Friday, July 07, 2006

“The move marks the first time that an RMA in Texas has grown to include counties outside its founding sponsors.”

East Texas counties partner for road funds

July 07, 2006

Jimmy Isaac
Longview News-Journal
Copyright 2006

It was standing room only in the Longview Partnership Briefing Center on Thursday as the Northeast Texas Regional Mobility Authority welcomed its four newest member counties.
The Texas Transportation Commission approved the addition of Harrison, Upshur, Rusk and Cherokee counties to the mobility group, which formerly consisted of founding counties Gregg and Smith. Board members agreed to ask for a $5,000 pledge to the RMA's annual budget from each of the founding counties, both of which have three representatives on the board. The remaining counties, which will have one representative each, were asked for $1,500 contributions.

The move marks the first time that an RMA in Texas has grown to include counties outside its founding sponsors. The mobility authority was created to work with the Texas Department of Transportation in leveraging available funds to advance highway, rail, transit, aviation and other transportation projects in the area, according to recent a NET-RMA press release.
Panola and Bowie counties also have shown interest in joining the mobility authority, said TxDOT Atlanta District Area Engineer Bob Ratcliff.

Titus County recently passed a bond for a $120 million project for pass-through tolling of the proposed U.S. 271 bypass and two FM roads to the south and east of Mount Pleasant. Ratcliff said commissioners there have not discussed joining the RMA because Titus County is outside the Trans-Texas Corridor 69 area — which could navigate parallel to or include parts of U.S. 59 — but projects there could tie in with the corridor and the NET-RMA's efforts.

"The road fairy doesn't come and stick a tooth under your pillow just because you joined the RMA," TxDOT Tyler District Engineer Randy Redmond said. "For you new counties coming in, ask why Smith County is getting closer with Loop 49."

Loop 49, which will serve as Tyler's outer loop, will open its first leg — between U.S. 69 and Texas 155 in South Tyler — in mid-August. Construction has begun on the loop's second phase, and environmental and revenue studies are in the works for Loop 49's western leg toward Lindale.

After a month or so of free usage by drivers, Loop 49 will become a tollway that officials say will generate revenue to fund other transportation projects in the region.

"It is important to get (Loop 49's first leg) opened soon," Chairman Jeff Austin III said. "It will have bearings on the rest of the system."

Board member Jeff Warr said that all projects within the NET-RMA are equally important, saying that they will hopefully fall into place like dominoes.

"We want to make sure that you understand that you're just as important as those people who were here the first day," said Warr, an original board member. "We want to make sure that we're on the right way legally, financially because we are stewards of the public's money."

The authority has a cash balance of $9,391 with no liabilities, although bills for legal counsel and consultation services are upcoming, Finance Chairman Tab Beall reported.

In other business, mobility officials have yet to secure a consultant to oversee work studies on the expansion of Texas 42 between White Oak and Kilgore, but TxDOT Tyler District official Mike Battles said he has been assured that one is "forthcoming soon."

A consultant is needed to begin analyzing the corridor and get a cost estimate for widening the two-lane highway, bordered by numerous oil leases and flood plain, to an urban five-lane road.
Battles said a possible project for an express or high-occupancy lane on Interstate 20 through East Texas is being discussed among the Tyler, Atlanta and Dallas transportation districts. The lane would be tolled while the existing lanes of traffic would remain free.

Austin said he will send a letter to Tyler District Area Engineer Mary Owen on behalf of the NET-RMA to procure an abandoned rail line between Whitehouse and Troup. The route could become a strategic corridor for the RMA under a potential transfer. Possible uses include converting it into a walking, hiking or bicycle trail.

© 2006 Longview News-Journal:


Thursday, July 06, 2006

Are more privately controlled toll roads on the way? Yes.

Why foreign companies are buying our toll roads

July 6 2006

By Cathy X. Tang and Jia Lynn Yang,

Cable News Network
Copyright 2006

Someone call Lou Dobbs: America's highways are are up for sale. States are auctioning off the rights to manage their roads - often to overseas firms. What's driving the trend?

1. Why are states doing this? They're strapped for cash. The federal Highway Trust Fund is projected to be $2.3 billion in the hole by the end of 2009. Indiana's major toll road lost money five of the past seven years. Instead of raising taxes or borrowing money for repairs, Governor Mitch Daniels raised $3.8 billion from a partnership of Australia's Macquarie and Spain's Cintra for a 75-year lease.

2. Why are foreign companies doing the bidding? Privately owned toll roads have been popular in Europe and Australia for years. Macquarie and Cintra have also leased the Chicago Skyway, and Macquarie is behind California's new South Bay Expressway. They expect a 12% to 14% return on each deal.

3. Are more privately controlled toll roads on the way? Yes. Some $40 billion worth of agreements are in the works. Texas, for example, anticipates $7.2 billion in private funds for a new highway from Oklahoma to Mexico. And Wall Street is jumping in. Banks like Goldman Sachs, which made $9 million brokering the Skyway lease, and J.P. Morgan have created infrastructure units to put together deals.

4. Will my tolls go up? Bet on it. Private operators will probably hike prices. But there will be caps in most cases - initially at a set amount and then pegged to inflation, the GDP, or a fixed percentage of current rates.

© Copyright 2006 Cable News Network:


Wednesday, July 05, 2006

"The cost of highway tolls is passed on unseen to consumers in the price of almost everything they buy."

Congestion, tolls taking a bigger bite

Jul 5, 2006

by Sean Kilcarr
Fleet Owner
Copyright 2006

Experts are warning that the U.S.’s transportation infrastructure could become hopelessly clogged in the near future without a new national freight strategy emphasizing more intermodal connections and less highway tolling.

“Population concentration and increasing consumption of goods from Asia will continue to create pressure on the nation’s transportation system,” said Patrick Sherry, co-director of the National Center for Intermodal Transportation (NCIT) and a professor with the Intermodal Transportation Institute (ITI) at the University of Denver, in a testimony before Congress last week.

“This situation will only get worse as projections for the next 20 years suggest a 40% increase in population and a 103% increase in transportation activity,” he stressed. “Data provided by the U.S. Dept. of Transportation also predicts the numbers of containers utilized in the already overburdened area of Southern California alone to increase by 350% in the near future.”

Sherry told the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure that congestion, competition, capacity, conservation and connectivity are the primary challenges facing the U.S. transportation infrastructure.

“Without a national transportation policy … to maximize interconnectedness while optimizing the cost efficiencies of the various modes of transportation, these problems will only further stress the U.S. infrastructure in the years ahead,” he explained.

“Rising fuel costs have once again gotten the nation’s attention so clearly, it is most advantageous to move cars and trucks off the roads to conserve fuel,” Sherry noted. “But to do so requires policies and incentives to connect buses and light rail to airports for the movement of people and to move freight off the trucks and on to the more fuel efficient railroads.”

Finding ways to fund transportation initiatives, however, isn’t easy – especially as highway tolls, a major revenue source, is feeling a backlash from the U.S. business community.

“We have seen wide-scale adoption of our new tolls management product in the year since its introduction, clearly showing the concern many companies have with the rapid rise of toll costs, particularly in the Northeast,” said Ed Siciliano, vp of sales and marketing for Princeton, NJ-based ALK Technologies.

“For example, a five-axle tractor-trailer going from a central New Jersey distribution center to Long Island and back already pays $140 in tolls alone,” Siciliano said. Tolls for the round trip of only 110 miles include those imposed on the New Jersey Turnpike, the George Washington Bridge, and the Whitestone Bridge or Throgs Neck Bridge between Long Island and the Bronx.

“Multiply that $140 by the number of trucks making the trip daily, many from the same carrier or private fleet, and you see the problem,” he said.

In fact, tolls may be the fastest growing form of taxation in the U.S., he added, noting that DOT research has found that toll receipts at state-run facilities more than doubled from 1994 to 2004 to nearly $7 billion. “Their cost [highway tolls] is passed on unseen to consumers in the price of almost everything they buy,” Sicilian said. “Many companies realize that if only a few of the current tolling efforts are successful, the cost of truck transportation will rise substantially.”

Among those states hoping to impose tolls on Interstates are Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Ohio, Oregon, Texas, Utah and Virginia, Siciliano noted. At the same time, other states are looking to privatize toll roads. New Jersey lawmakers have proposed at least partly privatizing the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway. In New York, Governor George E. Pataki (R) wants to lease the Tappan Zee Bridge, part of the New York Thruway, over the Hudson River.

“Tolls are not always monitored as carefully as they should be. In many instances, tolls are not figured into costs or adequately planned for; they are often absorbed by fleets,” Siciliano said. “But that strategy – or lack of one – won’t work much longer. Tolls will become a very serious item in every ground transportation budget.”

To comment on the article, write to Sean Kilcarr at

© 2006 Prism Business Media Inc.


Toll tags: "Improving the lives of car renters all over the country."

Rent A Toll IP Portfolio Opens Doors to Second Round Capital for National Rollout


Copyright 2006

DALLAS, -- Rent A Toll, Ltd.(TM) (RTL), a Texas-based technology services company specializing in automated toll payment solutions for car renters, has secured second round private equity financing allowing for a national rollout of its services. According to
RTL, the funds will be used to expand the company's extensive Intellectual Property (IP) portfolio and rollout services throughout the major toll markets in the U.S.

RTL has developed 14 patent-pending processes and related software applications allowing car renters to use toll road "express lanes" without stopping to pay money and simply add the tolls to a single receipt.

"Car renters have long awaited a solution that would put them in the fast lane," says President and CEO, Ben Robinson. "This capital allows us to turn our attention to a variety of national rollout opportunities and fulfill our goal of improving the lives of car renters all over the country. The continued focus on building our IP portfolio assures RTL greater flexibility in providing an array of solutions to meet the needs in the marketplace."

According to Debbie Lemon, Chief Marketing Officer, "I am gratified that this round came from the investors who provided our initial funding.

It is a statement that we are achieving our goals and adding value to car renters and our shareholders too."

The company recently announced an exclusive marketing and services agreement with HNTB Corporation facilitating efforts by both companies to solve significant ground transportation and travel industry challenges: making toll payments convenient for car renters.

HNTB Corporation is a national, employee-owned infrastructure firm that offers comprehensive design, engineering and planning services to federal, state and local public and private clients. The firm has designed more than half of the nation's toll roads and currently serves as general engineering consultant to two dozen toll agencies. Nearly 3,000 professionals in 60 offices nationwide provide design and planning expertise for highway, bridge, airport, construction management and urban planning and design projects. For more information about HNTB, visit .

RTL is a privately held company located in Dallas / Fort Worth area. RTL is aggressively working on a national rollout of services to all car renters in 2007. For information on RTL, visit their website at .

Contact: Debbie Lemon of Rent A Toll, Ltd., +1-972-628-3010, or

SOURCE Rent A Toll, Ltd.

© 2006 PR Newswire Association:


Tuesday, July 04, 2006

"Governments should not be in the business of enriching private companies at the expense of those they serve."

Private doesn't serve public


By John H. White, Chicago Sun-Times via AP

By B. Patrick Bauer
USA Today
Copyright 2006

Indiana's experience with privatization has focused almost entirely on rumored benefits, without any consideration of the pitfalls.

We are told the sale of the Indiana Toll Road to foreign investors will help us address infrastructure improvements over the next decade. For a one-time infusion of cash, we will be giving up possession of a state asset for 75 years. Any money generated from the operation of this road will be sent overseas until 2081 (more than $100 billion), long after we have used up sale proceeds ($3 to $4 billion). The foreign consortium has told investors that it expects to operate the road at a 13% profit.

Many of us felt a better idea would be to use toll road profits to pay for our infrastructure needs, a move which would generate as much money as a sale and enable us to keep possession of the road. Our concerns were ignored. Advocates now are contemplating turning an interstate extension in southern Indiana into a privately owned toll road.

Additionally, control over most of our state's family and social services network is likely to fall into the hands of private firms that have been roundly criticized and investigated elsewhere for failure to live up to promised service. States have reassumed control of these services.

There is concern about the role privatization plays in operating programs that benefit a state's general population. A private company's primary motivation is to earn a profit. If profits are not being earned, a company reduces costs by cutting personnel and services.

More states are rejecting the concept of privatization. In Texas, one county already has chosen not to turn a road over to a private company, preferring to operate the road itself and keep the profits.

All of us want to see government operate in a fiscally sound, accountable manner. If the results are that people are not going to get the services they need, that is not good. Governments should not be in the business of enriching private companies at the expense of those they serve.

B. Patrick Bauer is Democratic leader of the Indiana House of Representatives.

Other sample private road projects:

Chicago Skyway. Chicago, one of the few cities that owns a toll road, has agreed to lease this 7.8-mile highway, running from downtown to the Indiana border, for $1.8 billion.

Trans-Texas Corridor. A Spanish company has proposed building a $7.2 billion privately run toll road from San Antonio to the Oklahoma border. This would be the first phase in a Texas-size plan of Gov. Rick Perry to pump $180 billion of public and private money into upgrading the state's roads and rails.

Tappan Zee Bridge . New York Gov. George Pataki has proposed a private lease to finance repairing or replacing this bridge, which spans the Hudson River above New York City.

New Jersey Turnpike. The Legislature is considering selling a 49% interest in this north-south corridor.

Garden State Parkway. Also in New Jersey, same terms as the Turnpike's are being considered.


© 2006 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.:


Monday, July 03, 2006

Dallas-Fort Worth demands a larger piece of TTC pork

Opinion: Editorials

Message to Austin about the Trans-Texas Loop: Don't bypass D-FW

July 3, 2006

Dallas Morning News
Copyright 2006

Just as Dallas and Fort Worth came together over the Wright amendment, civic and business leaders across the region are closing ranks over another transit issue: the state's immense Trans-Texas Corridor project.

It's a vital step if North Texas wants to be properly served by the futuristic, privately built tollway. The region's diverse interests need to harmonize in a clear message to Austin in upcoming hearings over where to locate the corridor.

Here's where things stand: State transportation officials, after two rounds of meetings, have recommended a path for the multibillion-dollar toll corridor. That 500-mile path closely parallels Interstate 35 from Laredo north through San Antonio, Austin and Waco. Then it veers east in a wide swing past most of metro Dallas-Fort Worth.

That wide swing has local transit planners and community leaders dizzy with disbelief – and understandably so. North Texas, an important nexus in transcontinental shipping, needs better access to the giant transit path. But as drawn, the recommended route is as far as 50 miles from some spots in the metro area.

The corridor concept is sound overall. I-35, a vital economic artery from Mexico to the Red River, is dangerously clogged. Quick cash to start a reliever project isn't available from tapped-out government sources. Private developers have been recruited to build the project over 50 years and make a billion-dollar payment to the state. In return, the developers would gain the right to collect tolls on segregated car and truck lanes and on utility and rail lines.
We'd like to say everybody wins, except the project would displace untold thousands in the path of the 1,200-foot-wide swath.

That level of disruption demands a greater good. And that test is not met unless the needs of Dallas-Fort Worth are more prominently figured into the equation.

Those interests are better addressed in an alternative route mapped out by local transit planners. It resembles a giant doughnut around the area, linked to north-south corridor segments.

Planners say the route is superior for two reasons: 1) It provides the super-outer loop that the metro area eventually will need, and 2) it gives through truckers a shorter path around Dallas-Fort Worth.

To press for the locally proposed alternative, a regionwide transit coalition recently made the case to the State Transportation Commission in Austin. And an ad hoc group representing a half-dozen cities recently met to rally local efforts.

State officials say the big doughnut hasn't been ruled out – and, in fact, may be more lucrative to the developers – and that local voices matter in the choice of a final route.

The time has come for those voices to speak up. ATTEND A HEARING

The Texas Department of Transportation will hold 18 North Texas hearings on the Trans-Texas Corridor from July 10 to 27. For a full schedule and details, go to

© 2006 The Dallas Morning News Co