Sunday, April 22, 2007

"The more we study the Trans-Texas Corridor, the less we think it is a good idea."


Moratorium on toll roads is good for Texas

April 22, 2007

Marshall News Messenger
Copyright 2007

To those in Marshall interested in the state's transportation system, Robert Nichols is a familiar face.

Nichols, who now serves as a state senator from Jacksonville, was a member of the Texas Transportation Commission for a number of years and was frequently in Marshall and was a friend to this area in working on our transportation projects. We were sad to see him leave the transportation commission, but glad to see him join the Texas Senate.

As a member of the transportation commission, Nichols was a proponent of using private toll roads to fund improvements in the highway system. Indeed, we have heard increasingly in recent years that this is the "only" way certain roads — including the proposed Interstate 69 — are ever going to be built.

But frankly, it always worried us and, when a consortium of foreign and American interests was awarded the bid for the proposed Trans-Texas Corridor, we became even more worried. Indeed, the more we study the Trans-Texas Corridor, the less we think it is a good idea. If definitely seems a boon for the company building it, but we don't know how much it will improve lives of traveling Texans or business interests.

Now Nichols has sponsored and successfully passed a bill in the senate to place a two-year moratorium on the building of such toll-roads. According to a story by the Associated Press, he thinks the state needs a "cooling off" period before jumping off into decades-long contracts that give private companies an inordinate amount of control over the Texas highway system.

We completely agree and we are gratified to hear someone of Nichols' expertise come forward and say so. It is probably that expertise that also helped the bill get passed in the senate.

Gov. Rick Perry opposes the bill, so there is always a chance that, even if passed by the House, Perry will veto the measure and there probably would be neither the time nor the votes to overturn such a veto.

But at the very least this bill should tell the citizens of Texas that people who know about transportation don't think that a massive program to build toll roads around the state is a good idea.

We aren't saying — and we don't think Nichols is saying — that no toll roads should ever be built. Rather, we think the message is: Slow down and give this some very careful thought before you move ahead.

In government that is almost always a wise idea. It is particularly so in this case. Good job, Sen. Nichols.

© 2007 Marshall News Messenger:

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