for government at all levels to respect and protect private property rights from inappropriate seizure at the whim of local governments for purely economic reasons," added Peterson.

Under H.R. 3405, state and local governments would be subject to the Uniform Relocation Act, which provides fair market value and moving expenses for citizens relocated by abusive eminent domain proceedings.

"The nation's founders realized the fundamental importance of property rights when they codified the takings clause of the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, which requires that private property shall not be taken unless for public use and with just compensation," said Goodlatte. "No one should have to live in fear of the government snatching up their home, farm, or business, and I am committed to ensuring that our rights are protected as the founders intended."

This measure was referred to five separate committees of jurisdiction: Agriculture, Education and the Workforce, Financial Services, Resources, and Transportation and Infrastructure.

© 2005 Livestock Weekly:

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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.

© 2005 American City Business Journals Inc.:


Texas Toll Party shines light on House Bill 2702 toll conversion scam

Toll 'conversion' label rejected for U.S. 281


Patrick Driscoll
San Antonio Express-News
Copyright 2005

Toll opponents asked a local planning agency Wednesday to dig deep into their souls, do the right thing and declare that state officials are about to convert U.S. 281 into a toll road.

Alamo Regional Mobility Authority board members listened intently, said they share concerns and then voted to declare that the toll project is not a conversion.

The debate swirls around what defines "conversion" — state law or, for critics, common sense.

And the difference determines whether Bexar County commissioners, who oppose conversions, must step in to approve such a project as called for in state law. They won't, based on the board's vote.

"We don't have a choice," board member Bob Thompson said. "That's the way it is."

Then maybe the issue needs to be decided in court and in upcoming elections to oust targeted elected officials, toll opponents told the appointed board.

"How can you sit there and let them do it?" said Brad Holt of Spring Branch. "This is really pretty sad, folks. This is a spit in our face, is what it is."

Board attorney Brian Cassidy explained that if a highway is reconstructed to add toll lanes, it's not considered a conversion under House Bill 2702 if the new roadway includes the same number of non-tolled lanes.

Just what the new non-toll lanes will be on U.S. 281 is the bone of contention.

When the Texas Department of Transportation, maybe through a private consortium, adds six express toll lanes to U.S. 281 from North Loop 1604 to Comal County, the existing highway will be replaced with access roads.

The access roads will have at least the same number of lanes as U.S. 281 currently has, according to TxDOT officials. Also, the section between Loop 1604 and Stone Oak Parkway will have two additional access road lanes, two more turnarounds and a bridge going over a traffic signal.

"We've actually improved upon what's on the ground out there today," said Julia Brown, TxDOT's deputy engineer in San Antonio.

What Brown didn't mention is that plans, at least recently, call for speeds to be reduced from 60 and 65 mph to 45 mph. But toll opponents mentioned it, loudly and frequently, noting common sense says access roads aren't a fair replacement for a highway.

"This is a conversion — you know it and I know it," Mike Maurer said. "But you've got lawmakers on your side, you've got TxDOT on your side."

Construction of toll lanes on 47 miles of U.S. 281 and North Loop 1604 is expected to start next year and finish in five years, with control possibly handed over to the mobility authority. Tolls might be set at 12-16 cents a mile.

San Antonio Express-News:


"The way they used to build roads is over with."

Gladewater city manager resigns from NET-RMA

September 15, 2005

By Jimmy Isaac
Longview News-Journal
Copyright 2005

GLADEWATER – Gregg County Judge Bill Stoudt said he will seek input from Gladewater Mayor John Paul Tallent and White Oak Mayor Tim Vaughn on who will replace Jay Stokes, who resigned as board member of the Northeast Texas Regional Mobility Authority Wednesday.

Officials recently learned that state laws governing regional transportation boards disallow members who are either elected officials or are employees of the entities, particularly if they receive Texas Department of Transportation funding. Stokes is the city manager of Gladewater, which could be awarded a portion of the proposed East Texas Hourglass highway connecting possible outer loops around Tyler and Longview.

"It's in the best interest that I turn in my resignation to avoid any future conflicts of interest," said Stokes. The board accepted his resignation and later named him chairman of the Hourglass subcommittee, both with a unanimous vote. Mobility board subcommittees have no restrictions against employees of entities.

"His resignation was strictly technical," said Stoudt.

In other business, the board heard from Central Texas RMA Executive Director Mike Heiligenstein about that board's start-up and current projects, including the tolling of U.S. 183-A in Williamson County.

The board has plans to use tolling to fund its projects, including Tyler's Loop 49 and the Hourglass.

"Someone who tells you that toll roads are discontinuous to economic development are flat wrong," said Heiligenstein, pointing out that cities Leander and Cedar Park are moving their central business districts closer to the new toll road.

The Central Texas RMA represents Travis and Williamson counties that encompass the greater Austin area, which suffers from the most severe traffic congestion in the nation. He said that the area recently lost about 10,000 Dell Computer jobs because of congestion.

Stoudt said the NET-RMA is "truly a vision for the future of East Texas in terms of infrastructure and highway construction."

Heiligenstein said that Austin, even with its 11 state representatives, finds it difficult to compete for highway dollars with Dallas/Fort Worth and Houston areas, making the Northeast Texas RMA vital for East Texas.

"The way they used to build roads is over with," said Stoudt. "Today was probably the first day that we saw the meat and potatoes of what we can do."

The Longview News-Journal:


North Texas Tollway Authority ratchets up tolls

Southwest Parkway may have highest toll rate in Metroplex

Sep. 15, 2005

By Gordon Dickson
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Copyright 2005

PLANO - Drivers on the future Southwest Parkway may pay 15 cents or more per mile -- about $1.30 from downtown to southwest Fort Worth -- the highest toll rate in the Metroplex.

That rate falls in the middle of two proposals rejected Wednesday by the North Texas Tollway Authority.

"No one can argue that's not fair," said Bill Meadows, who represents Fort Worth on the tollway board.

The 15-cent rate, or perhaps a penny higher, would cover the authority's portion of the $825 million project.

The final rate could be set by year's end.

The board rejected a proposal to charge 19 cents to 25 cents per mile on Southwest Parkway, which would have made it the most expensive toll road in the United States.

A toll road in Orange County, Calif., holds that distinction with a rate of 18.7 cents.

The board also balked at an 11-cent rate, which would have meant that Dallas tolls would subsidize too much of the Tarrant County road.

Board members want a rate that's below the one in Orange County but higher than the average in Dallas.

On Dallas-area toll roads, the average is 10 cents per mile -- an amount that will probably be raised by a penny or more in January 2007.

Among the factors driving up Southwest Parkway's costs are landscaping and fancy bridges. There also may be fewer drivers because a 50-mph speed limit might keep many motorists on the freeways.

Southwest Parkway is projected to open in 2009 or 2010.

A higher toll rate is also likely on the eastern extension of the President George Bush Turnpike from Garland to Sachse and Rowlett, which is scheduled to open in 2010.

In other action Wednesday, the tollway authority learned that Johnson County commissioners adopted a resolution this week requesting full membership in the authority.

Johnson County officials are particularly interested in extending Southwest Parkway to Cleburne.

ONLINE: North Texas Tollway Authority,
Gordon Dickson, (817) 685-3816

Fort Worth Star-Telegram:


Texas Toll Party protests Metropolitan Planning Organization leadership seminar

Toll opponents rattle sabers

By Michael Cary

San Antonio Current

C.A. Stubbs stood on the sidewalk in front of the Convention Center last week and watched about 40 members of the Texas Toll Party walk a picket line along Market Street.

"Carrying a sign has never been my cup of tea ... but a lot of people followed me when I confronted the City Council."

Stubbs was on hand for a cameo appearance with the Texas Toll Party protest, which coincided with a Metropolitan Planning Organization leadership seminar inside the Convention Center.

The protest was organized by Terri Hall, director of the San Antonio branch. She was joined by Linda Curtis of Austin, who held a bullhorn and chanted "hey, hey, ho, ho, the toll road has got to go," with other picketers. They held signs that said "Dump Tricky Ricky, Highway Robber," in reference to Governor Rick Perry's sweetheart deal with private corporations to build toll roads, and to operate them at local motorists' expense.

Hall called the annual forum a "good ol' boy convention, a bona fide highwaymen 'Kumbaya' lovefest," and a "perfect occasion for a grassroots protest."

Brad Holt says "I blew my cork" at a recent MPO meeting when the board voted to proceed with toll road plans for Loop 1604, Highway 281 and part of I-35. "Tx-DOT did this five years ago, the expansion of Highway 281 should have been finished by now."

Holt, a Bulverde resident, has his eye on San Antonio City Councilmembers Art Hall, Chip Haass, and Richard Perez, who voted to proceed with the plan without calling for a feasibility study for the toll roads. Holt carries around pages of highway design maps that TxDOT developed before Perry signed a contract with private corporations to build the toll lanes. "In fiscal year 2001 they said it was already funded. TxDOT said they had the money, but now they won't talk to you about it. They're looking for a cash cow."

Terri Hall has enlisted the aid of the Homeowner Taxpayers Association to join a coalition of toll-road opponents. Asked if the state should concentrate on building commuter rail of toll roads, she says "absolutely."

But the state has not made commuter rail, including a line that could connect Georgetown to San Antonio and points south, a priority over toll roads.

Stubbs stood on the sidewalk wearing his trademark Stetson, Western-cut suit and string tie, and encouraged to the crowd, which included David Van Os, a Democratic candidate for Texas Attorney General, and Bexar County Commissioner Tommy Adkisson.

"First, I must say I'm delighted to see young, vibrant, articulate and energetic folks like Terri stepping up to the plate on matters of immediate and long-term importance to overburdened taxpayers."

Stubbs repeated his mantra: "Since 1980, both the State of Texas and City of San Antonio have outspent population and cost of living growth by 2.6 times, indeed both far worse than the federal government.

"If the state budget of 1980 had grown in step with population and the Cost of Living Index, the state would have spent more than $256 billion less than it actually spent. San Antonio and its major function overspent by more than $10.6 billion for this same time frame."

The tax watchdog maintains numerous charts and graphs to back up his claim, which nobody at City Hall or in Austin has really listened to since he began his crusade in the 1980s.

But City Council should remember that Stubbs helped to defeat construction of the Applewhite Reservoir, and he was instrumental in forcing term limits on City Council.

Although Stubbs, 83, is retired, he is mentoring Hall, who seems to have boundless energy in her fight against toll roads in the San Antonio area.

With the HTA along for the ride, this rowdy bunch of civic protesters could be a stinging gadfly in Perry's re-election ointment, not to mention local elections.

Van Os summed up the fight in colorful terms: "You're facing the height of arrogance. You're in the right fight. Fight 'em till hell freezes over, then fight 'em on the ice." •

By Michael Cary

©San Antonio Current 2005 :


" Southwest Parkway users could pay as much as 19 cents per mile."

Area toll roads set to get pricier

Authorities plan to raise rates by '07 to keep up with project costs

September 15, 2005

The Dallas Morning News
Copyright 2005

PLANO – The cost of driving on existing North Texas toll roads may soon be rising.
Faced with dramatic cost increases for two prominent projects, the North Texas Tollway Authority board of directors on Wednesday reviewed several proposals that call for higher tolls by January 2007.

"We're going to have to consider a toll rate increase," said board chairman David Blair Jr. "I don't think we have any other choice. It's not an easy thing to do. But we've got to consider it if we are going to continue to build transportation projects in North Texas."

The question board members must answer, perhaps as soon as next month, is whether to charge more at every toll booth in its system, charge higher tolls on the new, more expensive projects or come up with a combination of the two proposals.

In June, the agency released cost estimates for Southwest Parkway in Fort Worth and for the eastern extension of the Bush Turnpike through Garland, Rowlett and Sachse. Turnpike costs soared from $442 million to $782 million, and Southwest Parkway estimates almost tripled from $300 million to $825 million.

The agency then had to decide whether to delay those projects or raise tolls. With Mr. Blair vowing that Southwest Parkway would not be abandoned or delayed and eastern Dallas County cities clamoring for the 10-mile extension to connect to the existing 30.5-mile turnpike arc, toll increases became the preferred option.

How exactly to raise toll rates hasn't been decided.

All scenarios call for a 10 percent increase in early 2007, going from 10 cents a mile to 11 cents a mile with a TollTag. A drive on the entire Dallas North Tollway would rise from $2.10 to $2.30, and a drive on the entire Bush Turnpike would rise from $3 to $3.25. Beyond that, several options remain for how much to charge users of the new Bush Turnpike extension and Southwest Parkway.

One option calls for the new toll roads to have the same rates as other roads. Under another scenario, the higher-cost toll roads could have higher tolls. Those tolls also could be based upon lower speed limits or cost, such as community requests for extra amenities. Consultants say that lower speed limits reduce the number of toll road users, thereby reducing revenue potential.

Tollway authority consultants estimate that Southwest Parkway users could pay as much as 19 cents per mile, which would equate to about $1.50 to drive 8.2 miles. Eastern extension users could pay 15 cents per mile, or $1.50 to drive 10 miles.

Compromise sought

Board members expressed a desire to find a compromise, with most toll roads having the same rate but leaving the option open for higher tolls on certain projects. That most likely would apply to Southwest Parkway and the proposed Trinity Parkway in downtown Dallas, where city leaders have asked for lower speed limits.

Several board members, including Paul Wageman of Collin County, said the board should consider setting a basic toll road design and cost estimate and require cities to agree to higher-than-average toll rates if the project exceeds those guidelines.

"It perhaps is an appropriate way for a community to have a road that is different from our standard," he said.

That may sound good, but regional leaders need to ensure that such a policy won't harm central cities, where it generally is much more expensive to design and build highways or toll roads, said Michael Morris, director of transportation for the North Central Texas Council of Governments, the regional planning agency.

"If we're going to build along the Trinity, we're going to build to a higher design standard, or we're not going to build at all," he said, pointing out that charging higher tolls on certain projects could lead some counties to consider leaving the tollway authority and seek another builder for their toll roads.

Raising $2 billion

If approved, the higher toll rates are expected to raise $2 billion in cash over the next 35 years. That will net another $6 billion in bond revenue for other regional projects such as the Lewisville Lake toll bridge and Dallas' Trinity Parkway.

While higher tolls could push away some motorists, the tollway authority's consultants have said the agency could raise its rates much higher than the proposed fees without experiencing a dramatic effect.

"We're not going to price the projects as high as we can," Executive Director Allan Rutter said. "We're going to price the projects for what the public expects us to do."

The tollway authority last raised its rates in 2002, when it hiked rates on the Bush Turnpike. The agency also raised tolls on the Dallas North Tollway in 1999. That decision marked the first time in 17 years that motorists had to pay more to drive on the toll road.


Dallas Morning News:


Central Texas RMA concerned about Public Relations and tolling

State law prompts board member to resign


Roy Maynard
Tyler Morning Telegraph
Copyright 2005

North East Texas Regional Mobility Authority board member Jay Stokes resigned on Wednesday, because of state statutes that prevent officials from cities that might benefit from RMA projects from serving on RMA boards.

Stokes is the Gladewater city manager.

"Since our last meeting, it has come to light there are potential conflicts with my serving on the board, so it's best I resign," Stokes said on Wednesday. "I very much believe in the mission of the RMA, and I appreciate being appointed. But it's best I step down."

The Gregg County Commissioners Court appointed Stokes to the board of the five-month-old agency.

"I am disappointed Jay couldn't continue on the board, but I understand," Gregg County Judge Bill Stoudt said. "The court and I will be moving quickly to fill this vacancy."

Though he left the board, Stokes was appointed on Wednesday as chairman of the RMA's East Texas Hourglass Subcommittee.

"We still need your expertise," RMA Chairman Jeff Austin III told him.

Stokes' letter of resignation was dated Aug. 24 and effective Wednesday.

In other business, Mike Heiligenstein, executive director of the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority, made a presentation on the early stages of his agency and "the challenges of infancy."

The biggest challenge is educating the public, he said. Tolls are only slightly more popular than taxes, he said, but in reality, tolls represent choice. Drivers who pay for roads through taxes on gasoline now pay for projects they'll never use, he noted. But a toll road is funded by its users.

As the NET RMA moves forward with its intention to develop portions of Loop 49 as toll roads, he said, its board would encounter opposition.

"The media can be your best friend or your worst enemy," Heiligenstein said.

In addition to media outreach, his agency held more than 50 public meetings. "Public outreach is critical," he said.

Also on Wednesday, engineering consultants from PBS&J, a Tyler firm, spoke about typical RMA project procedures.

The Texas Department of Transportation debuted a new video it has produced with the Texas Transportation Institute to help educate the public on the RMA and the practical need for a toll approach to development, in light of fierce competition for state and federal transportation dollars.

"A creative source of funding is needed" if communities hope to get their projects built anytime soon, TxDOT explains in the brief video.

The video can be another tool to help educate the public, TxDOT said.

In other business, the RMA board:

Approved conflict of interest and procurement policies.

Retained legal counsel on an interim basis (up to six months), subject to budgetary resources.
Approved a strategic plan.
Scheduled a workshop session for 3 p.m. Oct. 5 at the Smith County Courthouse Annex.
Roy Maynard covers county government and politics. He can be reached at 903.596.6291. e-mail:

©Tyler Morning Telegraph 2005 :


Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Grimes County opposes Trans-Texas Corridor (TTC-69) plan

Commissioners say no to I-69

By Dave Lewis Examiner Managing Editor

The Navasota Examiner
Copyright 2005

Grimes County Commissioners unanimously approved a resolution Monday opposing the Trans-Texas Corridor plan through the county, bringing enthusiastic applause from more than 35 people packing the courtroom.

"I have had many calls and many visits, and I have here a petition with 1,064 signatures opposing the Trans-Texas Corridor and I-69," Pct. 4 Commissioner Pam Finke said in moving to adopt the resolution.

The decision could lend extra impetus to an anti-I-69 rally scheduled in front of the county courthouse this coming Tuesday, Sept. 20, at 7 p.m.

Grimes Countians have already openly expressed disapproval of the corridor and appear determined to fight the massive Texas Department of Transportation project to the end.

Along similar lines, TxDOT representative Bryan Wood briefed those present on TxDOT plans to extend S.H. 249 from Spring to Navasota, although alignment of such a route is yet to be determined.

Although Wood said the proposed highway would have access from other highways it would cross, several of those present expressed concerns. These ranged from loss of ad valorem tax revenue, lost business, damage to habitat and loss of property to the condemnation process.

Whether he divided highway is a toll road or free is yet to be determined, but Wood indicated that if Grimes County did not participate in it, TxDOT would not likely "build a highway to nowhere."

The proposed route would bypass Tomball to the west, Magnolia to the east and terminate southeast of Navasota, either on S.H. 105 of S.H. 6.

Copyright © 2005 The Navasota Examiner. All rights reserved:


Navasota Examiner : 69.7 percent of respondents in readership poll don't want the Trans-Texas Corridor.

Anti-corridor rally slated on Tuesday

The Navasota Examiner
Copyright 2005

State Rep. Lois Kolkhorst is expected to attend a meeting of opponents of the proposed I-69 Trans-Texas Corridor plan at the Grimes County courthouse in Anderson on Tuesday, Sept. 20, at 7 p.m.

Other state legislators have been invited and may also attend. Also present will be Linda Stall, co-founder of CorridorWatch, an organization opposing the proposed massive transportation corridors. Citizens can join CorridorWatch at no cost going to the web site, After joining, members will be kept informed via email about new developments.

The I-69 portion of the Trans-Texas Corridor is planned to go from the Texas-Mexico border north, exiting the state at its border with Arkansas, and continuing through other states to Canada in the vicinity of Lake Erie.

According to a readership poll being conducted by The Navasota Examiner, 69.7 percent of respondents don't want the highway. Only 19.7 percent approve while 10.6 percent don't care.

The right-of-way planned by the Texas Department of Transportation is projected to be nearly one-quarter mile wide.

Should the highway be built, it would be a multi-lane passenger vehicle highway, two lanes for trucks, rail lines to carry high speed passenger trains, commuter trains and freight trains, pipelines, communication transmission lines and utilities.

With each mile of right-of-way, 145 acres of land would be taken through eminent domain. Opponents say the county cannot afford to lose the 5,000-plus acres from the tax rolls or from economic productivity.

In addition to the tax ramifications, opponents believe the proposed corridor would merely provide a pass-through for goods from Mexico and countries in Central America, effectively making Grimes County "pass-through territory," along with many other counties along the proposed route.

Some have raised the issue of the negative impact it would have on school districts and providers of emergency services, as the proposed corridor with very access would make traversing the county more difficult. People also expressed concern that it will be a toll road and, as currently proposed, operated by a foreign company.

Interested persons are encouraged to attend the rally, to be held rain or shine. Participants are welcome to make and bring appropriate signs.

Copyright © 2005 The Navasota Examiner. All rights reserved.:


"This road leads to three cities. One's called political patronage, the other's called corruption, and the other's called graft."

Trans-Texas Corridor critics denounce project at meeting

September 14, 2005

By Matt Joyce
Waco Tribune-Herald
Copyright 2005

TOURS – Trans-Texas Corridor critics denounced the state's handling of the project on Tuesday and called on McLennan County residents to organize against the proposed transportation network.

In a meeting at Tours Hall in eastern McLennan County, speakers urged the roughly 200 attendants to slow down or stop the Texas Department of Transportation's plan to build a network of tolled highways, railways and utility infrastructure from San Antonio to Dallas.

“We have to raise the political cost, and how you raise political cost is you organize,” said Chris Hammel, chairman of the Bell County anti-corridor group Blacklands Coalition.

The McLennan County group DERAIL, which opposes the corridor, scheduled Tuesday's meeting to update people on the corridor project, said Rick Wegwerth, a group organizer.

Hammel said next year's gubernatorial primary and general elections will be the “beachhead at which we as people who are opposed to this can send a very clear signal to both parties that are in office that there's something wrong going on in Texas.”

Gov. Rick Perry proposed the Trans-Texas Corridor in 2002 as a way to handle current and future trade traffic and population growth by providing an alternative to the state's interstate system.

The transportation department later identified a corridor running parallel to Interstate 35, with a likely path through McLennan County, as its top priority for construction and targeted 2010 to break ground.

The department is now working through an environmental study of potential routes for the corridor. Transportation officials have said that they hope to have a 50-mile-wide study area narrowed to 10 miles by December.

The state's decision to bring private investment into the project also came under attack Tuesday. In March, the transportation department signed an agreement with developers Cintra Zachry for the developers to spend $6 billion to build the corridor in exchange for a lease to operate it as a tollway for 50 years.

Transportation officials have said that the private investment enables the state to conduct much-needed infrastructure projects that it could not otherwise afford. But critics argued that such arrangements distract the focus from citizens' opinions on the project.

“Yeah, they're going to build this road, and it leads to three cities: one's called political patronage, the other's called corruption, and the other's called graft,” Hammel said.

Also at Tuesday's meeting, Austin lawyer Erik Cardinell, a specialist in eminent domain law, walked attendants through the condemnation process. He encouraged landowners who find themselves in the corridor's path to seek legal advice before accepting the state's appraisal of their land value.

“It's a very intricate, involved and complex area of the law, and landowners can be taken advantage of if they don't seek help,” Cardinell said.

He said condemnation attorneys do not charge by the hour, but are paid a percentage of however much their work increases the land's appraised value.

Jimmy Jaska, who lives between Leroy and Elm Mott, said he had only heard small bits of information about the corridor before Tuesday's meeting. He said the rising price of fuel may cut down on traffic to the point that the corridor is not warranted.

“My thing is, they started expanding I-35 and I think they need to finish that,” he said. “If (the corridor) is still needed then, then they could look at it.”


Waco Tribune-Herald:


Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Officials seek ways to pay for ballooning Southwest Parkway costs

Sep. 13, 2005

Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Copyright 2005

Motorists on the planned Southwest Parkway might pay higher tolls than those on other Metroplex toll roads, officials say.

A higher rate would be one way to cover the spiraling costs of building the proposed eight-mile road from downtown to southwest Fort Worth, officials say.

In the Dallas area, motorists pay 75 cents in cash or 60 cents with a TollTag to drive through the main toll plazas. The Southwest Parkway is tentatively scheduled to open in 2010.

In June, the North Texas Tollway Authority dismayed its partners, Fort Worth and the Texas Department of Transportation, by announcing that the cost of the road had ballooned to $825 million, four times the original estimate.

Some advocates say that because of the cost, the tollway authority will back off the project and concentrate on toll roads in the Dallas area.

Allan Rutter, the tollway authority's executive director, has insisted that the agency still wants to build the Southwest Parkway. He will unveil funding options Wednesday during a board meeting beginning at 9 a.m. at 5900 W. Plano Parkway in Plano.

Cutting corners on the Southwest Parkway isn't acceptable, board member Bill Meadows of Fort Worth said. "Does that mean it might cost a little more in the end? Yeah, I think it might," he said.

ONLINE: North Texas Tollway Authority,

Gordon Dickson, (817) 685-3816

Fort Worth Star-Telegram:


TxDOT working with local politicians to build tolled freight corridor in San Patricio County.

Garrett seeks support of toll roads

Freight corridor to tie area to Laredo, Mexico

September 13, 2005

By Jaime Powell
Corpus Christie Caller-Times
Copyright 2005

Mayor Henry Garrett addressed the San Patricio County Rural Rail Transportation District Monday seeking a resolution in support of the construction of a high-speed, tolled freight corridor from the port's proposed La Quinta Trade Gateway Container Terminal in San Patricio County to the inland port at Laredo.

"The corridor would mean dramatic increases in import and export opportunities, with commensurate economic development along the corridor and throughout all of South Texas," according to resolutions from the Corpus Christi and Laredo chambers of commerce.

Port of Corpus Christi and Corpus Christi Metropolitan Planning Organization chairman Ruben Bonilla said in an interview the corridor is needed to increase the area's edge as an international commercial hub.

"Various freight corridors need to be improved, others widened and yet others built," he said. "This route would provide Corpus Christi and the port with seamless transportation routes to corridors of trade throughout Mexico and Latin America."

Some members of the transportation district's nine-member board said they supported the project but needed more information to vote in favor of a resolution.

Erich Schneider, member of the district and chairman of the San Patricio Economic Development Corporation, said he wanted to know more about the project but if it benefits San Patricio County he's probably for it.

"What we want is access to Laredo and Mexico," he said. "If San Patricio County gets plugged in all the way to La Quinta it would be good but it's very preliminary so we don't know much so far."

District members have not set a date for the vote.

Meanwhile, local politicians are working to locate private investors to build the road, which Texas Department of Transportation officials estimate would cost $300 million to $350 million, in exchange for reaping the tolls. And, the transportation department is studying an exclusive truck facility, with two lanes in each direction that would allow for a higher speed limit, perhaps 80 miles per hour or more, and greater weight and capacity limits.

Corpus Christie Caller-Times:


Monday, September 12, 2005

Voters go for the concrete

No to schools; yes to new roads

Voters defeat construction plans in Spring ISD; Montgomery OKs $160 million bond

Sept. 12, 2005

Copyright 2005
Houston Chronicle

Voters in several Houston-area communities defeated two school bond proposals and approved a road bond issue at the polls Saturday in a series of suburban ballot initiatives.


A $385 million bond election was soundly turned down by voters.

• Proposition 1: Defeated 4,595 to 1,741, it called for $269.6 million for the construction of six elementary schools with a capacity of 800 students at each; two middle schools for 1,200 students each; a natatorium; a transportation and maintenance center; and renovations and additions to a warehouse facility on Kuykendahl.
The money also would have gone toward the purchase of land for 11 more schools, including eight elementary schools, one middle school and a high school, and a transportation and maintenance center.

• Proposition 2: Voters also said no — 4,606 to 1,748 — to spending $91.2 million for the construction of a 25,000-square-foot auditorium at Spring High School and 52 new buses, as well as new roofs, heating and air-conditioning systems, lighting and fire protection systems at all schools.
• Proposition 3: Defeated 5,062 to 1,289, it called for laptop computers for all high school students; classroom computers and portable wireless labs for elementary use; pilot programs of personal computing devices for elementary and middle schools and upgrades to infrastructure. The proposition carried a price tag of $24.2 million.
Bond foes, the Homeowners Against Spring ISD Bond Propositions Inc., said the school district is not spending the existing budget money wisely.

Another round of bond debt, the group said, would send the district's current property tax rate of $1.87 per $100 property valuation even higher.

"We are voting 'no' to create our own property tax relief," said Tom Matthews, spokesman for the group.

Another group of residents calling themselves the Parents Advancing Spring Schools said the district's rapid growth rate requires the need for new schools, buses and technology.

"If we don't build new schools outlined in the bond issue, we will have to put the projected 7,500 students expected in the next four years in existing classrooms and portable buildings," said Mike Curry, co-chairman of PASS.

If voters had approved all three propositions on the ballot, the impact on property taxes on an average home in the district, which is valued at about $108,000, would be an additional $95 in 2005-06; $212 in 2006-07 and $69 in 2007-08.


Voters of this Brazoria County community approved a measure to freeze property taxes for senior residents and the disabled. The proposal passed 2,278 to 203.

"Most seniors can't afford the increases in our taxes and property values," said Alma Nolan, 82, who spearheaded the petition calling for the election. "The tax situation may force many seniors out of their houses where they have lived for the past 50 years."

Opponents said a tax freeze is not warranted because the City Council in March increased the city's homestead exemption from $25,000 to $40,000 for those at least 65 years old and the disabled.

The measure will take effect when tax bills are mailed in the fall of 2006.

Pearland's current tax rate is 69 cents per $100 property valuation. The City Council is voting on lowering the rate by two cents later this month.


A proposal to give the City Council the authority to sell the city's natural gas utility distribution system, which provides natural gas to residents, passed 52 to 7.

Mayor Jimmy Thornton said the city has been losing hundreds of thousands of dollars for several years trying to operate its own natural gas system. He said selling it to a major utility company would be more cost-effective for the city and its residents.


A $160 million road bond measure intended to speed up improvements on major thoroughfares in the fast-growing county was approved 2,418 to 1,030.

The package will allow the county to be the first to participate in a new state road financing program, called "pass-through toll." The county can pay for road projects up front and later receive reimbursement from the state based on the number of vehicles that use the roads.

The measure includes $100 million to expand FM 1488, FM 1485, FM 1484 and FM 1314 from two to four lanes and build a direct connection from Texas 242 to Interstate 45. The remaining $60 million is earmarked for local roads.

County officials said taxpayers can expect to see a 2-cent increase in the current tax rate of 49.63 cents per $100 valuation. For the owner of a $100,000 home, the tax bill would increase by $20 annually.


Voters in the Royal school district in Waller County defeated two propositions of a $31.1 million bond issue.

• Proposition 1: Defeated 235-166, it called for $29.8 million to build a new high school and make other improvements to school facilities.
• Proposition 2 : Voters said no, 210-185, to spending $1.3 million to pay debt in the district's maintenance and operation budget.

Chronicle reporters Eric Hanson, Renee C. Lee and Zen T.C. Zheng contributed to this report.

Houston Chronicle:


Sunday, September 11, 2005

$160 million road bond package is approved by Montgomery County voters with only two percent turnout

Bond package approved


Howard Roden
The Courier
Copyright 2005

Montgomery County overwhelmingly approved the $160 million road bond package even though less than two percent of the eligible voters turned out for Saturday's election.

Slightly more than 70 percent of the votes were cast in favor of the funding plan that county officials say will ultimately result in $360 million in new construction and the renovation of existing roadways within the county. Of the approved bond amount, $100 million is earmarked to finance five "major" projects totaling $219 million. The remaining $60 million in bonds will be used to finance road improvements in each of the four county commissioner's precincts.
Precinct 2 Commissioner Craig Doyal said he is feeling a "nervous excitement" about the bond's passage. County Judge Alan Sadler said residents will see a "substantial change in mobility" countywide within the next three years, thanks to approval of the bonds.

"I've always been optimistic about the bond issue," he said. "I'm very appreciative and very excited about how the election turned out."

However, the election turnout proved to be far less than the 5,000 Sadler has anticipated. Only 2,371 voters showed up Saturday at the 20 polling locations throughout the county. Combined with the early voting, a total of 3,448 votes were cast, with 2,418 in favor of the bond package.
The turnout represented just 1.63 percent of the registered voters in Montgomery County.
Finding a reason for the low turnout was difficult to pinpoint, said Doyal.

"Quite frankly, everyone is the county is concerned about mobility and you would expect a sizeable turnout over an issue like this," said Doyal. "Maybe everyone was anticipating it (the bond) would pass."

Attorney Nelda Luce Blair, chairwoman of MobilityNOW, the political action committee that campaigned in favor of the bond's approval, was "absolutely thrilled" with the election results.

"Members of MobilityNOW worked hard to get the votes out," she said. "We wanted a decisive victory and our people turned out to make it happen."

Strongest support for the bond election was at the Panorama Village City Hall where 220 "for" votes represented 79 percent of that precinct's turnout. The largest numerical support occurred at the Purvis Library in Magnolia where 300 votes were cast in favor of the bonds. That represented 77 percent of that location's overall tally.

Seventy-seven percent of the people voting at the East County Courthouse Annex in New Caney voted for the bond. The Cut and Shoot Fire Station was the only polling location to defeat the bond proposal, with people voting 39-29 against the proposition.

The road bond package is part of the unique Pass-Through Toll Agreement signed by Montgomery County and the Texas Department of Transportation. The bonds will help accelerate construction on the five major projects: expansion of FM 1488, FM 1314, FM 1485, the creation of a "hard toll" flyover interchange at Texas 242 and Interstate 45, and the redirection and expansion of FM 1484.

In exchange for the county's financing the projects, TxDOT has contractually agreed to reimburse Montgomery County a total of $207 million. According to county officials, $98 million will be used to finance additional revenue bonds, another $76 million will be placed in an account to fund future projects, while $33 million will be used on the cost of the five projects.

Precinct 1 Commissioner Mike Meador admitted he and the other County Commissioners are facing added responsibility in managing projects that are normally supervised by TxDOT.
"It's taking us to another level and it does put pressure on us to perform," he said. "This is something new and different for Montgomery County. There's no question we to make this work and we will. I'm excited about it."

Montgomery County Elections Administrator Carol Chedsey Gaultney said the election's votes would be canvassed on Sept. 21.

Magnolia residents also went to the polls Saturday to decide the fate of the city's natural gas distribution system. They voted by a 52-7 margin to authorize its City Council to sell the city's natural gas distribution system.

Howard Roden can be reached at

©Houston Community Newspapers Online 2005 :


Low voter turnout anticipated for novel Montgomery County Road Bond package

Low turnout seen for road bond vote


Howard Roden
The Courier
Copyright 2005

Early voter turnout on the $160 million road bond package has created a little concern among some Montgomery County officials, while others remain steadfastly optimistic the issue will receive overwhelming approval by county residents.

Five major construction projects totaling $219 million, as well as another $60 million in local improvements, are at the heart of the today's bond election. Twenty polling locations will be open from 7 a.m.-7 p.m., but most officials anticipate an extremely light turnout.

Based on the 1,079 votes cast during early voting, County Judge Alan Sadler and Montgomery County Elections Administrator Carol Chedsey Gaultney expect a turnout of around 5,000 today. However, Precinct 3 Commissioner Ed Chance believes voter turnout could be as high as 10,000-12,000.

"I was satisfied," said Chance of the early voter turnout. "The turnout in The Woodlands and Conroe has been very strong and I expect that support to continue in those areas. I believe people will show up (today) and support an issue that is very important to our county."
Although an overt, organized opposition to the proposed bond package has been noticeably absent during the past two weeks, the early voting total was lower than what Sadler expected.

"Especially when you consider the amount of media coverage (the election) has received," he said. "It's not that county residents don't know about it. I'm not sure what to make of it. I knew there would be a low turnout, but not this low."

Gaultney said Friday that her Elections Central office had received quite a number of phone calls from county residents claiming they had just become aware of the election. She said her staff had e-mailed "thousands" of newsletters with information pertaining to the election.
"Not everyone has access to a computer and no everyone reads the newspaper," she said.
Precinct 2 Commissioner Craig Doyal said response to the proposed road bond package has been "very, very much" in the affirmative, but he agreed he would feel more comfortable with a greater turnout at the polls today.

"It's (the early turnover) a little frustrating," he said. "You always want to see a large turnout, but that's true in every election."

The bond election is a major component of the Pass-Through Toll Agreement, a first-of-its-kind funding mechanism in Texas that is supposed to accelerate much-needed road projects in Montgomery County. The road bonds will be used to fund construction, with the Texas Department of Transportation contractually agreeing to reimburse the county $207 million for pending and future projects.

At the same time the county voters will vote on the road bonds, city of Magnolia residents will decide today whether they will give its city council the authority to sell its natural gas utility distribution system.

Howard Roden can be reached at

©Houston Community Newspapers Online 2005 :