Tuesday, December 26, 2006

TTC opponents vow to file bills that would roll back TxDOT's power to build toll roads

Area leaders ready for Capitol battle

December 26, 2006

Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Copyright 2006

Metroplex leaders are heading to Austin next month, and they say one of their priorities is protecting the region's transportation interests.

Transportation may be high on the list of topics, too. For example, opponents of the Trans-Texas Corridor have vowed to file bills that would roll back some of the Texas Department of Transportation's power to build toll roads -- or to hire private companies to do the work for them.

North Texas was really the first region in the state to embrace tolls and other alternative forms of road financing, so any changes in the rules at this point could have a major impact on Metroplex road work.

But there's a plethora of other issues, too. Here's a sample of the region's agenda:

Stop diverting highway taxes and fees to other state needs. For example, nearly a fourth of state gas taxes go toward education.

Clarify state law so that future surplus toll revenue stays in the region where it's collected.

Give agencies more bureaucratic flexibility to design, build and manage roads.

Increase the state motor fuels tax, now 20 cents a gallon, and let it rise periodically proportionate to economic growth.

Allow local elections to raise the state's 8.25 percent sales-tax cap, freeing up a half-cent for transportation.

Allow extra-large trucks -- aka triple-tandem trucks -- to use the Trans-Texas Corridor but not other roads.

Oppose attempts to assess state fees on cities' revenue from red-light cameras.

Allow driver's license suspensions for failure to pay tolls.

Identify new sources of money to move rail lines out of congested areas.

Oppose creation of transportation authorities other than the three already in the region: Fort Worth Transportation Authority, Dallas Area Rapid Transit and Denton County Transportation Authority.

Allow the Transportation Department to buy land from a willing seller before a road project has completed environmental review.

Allow any court with jurisdiction, not just county courts of law, to hear eminent-domain cases.

© 2006 Fort Worth Star-Telegram: www.dfw.com