Thursday, January 04, 2007

"Fed up with the state's insistence on building toll roads."

Business Owner, Commissioner Unite To Stop Toll Roads

January 4, 2007

KSAT (San Antonio)
Copyright 2006

SAN ANTONIO -- Two prominent men from the city's North Side have joined forces to urge local leaders to keep toll roads out of Bexar County.

Ancira automotive owner Ernesto Ancira and Lyle Larson, Precinct 3 county commissioner, plan to lead a charge against toll roads in the county.

Ancira said he's fed up with the state's insistence on building toll roads to relieve congestion.

"We can certainly stop it; it's not too late," Ancira said. "We can certainly come up with alternative plans of being able to make improvements to our existing roads."

Ancira said he sent a letter to members of the local Metropolitan Planning Organization to urge them to back off on toll roads on US Highway 281.

He said he spent millions of dollars to build a dealership along Highway 281 with the understanding it would remain a freeway.

Ancira said tolling it would have a catastrophic impact on his businesses and others.

"You'll see that no retail has ever developed adjacent to a toll road," Ancira said. "So, you've got a lot of small-business people who put in their whole life savings, and all of the sudden they're going to be bypassed."

Larson said the effort wouldn't have been necessary if lawmakers hadn't spent billions of dollars from the gas tax on non-transportation projects.

"(Lawmakers) diverted 9.3 billion dollars from the (state) highway fund, which has created this crisis of funding," Larson said.

"If you look at what the county's share of that $9.3 billion is, it would be a billion dollars," Larson said.

Larson said that amount would be enough to fix Highway 281, Loop 1604, and Wurzbach Parkway.

In 2005, $775 million was diverted from the state highway fund to pay for programs in the state Department of Commerce and the Texas Historical and Arts Commission.

Larson said if the state would stop the diversions and replace the pilfered money with a surplus of an estimated $15 billion that he expects to come out of the next legislative session, the state could start fixing its transportation woes.

House Speaker Tom Craddick said if the Legislature stopped using those funds for non-transportation needs, lawmakers would be forced to cut many programs or raise taxes and fees.

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