"Creating a new revenue stream."
Feb 13, 2007
by Bob Dunn,
Fort Bend County Commissioners Court members set the wheels in motion on Tuesday for a May election in which voters will be asked to vote for a $153.2 million referendum to build 47 road projects throughout the county.
Those projects, which appear on a list here, were approved by the county’s Mobility Planning Commission earlier this month.
The court also voted to issue the last $26 million in bonds authorized from a 2000 mobility bond referendum, to be used for already scheduled road projects.
Also on Tuesday court members approved a resolution aimed at sending a message to state legislators. One signaled that the county supports legislation that would amend the state Transportation Code to allow counties and regional toll road authorities the right of first refusal to finance, build and operate new toll-road projects located within those entities’ jurisdiction.
Precinct 3 Commissioner Andy Meyers said the Texas Department of Transportation “is desperate” for more money. County Judge Bob Hebert said he believes the state department is interested in creating a new revenue stream for itself by operating toll roads throughout the state, because “TxDOT is strapped for cash.”
If that happened, toll road projects would proceed more slowly than if counties and regional authorities were responsible for them. Also, if TxDOT were able to operate all the toll roads, money from residents of Fort Bend and other counties would flow out of those political subdivisions and into state coffers, creating what Hebert called a “toll tax.”
If the county can operate its own toll roads, after financing for such projects is paid off, the surplus would stay within the county.
Meyers said a number of counties have joined together seeking legislation that would give counties first right of refusal to operate their own toll roads, and “Fort Bend is leading the charge.” The legislation does not yet have a sponsor.
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