Tuesday, January 09, 2007

"We are building more toll roads than the public should reasonably be able to accept."

Toll Roads, Gas Tax Might Provide Funds For Roads


Jay Gormley Reporting
(CBS 11 News) DALLAS
Copyright 2007

With more toll roads planned for North Texas, some state lawmakers are saying "enough."

One bill aims to put money back in the hands of the Department of Transportation so the agency can build more free highways.

When it comes to toll roads... Many Texans are likely to say, "They're popping up everywhere and I feel like there are too many of them."

And you won't find an argument from State Senator John Carona of Dallas.

"The Transportation Commission is doing all that it can do with very limited funds,” Senator Carona said. “They're going out and building toll roads or building no roads at all. The problem is we are building more toll roads than the public should reasonably be able to accept."

So Senator Carona wants to slow the trend with a bill that will keep money in TxDOT's pocket.

Since 1986 TxDOT's yearly budget has been stripped by at least 30 different agencies. Nine billion dollar earmarked for highway construction has gone elsewhere, to agencies such as the Department of Public Safety, the Attorney General's office and the Department of Health, just to name a few.

Corona's bill would put a stop to that, but some lawmakers say Texas needs to do more by using the state's large surplus to pay back TxDOT.

Even if the state could pay back TxDOT the $9 billion, TxDOT says it would help, but it's still just a drop in the bucket. There is no way to avoid toll roads.

"We're not all pro toll roads and nothing else,” said Mark Ball, spokesperson for the TxDOT. “The reality is… this was a tool given to us by the Texas legislature, signed into law by the governor. If we didn't get a gas tax increase and instead we have these new tools, what are we supposed to do?"

Senator Carona agrees, but says more money for TxDOT will at least cut the number of toll roads.

Carona will also push for an increase in the gas tax. The state has not had one since 1991. Carona says a half-cent yearly increase to keep up with inflation will build more freeways.

© 2007 CBS Stations Group of Texas: cbs11tv.com