Friday, November 16, 2007

'The Republican Party in Texas will become known as 'the tolling party,' and that image will damage the party's ability to win future elections. "

Tolls Called "The Largest Tax Increase in Texas History"

Larson blasts MPO for 'secrecy,' says battle to stop toll roads in Bexar County is 'probably over.'


By Jim Forsyth
1200 News Radio
Copyright 2007

Long time toll road opponent Lyle Larson says the proposal that the Metropolitan Planning Organization will vote on next month, to begin the process of building new toll lanes on US Highway 281 north of Loop 1604, amounts to the 'largest tax increase in the history of Texas,' and unlike other tax increases which are approved by elected representatives, because the MPO is unelected, there is nothing Texans can do to stop it, 1200 WOAI news reports.

The Bexar County Commissioner made his comments to the Bexar County Republican Men's Club, and later, to 1200 WOAI news.

"If the vote is successful to use toll equity to build the 281 project, I'm afraid there's nothing we're going to be able to do to stop it," he said.

And if the vote is to give the go-ahead to the 281 tolls, as Larson expects will happen, he warns that is just the beginning.

"Then, God knows what else they're going to toll. There's a lot of projects they're looking at."

Larson expressed a concern that the Republican Party in Texas will become known as 'the tolling party,' and that image will damage the party's ability to win future elections. He says the vast majority of Texans disapprove of the aggressive toll road building policy promoted by Governor Perry and Texas Department of Transportation Chairman Ric Williamson.

He also blasted the MPO for its 'secrecy' and said the unelected agency has a responsibility to lay out for the public the details of the contract agreement on the 281 tolls it will vote on December 3. TxDOT is using a legal ruse to avoid revealing the contents of the contract. It refers to the proposal as a 'draft,' while local officials have said the plan up for a vote next month as 'the final agreement.'

"There's a lot of things that are built into the contracts that we are unaware of, especially when it comes to building other roads that would potentially compete with the toll lanes for capacity," he said.

Larson said if that language is in the 281 toll contract, it could prohibit the state from funding any improvements on Blanco Road, Stone Oak Parkway, of Bulverde Road, allowing those routes to deteriorate to make the toll lanes look more attractive to motorists.

1200 WOAI news revealed exclusively more than a month ago that the contract to build State Highway 130 from Marion to Georgetown allows the state to 'consider' lowing the speed limit on Interstate 35, to encourage more drivers to take the toll road, and fill the pockets of toll road contractor Cintra Zachry.

Larson warns that next month's vote of the unelected MPO is probably the last time toll roads can be avoided.

"The only people then that could stop this would be people at the upper level of state government," Larson said. "I don't see them doing that in the future."

Larson also revealed that in addition to the 17 cent a mile toll on the roughly four mile stretch, it will also cost you 50 cents to drive though the new Loop 1604/US 281 cloverleaf which is part of the project.

© 2007

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