Thursday, April 19, 2007

"SB 1267 includes several exemptions for projects in Dallas-Fort Worth, San Antonio and El Paso. "

Senate approves moratorium on private toll roads


News 8 Austin
The Associated Press
Copyright 2007

The Texas Senate has approved a bill placing a two-year moratorium on private toll road contracts and creating a panel to review the terms of such agreements.

Gov. Rick Perry had urged the Legislature not to act on the bill. The state's current transportation system involves public-private partnerships to build toll roads. He says that's needed if Texas is to keep attracting big companies and jobs.

Critics of Perry's proposed Trans-Texas Corridor and the state's contract with Spanish-American consortium Cintra-Zachry have made some lawmakers nervous about the project.

Sen. Robert Nichols supported the corridor as a commissioner. Now Nichols said he's concerned private toll road contracts hurt the state with penalties for building or improving publicly owned roads.

Nichols' concerns with the toll road contracts:
  • Competition penalties that cripple the state when building new roads or improving current roads for 50-plus years
  • A private tolling authority's ability to significantly increase toll rates
  • The lack of local input into the process
  • The lack of a clear formula to determine cost should the state need to terminate the contract early and "buy back" the road
The bill, SB1 267, includes several exemptions for projects in Dallas-Fort Worth, San Antonio and El Paso. But Nichols and other senators said it still sends a strong message.

The bill prohibits only private toll roads. Public entities may still pursue projects.

© 2007 The Associated Press:

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