Monday, September 17, 2007

"No tolls in Comal County? Think again."

Toll roads coming unless taxpayers act

September 17, 2007

Terri Hall Contributor
Copyright 2007

No tolls in Comal County? Think again.

Texas Department of Transportation documents show the state plans to toll Interstate 35 from San Antonio to Dallas. Considering both I-35 and U.S. 281 will be tolled in the near term in Bexar County, county residents will not be insulated from tolls. Interstate 35 and 281 are the primary arteries county residents depend on to get to work. Drivers who depend on these corridors will still pay big.

The article "Toll lanes in county? 'Not on our watch' " (Herald-Zeitung, Sept. 8) states that SB 792 exempted 281 and Loop 1604 from the private toll moratorium. This is inaccurate.

Senate Bill 792 specifically includes 281 and since the contract linked 281 and 1604 together in the same bid, both projects can no longer go to a private foreign company. That is a huge victory for taxpayers. However, the public tolling entity in Bexar County is moving ahead with 281 and 1604 as a toll project.

Overall, the privatization of our public infrastructure is far from over. The U.S. Department of Transportation just announced that Interstates 10 and 69 are eligible to become privately financed, tolled trade corridors.

They have the plan, the money, and the clearance to fix 281 without tolls

Secondly, TxDOT's Greg Malatek falsely claimed he hasn't heard a non-toll options coming from opponents. How about TxDOT's own funded improvement plan to expand 281 and install overpasses?

TxDOT's failure to inform the public about this option deceives people into thinking tolls are the ONLY way to get the fix. TxDOT is pushing the plan that puts money in their pocket while remaining silent about the gas tax plan which doesn't.

Why should anyone have to pay a toll when they have the plan, the clearance and the money to fix U.S. 281 as a freeway? The answer? Greed and to make 281 users fund other projects politicians won't fund through the gas tax.

Texas does not need a single toll road to solve congestion

Then, a study by Texas A&M University found we do not need to toll a single road to meet our future needs. TxDOT says it's $1.40 a gallon gas tax hike or tolls, but the A&M study showed all that's eeded is to index the gas tax to inflation. Weigh the cost difference. Compare 1 to 3 cents per mile we pay now in gas tax to 30 cents or more a mile in tolls, averaging $3,000 a year in new toll taxes just to drive to work.

State auditor says public can't rely on TxDOT's figures

Twice this year, the State Auditor caught TxDOT lying about their figures. They cooked the books and miscoded expenditures "engineering" when in fact they had spent them on public relations! The second report says nearly half of TxDOT's "funding gap" is pure fiction and cannot be substantiated.

TxDOT said its not tolling existing freeways, only to find out that they lobbied Congress to do just that.

It's time to clean house at TxDOT and to remove every single politician who voted to toll and that failed to rein-in this agency run amok.

Terri Hall, a Spring Branch resident, is founder/ director of Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom.

© 2007 The Dallas Morning News Co

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