Saturday, November 11, 2006

"The effect on Texas and its citizens could be potentially devastating."


For years, toll highway will tie Texans' hands


Donna Council
San Antonio Express-News
Copyright 2006

As the controversy escalates regarding the Trans-Texas Corridor, I find alarming an Express-News article dated March 12, 2005. It is titled "State gets in fast lane to new toll road system" and subtitled "Go-ahead given for planning Trans-Texas Corridor segment."

It is the announcement of the signing of the first contract for this project, and it extols the "cutting-edge, bold and forward-looking" aspects of Rick Perry's plan.

Yet today, amid the discussions about farmland, foreign involvement and NAFTA, I hear little about the subject of one small paragraph near the end of this article. The paragraph reads, "Traffic levels on I-35 will help determine toll rates and limits on building competing public roads. A certain amount of congestion is needed to create a market for toll roads."

To ensure profitability, the contract can limit expansion of existing roads and/or the building of new roads well beyond the dimensions of the corridor. This would be most critical for I-35, but could also limit local efforts to improve road infrastructure and development extending for several miles either side of the corridor.

Potentially, this would create a recipe for disaster if too few drivers choose to avoid the tolls and continue to drive existing roads. Nearby municipalities could have their hands tied by this contract.

Also, considering the rising cost of transportation, the influx of and relocation of population, economic growth or downturn and environmental impacts, it is very difficult to predict transportation needs very far into the future.

Yet this contract will allow a private, for-profit venture, comprised in part by a foreign company, control over the road infrastructure for the next 50 years.

The citizens of Texas could, in their efforts to address local and regional transportation issues, be severely limited by a veto power provided by this long-term contract. The effect on Texas and its citizens could be potentially devastating.

As I approach 60, I realize that this control will continue until my 110th birthday. My 20-year-old granddaughter will be 70 years old at that time. It is difficult to understand how our government entities can value the concept of electing public officials for two six-year terms, yet hand over this kind of authority over the citizens of Texas for 50 years.

The legacy passed on by this very unwise decision is undeserved by future generations.

Donna Council of San Antonio is a recently retired part-time homeschool mom.

© 2006 San Antonio Express-News: