Saturday, December 08, 2007

"We are being asked to pay far more than 'our fair share.' "


'Those people' victims of poor highway planning


Jay Forrest
San Antonio Express-News
Copyright 2007

Jaime Castillo makes a number of good points in his column "McNeil just doesn't get the toll-related frustration of 'those people'" (Monday, Metro).

I would add that as one of "those people," the narrow targeting of toll roads on U.S. 281 and Loop 1604 makes me a victim of extremely shortsighted planning and management, leading me to project an aura of incompetence upon the three primary perpetrators:

  • The Texas Legislature, which has distorted the "fair" funding option by reallocating "surplus" highway funds and refusing to release them back to the highway department as needed and by refusing to consider raising gasoline taxes as an inferior alternative.
  • The Texas Department of Transportation, which built highways all over San Antonio with no consideration of the fact they eventually would need to be connected, leading to exorbitant later costs that TxDOT later decided it could not afford.
  • The city of San Antonio and its past mayors and City Council members, who took the easy route by approving plans for high-density development without regard for the impact on traffic (and, more significantly, water) or pursing projects to ensure adequate transportation.

The tolling of the U.S. 281- Loop 1604 intersection provides a good example of why many of "those people" feel discriminated against. The "intersections" of U.S. 281 and Loop 410, Interstate 10 and Loop 410, U.S. 281 and Loop 1604 and more were built by TxDOT with no consideration of the fact they would need to be connected.

I am not aware of any other major highways or major arteries in Texas that were built without direct ramp connections (i.e., avoiding the traffic-jamming use of surface access roads with traffic lights).

For TxDOT to build and endorse such intersections is beyond incompetent. They should have been built properly, with plans for reasonable connection for the cost of the half-mile extended flying ramps that will correct this oversight and contribute significantly to the cost crunch that leads TX DOT to say the U.S. 281-Loop 1604 intersection requires tolls.

The proposed tolls for the ramps at U.S. 281 and Loop 1604 are discriminatory because, if nothing else, the remedial ramps being built between Loop 410 and U.S. 281 and Loop 410 and Interstate 10 are free. The installation of proper ramps at U.S. 281 and Loop 1604 are similar in that they correct mistakes by TxDOT planners.

There is a further issue that TxDOT views these tolls as a revenue generator. So those of us affected are being singled out to pay not only for the tolled lanes but also to build roads we don't use. Other drivers get to use ramps for free; why should "those people" pay for ramps and roads that are not tolled? This is a highly arbitrary, discriminatory and inappropriate tax.

I would not be against tolling existing roads so long as everyone in the state paid the same rates for the same vehicles — say, 2 cents a mile for all Texas highways instead of free for some and $2.50 or more a day for others.

Unfortunately, the cost of building facilities to toll all roads would be exorbitant and create a whole new bureaucracy. The same is true for Loop 1604 and the ramps for U.S. 281 and Loop 1604.

The $100,000 a mile spent to toll express lanes on Loop 1604 would be better spent on adding lanes. We already have a means of collecting taxes based on highway use; it is called a gasoline tax.

The real, fair and responsible funding answer lies in a higher gasoline tax in combination with the Legislature returning existing funds to TxDOT; finding other, more appropriate sources of funding for the causes currently using our gasoline taxes; and increasing the fees on the large trucks that destroy interstates and lead TxDOT into perpetual maintenance and highway upgrades.

Proponents of toll roads want me to feel tolling is fair. I think not. We are being asked to pay far more than "our fair share."

There is a reason we feel discriminated against.

Jay Forrest of San Antonio is a doctoral candidate in foresight and a consultant in long-range strategy, problem solving and opportunities.

© 2007 San Antonio Express-News:

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"Local and state politicians increased our taxes at a record rate through property tax increases, stop-light cameras and new toll roads."

Sounding Off: Holding us back

Question: Who has had the most negative impact on the lives of North Texans in 2007?

December 8, 2007

The Dallas Morning News
Copyright 2007

Rick Perry and the Texas Department of Transportation for continuing to sell out North Texas drivers to toll-road lobbyists.

E. Kyle Steinhauser, Frisco

Gov. Rick Perry – vetoing much needed funding for our community colleges and their professors will be a significant detriment to the ability of our area students who must pursue their higher education in our community colleges. I attended a certificate program at Collin College this year and witnessed firsthand how important these schools are to our future. Shame upon Mr. Perry for his false economy.

Fred Frawley, Plano

Let's give the most negative award to our local and state politicians, who increased our taxes at a record rate through property tax increases, stop-light cameras and new toll roads.

Clint Ellison, Plano

© 2007 The Dallas Morning News:

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"A funny thing has happened on the way to building this boondoggle..."

TFB President issues challenge on eminent domain

Dec 7, 2007

Southwest Farm Press
Copyright 2007

Texas Farm Bureau President Kenneth Dierschke challenged Farm Bureau members to join him in a year-long effort to achieve "meaningful reform" of Texas eminent domain laws during his annual address to delegates at the Texas Farm Bureau's 74th annual convention.

Dierschke, a grain and cotton farmer from San Angelo, said the blueprint for a new bill would be House Bill 2006, which overwhelmingly passed both houses of the Legislature in this year's session, only to be vetoed by Governor Rick Perry.

"I've heard from Farm Bureau members and others about it over and over again for the past six months," Dierschke said. "It has been a point of emphasis, disgust and disappointment."

Dierschke said agricultural groups like Farm Bureau and angry property owners all over the state would consolidate support for eminent domain reform during 2008. Their goal is to pass a strong bill in the Legislature early in the session, leaving enough time to override the governor's expected veto.

Dierschke told his Farm Bureau audience that eminent domain, the taking of private property for public projects, "has become far too easy in this state." House Bill 2006 would have corrected what farmers and ranchers view as glaring problems with eminent domain law.

Currently, an eminent domain taking does not require a good faith offer, which can leave property owners with expensive court challenges if they are not satisfied with their offer. Also, there is no provision for compensation due to diminished access, the loss of value on remaining property when only some of it is taken.

"The governor's veto tells us that he does not believe that property owners should be fairly compensated when their property is taken by eminent domain," the Farm Bureau leader said. "Property owners must be treated fairly when property has to be taken."

Dierschke said the expected growth in state population means that takings of private property will occur more frequently, lending a sense of urgency to eminent domain reform. He also said that eminent domain is not only a rural issue. Urban and suburban Texans are affected, too.

Plans to build the Trans-Texas Corridor (TTC), the multi-billion dollar highway system advocated by Governor Perry, would require the taking of millions of private acres.

Dierschke emphasized that Texas Farm Bureau remains opposed to the widely criticized TTC.

"A funny thing has happened on the way to building this boondoggle," Dierschke said. "The more people - including some in the Legislature - learn about it, the more opposition it faces. We intend to continue turning over all the rocks to see what crawls out."

Dierschke expressed optimism that a federal farm program that preserves the farm safety net and national food security will be passed before year's end. The Texas Farm Bureau supports a bill similar to the current legislation, in effect since 2002.

As president of Texas' largest farm organization, Dierschke said that the state's farm and ranch families would work with the leaders of urban Texas to alleviate the challenges of the state's exploding population. However, he said the property rights of all Texans must be respected.

© 2007 Southwest Farm Press:

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Friday, December 07, 2007

"If dollars are getting siphoned to other needs, when, if ever, will they pay for the highway in question?"

Toll-road shakedown

December 07, 2007

The Waco Tribune-Herald
Copyright 2007

Anyone whose feet are set in concrete against toll roads is going to get run over.

Toll roads are here. They are coming. The need is undeniable, as is the rationale in many cases.

But you can’t defend toll roads in every instance, and the proposed I-35 toll lanes through Waco sound indefensible.

Two concerns present themselves immediately — one about Waco’s self-interest and one about fairness to motorists.

First, the provincial concern: The proposed self-contained toll lanes would deliver a lot of travelers through Waco without access and egress to take advantage of what the city offers, even if it’s restroom breaks.

Second, that matter of fairness. The tolls as proposed would not just pay for I-35’s expansion but to other metro highway needs.

As acute as those needs are, it is unfair to assess a toll to motorists who won’t ever use those other highways. A toll road ought to pay for itself, and when that deed is done, the toll booths should go away.

That’s another question. If dollars are getting siphoned to other needs, when, if ever, will they pay for the highway in question?

The toll lanes would adhere to one feature that all toll roads should in Texas: No one should have to drive on a toll road without an alternative.

Of course, that is one problem with toll roads that have alternatives, like the Trans-Texas Corridor proposed. The major agents of modern-day interstate congestion, trucks, wouldn’t be using optional toll lanes, just as they wouldn’t use the TTC. That’s an added cost truckers don’t wish to bear.

These issues raise anew the outrage that is Texas’ inability, despite its immense wealth and growing economy, to keep ahead of highway needs.

Texas’ highway fund is rife for pilfering by the transportation bureaucracy. Texas lawmakers are deer in the headlights on such issues as raising the gasoline tax — a smart move that would have highway users, including out-of-state visitors, funding the highways they wear down under their wheels.

We are told that a host of regional highway needs are to be frozen because federal funds have dried up, needed for areas such as military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It is untenable for crucial needs to be outstripped by growth when this nation and this state have the resources to meet them. If changing that means higher taxes, then at least those taxes are a broadly shared burden.

Toll roads have a role in Texas’ future. But all toll roads are not created equal.

© 2007 The Waco Tribune-Herald:

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Thursday, December 06, 2007

More political theater, more political cover and more of the same from tone deaf Texas politicians...

Perry names Floridian to toll road study team

December 6, 2007

By Ben Wear
Austin American-Statesman
Copyright 2007

Gov. Rick Perry today named his three members to the private toll road study committee created in last session’s signature transportation bill, SB 792, and it includes a leading privatization advocate from … Florida?

Actually, Bob Poole, director of transportation studies for the libertarian Reason Foundation, lived in California until not all that long ago. And whether or not you agree with his view of how best to build roads — and I know you’re out there disagreeing — you can’t dispute he knows the subject matter. I’ve interviewed Poole a number of times and he knew more about Austin roads than some members of CAMPO.

Perry also named to the nine-member committee Johnny Johnson, former chairman of the Texas Transportation Commission, and Grady Smithey, who served on the Duncanville City Council for 18 years. Johnson was on the commission until about a year ago and voted for all the policies that had the Legislature and much of the public so riled up in the past couple of years. Smithey and the commission, and thus Perry, have been largely sympatico about what to do on toll roads.

Under SB 792, which included a kinda-sorta ban on private toll roads and many other tweaks to toll road policy averse to Perry’s views, Perry, House Speaker Tom Craddick and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst each get three appointees to this committee. Its charge in SB 792 includes holding public hearings and then reporting back to Perry, Craddick and Dewhurst by Dec. 1, 2008 on ” the public policy implications of including in a comprehensive development agreement entered into by a toll project entity with a private participant in connection with a toll project a provision that permits the private participant to operate and collect revenue from the toll project. In addition, the committee shall examine the public policy implications of selling an existing and operating toll project to a private entity.”

Craddick and Dewhurst had previously named their committee members, all of them legislators.

From Craddick: Rep. Larry Phillips, R-Sherman, vice chairman of the House Transportation Committee and a supporter of Perry’s toll road policy; Rep. Aaron Pena, D-Edinburg, who hasn’t been closely involved with legislative transportation issues up to now; and Rep. Wayne Smith, R-Houston, the House sponsor of SB 792 and its House twin that for awhile this spring was the main vehicle on the issue.

Smith, while his legislation bedeviled the governor, was actually most interested in insuring that the Harris County Toll Road Authority’s interests were protected. The final bill actually allows the toll road authority to ink long-term toll road leases with private companies for roads in and around Houston.

Dewhurst named Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, the Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee chairman; Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, who carried SB 792; and Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville.

The senators present the greatest challenge to Perry’s ideas. Nichols, while serving on the transportation commission for many years, was a staunch supporter of Perry’s toll road plans. But by the time he joined this Senate this year, he had developed an independent streak on the issue about eight lanes wide. The moratorium on private toll road contracts that ended up in SB 792, albeit with many exceptions, was his idea.

Carona, meanwhile, kicked off last session by calling for commission chairman Ric Williamson to step down. He softened his tone as the session wore on and become something of a bridge between a restive Senate and TxDOT.

The committee’s work, some of it in public, and its final product could be a great indicator of what sort of session TxDOT, which emerged bloodied but characteristically unbowed from the 2007 melee, will see in 2009.

© 2007 Austin American-Statesman: www.

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"Fees companies charge to collect tolls are so high that a few trips through changeless tollbooths can cost more than the price of renting the car."

Rental-Car Customers Criticize Extra Fees For Changeless Tolls

December 6, 2007

Channel 5 NBC (Dallas/Fort Worth)
Copyright 2007

DALLAS -- Some rental-car companies charge customers extra fees when they drive through the new changeless tollbooths Highway 121 and the Dallas North Tollway.

The fees some companies are charging to collect the tolls are so high, that a few trips through one of the changeless tollbooths can cost more than the price of renting the car.

Adriana Martinez-Holtz rented a car in Dallas last summer when she was in town for a friend's birthday party.

She made three trips down the Dallas North Tollway, passing through the changeless toll plaza at Wycliff Avenue. There is no place to deposit money at the toll. Cameras take pictures of license plates, and the tollway authority mails a bill to the car owner.

The bill goes to the rental-car company if drivers pass through.

When Martinez-Holtz returned home to San Antonio, she received a bill in the mail from a collection agency hired by Advantage Rent-A-Car.

Advantage wanted payment for three 75-cent tolls, plus a $25 late-payment penalty from the tollway authority and a $40 service charge for each time she passed through a tollbooth.

Her total bill was $197.25

"As a matter of fact, it was more than the cost of the rental at this point," she said.

Jerry Martin and his girlfriend said they rented from Advantage and drove on the new 121 tollway, which also uses the changeless toll system.

They received a bill from Advantage for $41 for driving through just one tollbooth.

"Even an extra $5, I don't have a problem with," Martin said. "I have a problem with $40."

Martin said he couldn't believe a rental car company would charge so much to collect $1.60 toll.

"They need to do something to educate people, because I think right now they're just lining their pockets with 40 bucks every time someone goes through one," he said.

Advantage said it is not making money on the $40 service fee. The company said it costs money to track down customers and collect.

Advantage has posted signs at rental counters warning customers they're responsible for paying all toll-road violations. The rental agreement customers sign also says the company can charge up to $100 per toll.

Martin and Martinez-Holtz said they didn't notice the signs or the warning on the rental agreement. And they argued customers shouldn't be penalized for not paying at tollbooths that give drivers no way to pay cash on the spot.

"You're on the road," Martin said. "You have no option whatsoever once you've done it."

Advantage said tollway operators caused the problems by installing the cashless toll booths.

"With the addition of over 70 new toll roads in Texas in the next several years, all without tollbooths, there is a real fear that the problem will be exacerbated," an Advantage spokesman said. "Renters need to be aware of where they are driving and watch for toll roads, and pay for their toll charges immediately."

The Dollar/Thrifty rental-car group also charges customers a $25 toll collection fee.

"It is unfortunate that the highway authorities have taken away the cash option on these toll ways," Dollar said. "It also puts car rental companies in the position of becoming the state's toll collectors."

The tollway operators said the changeless system is better because it keeps traffic moving.

The Texas Department of Transportation and the North Texas Tollway Authority said they are working with rental-car companies to improve the system.

The tollway operators will even bill drivers directly if rental car companies turn over the name of the renter, they said.

"We want to work with them," Sam Lopez of NTTA said. "We want to get agreements signed. In the long run, it's going to be in the best interests for them, for us and, most importantly, it'll be good news for rental car customers."

Drivers who've been hit with extra charges said they want others to beware.

"People from out of state need to be warned it's not too cheap too drive in Texas," Martin said.

There are two ways to avoid collection fees. Some companies allow customers to rent a toll tag along with the car, giving drivers an electronic way to pay the toll immediately when they pass through. Drivers can also contact the tollway authority after passing through a changeless tollbooth to arrange to pay the toll directly.

© 2007

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Freeway tolls stop in Comal County 'but drivers heading south into Bexar County on U.S. 281 could face tolls by 2012'

San Antonio toll plans could affect Comal

December 6, 2007

From staff reports
The Herald-Zeitung (New Braunfels and Comal County)
Copyright 2007

Comal County officials have said they won’t allow TxDOT to convert existing highways within the county to toll roads, but drivers heading south into Bexar County on U.S. 281 could face tolls by 2012.

On Monday, The Metropolitan Planning Organization met in San Antonio and gave the go-ahead to toll U.S. 281 from Loop 1604 to Comal County, approving a 17-cent per mile rate for the highway in Bexar County. State transportation officials expect tolling to begin in the next four-to-five years. The project is expected to cost a total of $476 million, with $112 million coming from Texas Mobility Funds. The remaining $363 million is expected to be issued through toll bonds.

The San Antonio-Bexar County MPO, a regional agency tasked with planning transportation needs for the area, approved the rates for the proposed U.S. 281 tollway by a vote of 12-4.

In Comal, it appears the vote will impact only drivers who use U.S. 281 heading into Bexar County. A 6.8 mile stretch of U.S. 281 in Comal County will not be converted into a tolled road, county commissioners have said. A portion of the improvements to that stretch of road, between Farm-to-Market 311 and Farm-to-Market 306, will be paid for by the county to prevent TxDOT from moving in with plans to toll the road.

County Commissioners have reached an agreement with local TxDOT officials that will prevent them from pursuing toll road projects on existing highways in Comal without Commissioners' Court approval. As part of the pass-through agreement, the county has agreed to loan the state $16 million for two separate projects: improvements to U.S. 281 and Texas 46. The state will pay back the principle of the loan over a four-to-five-year period, but the county will “eat the interest,” commissioners have said.

© 2007 San Antonio Express-News:

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"The toll proposal has not been warmly received by the policy board’s leadership."

Up ahead: Widened I-35 may include controversial toll lanes


By David Doerr
Waco Tribune-Herald
Copyright 2007

It’s been 118 years since tolls were charged to cross the Waco Suspension Bridge over the Brazos River.

Now a similar pay-per-use fee could be in McLennan County’s future if a plan to expand ever-congested Interstate 35 to eight lanes is approved.

A Waco Metropolitan Planning Organization staff recommendation would add two toll lanes to Interstate 35 between South Loop 340 and Elm Mott. MPO director Chris Evilia says the proposal is part of the planning group’s effort to address area transportation needs while dealing with significant cuts in state and federal funding.

The MPO has been forced to axe 13 of 23 highway expansion projects in McLennan County since Texas Department of Transportation officials announced in late September that there would be no money to add capacity to the state’s road system after next year.

State transportation officials blame the funding crisis on rising construction costs, federal cutbacks, state diversions of gas tax revenues and new restrictions on private investment in toll road projects.

With state transportation funding in turmoil, one of the only ways to pay for road construction is through publicly managed toll projects, Evilia says. And even with a deep cut in the number of road construction proposals, Evilia says planning officials are still coming up about $11 million short to fund the remaining 10 projects on their list.

Those remaining projects aim to meet residents’ needs through 2030.

“If we don’t add revenue from some source, we will have to drop another project,” he said. “We phased out these projects as much as we can. There is nothing left to cut.”

In the current transportation funding environment, adding toll lanes on Interstate 35 is one of the only untapped sources of revenue available, Evilia says. However, the proposal is far from a done deal.

Four meetings are scheduled over the next two weeks to explain the proposal and take public input that will be considered when the MPO’s policy board votes on whether to include it in their planning documents. The 16-member policy board, made up of various city and county officials, is set to vote Jan. 29.

So far the toll proposal has not been warmly received by the policy board’s leadership.

County Commissioner Joe Mashek, who chairs the board and plans to vote against the proposal, says he hopes the public attends the meetings to voice their opinions.

“It makes no difference to me what their opinion is, they need to be heard,” he said. “People need to talk about what they expect their tax dollars to pay for.”

Russell Devorsky, the policy board’s vice chair and a Bellmead City Council member, says he opposes all toll projects on existing highways.

“This is something where the state and Gov. (Rick) Perry and (Texas Transportation Commission) chairman Ric Williamson have told people it is either toll roads, slow roads or no roads,” he said. “I think the public has already made their investment under eminent domain when that property was seized to make I-35.”

Tolls would fund 40 percent

The MPO staff estimates the tolls would provide up to 40 percent of the funding to expand the highway to eight lanes. State transportation officials indicate state coffers could pay the remaining 60 percent, Evilia says.

Tolls could also generate an additional $5.7 million to $10.9 million that could be used for other projects in McLennan County, according to MPO planning documents.

Evilia says he expects out-of-towners driving through Waco to be the ones utilizing the additional lanes and paying the tolls. He says the MPO is obligated to look at all options when considering how it will pay for future transportation projects, including tolls.

“One of the things that we are charged with doing is making sure we are making the wisest investment with taxpayer dollars,” he said. “There are certain situations where toll projects make sense. I think we are tasked with trying to find those situations where they make sense in order to leverage our tax dollars to the fullest extent possible.”


© 2007 The Waco Tribune-Herald:

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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

"Getting anywhere will mean big bucks or semi-gridlock."


Toll lanes: A quick escape for the rich


John Merrifield
San Antonio Express-News
Copyright 2007

Without entrepreneurial leadership, the political process can produce the worst possible outcome. The imminent construction of toll lanes next to existing "free" lanes is a likely case in point.

As such projects come online, rush-hour motorists will face a choice between clogged "free" lanes and expensive toll lanes — an escape hatch for the rich and the desperate. Think about it! Are you going to use the toll lanes before there is significant congestion in the "free" lanes?

Please, someone with an urge to lead, make this case to the people before getting anywhere means big bucks or semi-gridlock. For example, on Route 91 east of Los Angeles, it costs $9.25 to use the toll lanes during rush hours. Alongside, partly because of that high toll, traffic crawls along in the "free" lanes. It's well-documented, and I've been there.

So, that's where we're headed. If you have a standard workday, you'll get to choose between a bumper-to-bumper crawl or $20 a day for tolls.

The right approach is a much lower, rush-hour-only toll. Then everyone moves and spends much less on tolls. Failure to apply tolls to all rush hour drivers leaves us with the imminent escape hatches for the rich and the desperate as the only alternative to an expensive construction race against increased demand.

Example: Atlanta's Interstate 75 with 15 lanes going on 23. This isn't one wacky economist's thoughts about use of tolling to address congestion and revenue issues. This is an Economics 101 application found in mainstream urban economics textbooks.

A big part of the looming urban planning disaster is the common delusion that rush hour tolling of existing roads amounts to paying for the road twice. That's false. The toll revenues pay for maintenance and expansion.

But because the typical officeholder represents, rather than leads, most states (including Texas) have laws against the tolling of existing roads. Failure to correct popular misunderstanding, challenge such laws and work for an alternative law that permits the approaches suggested by mainstream economic analysis is going to be quite costly.

The proponents of separate toll lanes have begun to realize that the toll lanes will be empty most of the time. They are wondering how they can pay for the toll lanes with modest, rush-hour-only use, especially at the relatively low toll rates cited so far.

So there has been talk of lower speed limits on the "free" lanes. That's just the tip of the iceberg. They'll have to severely restrict or discourage free lane use and/or charge high tolls to the rich and the desperate to pay off the bonds for the new lanes.

John Merrifield is a professor of economics at UTSA.

© 2007 San Antonio Express-News:

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Tuesday, December 04, 2007

"We deserve a say in what happens to our community and the commission will provide us that opportunity."

Letter urging attendance at City Council and Commissioners Court meetings to voice sentiments about La Entrada

December 4, 2007

Letters to the Editor
Big Bend Gazzette
Copyright 2008


I am writing to inform the community of a few things. First of all, the motion to support the Big Bend Sub-Regional Planning Commission was passed by the Alpine City Council last meeting and this coming meeting, Tuesday the 4th at 6:00PM, they will vote on actually helping form the commission.

It is extremely important that citizens concerned with the La Entrada planning efforts attend this meeting and show support for Alpine joining the commission so that our voices will be heard loud and clear by TxDOT and MOTRAN.
Also, on December 10th the Brewster County Commissioners Court will meet and discuss joining the commission as well. To have Brewster County onboard would greatly increase the jurisdiction of the commission and I would like to encourage everyone to write and call the commissioners as well.
We deserve a say in what happens to our community and the commission will provide us that opportunity. And, for those in the surrounding areas, please show your support to your city council members and county commissioners. The greater our jurisdiction the louder our voice and the more we can protect.

You can find letter writing help on the ReViva website ( in the La Entrada section of our Forum.

I would also like to take this opportunity to inform everyone that an online No a La Entrada petition has been formed by ReViva Collective. The petition is unofficial and is specifically intended to illustrate the numbers who stand against La Entrada around the world. So, you can sign it even if you have signed a previous petition. As of this moment we have signatures ranging from Texas, to Massachusetts, to France, to South Africa, to Australia, and the numbers are growing! I invite everyone to visit the ReViva website and click on the link that says SIGN! the petition against La Entrada!

For those in the community unfamiliar with the ReViva Collective, we are a group of individuals working for various goals and causes united by a desire to do good for the Big Bend community and beyond. We currently contribute to the campaign against the La Entrada highway coming through Big Bend, are organizing a mural project around Alpine with the help of many local artists, have a biweekly film series showing documentaries on the first and third Fridays of every month at the community center, and host a weekly potluck dinner at the Orale' Way gallery (305 Gallego) every Wednesday night at 7:30 PM for anyone interested in learning about us or getting involved.

From a young man who is concerned about the area he loves, the country that has allowed him the freedom to write this, and the people who have made him who he is, please express your support to city council and your county commissioners. Please sign the petition and do not let economic interests supersede heritage. Please take upon yourself the responsibility of having a voice. Let's help each other help this place.

Thank you,

Jeff Milam

© 2008 Big Bend

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"I think we will have even more exciting new projects to mention in 2008."

County seeks funding for proposed toll-road study

Officials are trying to secure funding for a $550,000 study that could reveal potential roadblocks for an anticipated 10.8-mile toll road project.


By Tiffany Williams
The Courier (Montgomery County)
Copyright 2007

County commissioners decided Monday to apply for a State Infrastructure Bank loan - handed out by the Texas Transportation Commission - to fund a "fatal flaw" study that will reveal if there are any impenetrable barriers to building a north-south connector linking major east Montgomery County thoroughfares.

"Today was a very significant step for transportation in the county," said Montgomery County Judge Alan B. Sadler. "I think we will have even more exciting new projects to mention in 2008."

The SIB loan maintains a below 4-percent interest rate, making it an appealing choice for commissioners.

"The rate is low and the state is doing this to facilitate and urge counties and cities to do their own type of transportation study," Sadler said.

The loan application process will take slightly longer than the other funding mechanisms advisers proposed during Commissioners Court Monday. However, Jennie Taraborelli, a partner with Pate Transportation Partners, said applying for the loan shouldn't much delay the study's expected completion date of late April.

Pate Transportation Partners, based in Houston, has paired up with the county to help identify and meet the county's transportation needs.

To be approved for the loan, Taraborelli said, Montgomery County will have to garner the consent of the Houston division of the Texas Department of Transportation. She said she doesn't believe it will be a problem as long as Montgomery County officials are able to identify a funding source to repay the loan.

Sadler said he doesn't believe the study - which will examine eight components, including financing, environmental concerns and engineering - will reveal any barriers that could stand in the way of the toll project.

If the project linking the Grand Parkway and Texas 242 is deemed worthy, Montgomery County will build it as the first phase in a three-phase plan. The first phase links the Hardy Toll Road with Riley Fuzzel Road, traveling north to Texas 242. In the second phase, the road will continue north to Texas 105 East. In the third phase, toll lanes will be created on Texas 242 between U.S. 59 and Interstate 45.

"The feedback I've heard is people want the projects," Sadler said. "The situation is dire in the county. We have to move forward on various fronts."

Saying he believes relying on the full faith and credit of the county to back the toll projects and conventional transportation projects "would tax citizens unduly," Sadler said the projects might be funded through toll revenue bonds or private partnerships.

Montgomery County leaders will have to look to the east portion up the county, Precinct 4 Commissioner Ed Rinehart said, to look for a north-south thoroughfare that will serve as an alternative to I-45.

"We have no other choice, except to go to (Texas) 242," Rinehart said.

He added he would like to see a connector linking the proposed 180-mile Grand Parkway project with Community Drive and U.S. 59. The addition, he said, would help ease congestion around current and anticipated new commercial structures in east Montgomery County.
Tiffany Williams can be reached at

© 2007 Houston Community Newspapers

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"It’s not about recovering lost revenue, it is about sending a message."

Central Texas have to pay up or pull over.

December 4, 2007

KVUE-TV (Austin)
Copyright 2007

On a typical day, more than 50,000 commuters travel up and down the 183-A toll road. A few thousand don’t pay. Now Cedar Park Police are putting the brakes on toll running.

The crackdown began Monday. There were eight traffic stops -- Five involved warnings and three people got tickets. Number of those stopped on Tuesday was not available. Some people, like Cedar park resident Dick Spicer, are a little uncomfortable with having the local police department involved in toll road business.

“I don’t know why they would be doing that, they have enough work as it is,” said Spicer.

The Cedar Park Police Department is being paid $200,000 by the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority to patrol the toll road. The contract made it possible for the department to hire extra patrol officers to do the job. Authority spokesman Steve Pustelnyk says the partnership with CPPD it’s not about recovering lost revenue, it is about sending a message.

“Our main goal is to crackdown on the chronic offender,” said Pustelnyk.

First time offenders get a warning, and a bill, similar to this one, in the mail.

Those with four or more toll running violations will get an expensive ticket, about $200.

“We pulled somebody over who had 197 violations, those are the people we really want to find and track down and ticket if we can,” said Pustelnyk.

Commuters who use the toll road and pay, like Dr. Jeff Swanson, are glad to see the crackdown take place.

“I think they should pay, obviously everybody else is paying and I think they should be paying just like I am,” said Swanson.

But others like Katie Pittman, have a mixed opinion about the crackdown. .

“I don’t think it is appropriate for the Cedar Park Police to be enforcing that, I do love the toll roads though, I think they should have people from the TxTag community to enforce that and that doesn’t seem like something Cedar Park Police should have anything to do with,” said Pittman.

Not every offender will be caught, but a record of each individual violation is kept. At some point, for each violator, eventually it will be the end of a free ride.

© 2007 KVUE Television, Inc.

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Williams Brothers Construction and Dannenbaum Engineering make unsolicited P3 bid to build part of the Grand Parkway as a toll road

County considers toll road plan for Grand Parkway

Public-private partnership is proposed to build an outermost loop

Dec. 4, 2007

Houston Chronicle
Copyright 2007

A joint venture led by a road construction company and an engineering firm has asked Harris County to enter into a public-private partnership to build and operate the 197-mile Grand Parkway as a toll road.

Commissioners Court will consider today whether it wants to study the unsolicited offer to undertake the $5.3 billion project to build an outermost ring skirting the metropolitan area.

"It's intriguing because we have not seen details of the proposal," said Art Storey, director of the county's public infrastructure department.

"It appears that it would allow us to retain some control of the project, (rely on) the local construction community and get financing for the project guaranteed."

If the court decides to go ahead with a partnership between the county and Grand Parkway Constructors, the joint venture would need approval from the Texas Department of Transportation.

Grand Parkway Constructors' principals are Williams Brothers Construction and Dannenbaum Engineering.

Executives at both companies did not return calls Monday.

Storey said the joint venture proposal envisions the Harris County Toll Road Authority serving as the project's managing partner.

Under a partnership, the county and the joint venture could agree to have the toll road authority operate the Grand Parkway and retain some of the revenue, Storey said.

The idea of a Grand Parkway encircling the metropolitan area outside Highway 6 has been around for decades. Critics long have contended that it is a highway sought by road builders and developers who intend to build subdivisions and strip malls in the still undeveloped areas.

Regardless of one's stance in that debate, the Legislature and TxDOT have decided the Grand Parkway will be built.

Delvin Dennis, TxDOT's deputy district engineer in the Houston area, said some areas where the highway would be built are rural now, but will not be in 10 to 20 years.

It would be easier and cheaper to build the road now before the largely rural area is developed, he said.

TxDOT officials hope to have agreed on a plan for building the Grand Parkway by the end of next year, Dennis said.

First, the agency will negotiate with Harris, Fort Bend, Brazoria, Waller and Montgomery counties over potential toll rates on the road that will go through the five counties. That process should be completed by March, Dennis said.

TxDOT then will ask the Houston-Galveston Area Council to approve tentative rates and future rate hikes.

Based on that information, TxDOT will calculate the market value of the Grand Parkway — an assignment mandated by the Legislature earlier this year.

With the market value in hand, TxDOT will solicit bids from a public entity, public-private partnerships or private groups to build and operate the toll road.

Under state law, the toll road authority has the right of first refusal, Dennis said.

Storey said the authority would be interested in operating a toll road on the Grand Parkway between Interstate 10 and U.S. 290 or other parts of the toll road that would be heavily traveled.

"But a lot of the miles on other parts of the road wouldn't generate revenue to pay for themselves for a long time," he said.

© 2007 Houston Chronicle:

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Pate Transportation Partners is picked to study proposed toll road in Montgomery County

Montgomery County leaders begin drive to create toll road

Officials approve spending for a study to determine project's feasibility

Dec. 4, 2007

Houston Chronicle
Copyright 2007

RESOURCES: Map of the proposed tollroad

CONROE — In the near future, Montgomery County commuters could have a new toll road to travel north in the county as an alternative route to Interstate 45.

County commissioners want to build the Montgomery County Parkway east of the highway. The toll road would start at Spring Creek and Riley Fuzzell Road and extend to Texas 242.

On Monday, the Montgomery County Toll Authority, comprised of the commissioners court, approved spending about $550,000 for a study to assess if the toll road is doable.

The toll authority will apply for a state transportation loan to pay for the study, which should be complete in four to six months.

Steady population growth over the past decade has clogged many of the county's major roads, making it nearly impossible to avoid traffic jams, particularly on I-45. Transportation continues to be the county's No. 1 issue, said County Judge Alan B. Sadler.

''I was driving around the county this weekend and the traffic is horrible," Sadler said. "We need more roads in this county now."

Pate Transportation Partners of Houston will conduct the study and will look at the cost to build the first of three phases of the proposed Montgomery County Parkway.

The project is similar to the Hardy Toll Road and the Grand Parkway, a proposed beltway that would encircle the Houston region, in that it will help move traffic north and east through Montgomery County.

The first phase is the extension of Riley Fuzzell, creating a spur off the Grand Parkway and a connector from I-45 in Harris County to the parkway. The stretch of road is about 11 miles.

The second phase would extend the parkway to Texas 105 East, and the final phase would build new toll lanes on Texas 242 between I-45 and U.S. 59.

Jennie Taraborelli, a partner of Pate Transportation Partners and manager of the Montgomery County transportation program, said the study also will look at route patterns, design alternatives, and traffic and revenue projections, among other things.

If the study is favorable, the toll authority will begin looking at how to finance the road. With state road funds dwindling, many toll authorities are now using private money rather than tax revenues to build roads, Taraborelli said.

''It's becoming the new model with the worsening financial crisis of the Texas Department of Transportation," said Gerry Pate, managing partner of Pate Transportation Partners. "You have to have a way to get them off the ground. TxDOT would have built it as a free road, but it has no money. They're looking to counties to pick up the slack."

Sadler said the county cannot afford to finance the toll road because it already has a lot of debt, and it may need to seek another bond issue for future road projects. The toll authority, he said, will have to issue toll revenue bonds or seek private funding for the project.

Two years ago, county voters approved a $160 million bond issue to widen five major thoroughfares as part of the state's "pass-through" toll program. The creative financing program allows the county to use bond money to pay for roads upfront and the state reimburses the county over a 10- to 17-year period based on the number of vehicles using the roads.

Construction is already under way on two of the five roads, FM 1488 and FM 1485, and work will begin in January on Texas 242, which will have ramps to connect to I-45.

© 2007 Houston Chronicle:

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"The official memo has gone out."

Controversial Trans-Texas Corridor Plans Forge Ahead


KLBJ News Radio 590
Copyright 2007

The official memo has gone out from the state's transportation department to two private companies to move ahead with plans to build a highly-controversial superhighway which critics say hurt Texas, and cause an erosion in commerce nationwide.

Plans for the Trans-Texas corridor were being formulated 16 years ago, but Governor Rick Perry's office says it "lacked the billions of dollars in funding needed to construct it". On Monday, two private companies were asked to submit detailed proposals on developing and financing the project, designed to provide a high-speed ground link between Laredo and Dallas. Under a preferred route, running parallel to I-35 near Austin, the route would bypass San Antonio, Austin, Waco and Dallas.

"It has no federal funding for it, and so it is up to the State of Texas to find funding for this interstate corridor," says Gaby Garcia, spokesperson for the Texas Department of Transportation. "We have no money set aside for this project. No federal funds are set aside for the interstate."

TxDOT has asked two firms, Zachry American Infrastructure, of San Antonio; and Cintra, a Spain-based toll-road operator, to front the project. Cintra would do business as 'Bluebonnet Infrastructure' on this project. Cintra currently operates an east-west toll-road in Indiana, as the result of a highly-protested takeover in 2005, approved by Indiana's governor at the time.

In an online fact-versus-myth page dedicated to the corridor, or "TTC/I-69" as the state calls it, Governor Perry says the road will be paid for entirely by private financing. When completed, it will be a totally toll-operated highway.

"[It's] a revenue-generating opportunity for a private partner to have a monopoly on transportation," says David Stall, of the group 'Corridor', based in Fayetteville, Texas. "I mean, there's no free lunch and there's no free road. And when you layer-in a profit for a private partner that has a monopoly who is going to dictate the price of the infrastructure, absolutely they're going to pay for it."

Although there have been previous newspaper articles and maps illustrating the future main artery of the corridor paralleling I-35 and taking about the same path as the brand-new SH130, east of Austin (currently toll), the U.S. Route 59 was recently asserted as the official route for the planned highway. U.S. 59 connects Laredo with roughly west of Victoria, proceeds northeast to Houston, and roughly due north to Texarkana.

"We're concerned that this has been a project that has excluded public input," Stall says.

Some critics have also contested the plan in saying that it would divide some of the area's massive properties, farms and ranches by upwards of a one-half mile. According to Governor Perry's online "contention" versus "reality" publication, that statement is untrue. He says access roads and overpasses would be built in select locations to give property owners access to their lands. Other critics claim the highway would be built using eminent domain and the state could easily give far less than fair market value to property owners whose land the highway would consume for construction. The Governor claims that assertion is untrue and that property owners have every right to contest any offer made for their property, in court.

The state contends that the project "is needed to make transportation safer, faster and more reliable and to provide for better hurricane evacuation".

The entire Trans-Texas Corridor could take up to 50 years to complete.

© 2007 Emmis Austin Radio Broadcasting Company, Lp.:

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"Government should not be allowed to use taxpayer money in an effort to promote one side of a political issue."

Is TxDOT's ad campaign appropriate?


The Courier (Montgomery County)
Copyright 2007

Texas lawmakers are expected to review the Texas Department of Transportation's multimillion-dollar ad campaign next year.

At issue is whether the state agency is using taxpayer money to educate or coerce the public.

While it would be understandable to use our money for educational or public awareness purposes, government should not be allowed to use taxpayer money in an effort to promote one side of a political issue.

It is estimated that TxDOT will spend $7 million to $9 million on public relations for its Keep Texas Moving campaign. It promotes use and construction of private toll roads and the Trans-Texas Corridor.

Transportation officials have said the campaign is in response to legislators' demands for the agency to improve its communication with the public regarding the necessity of privately funded toll roads to relieve congestion.

House Speaker Tom Craddick included the campaign on a list of topics the House State Affairs Committee will study leading up to the 2009 legislative session.

Opponents have questioned TxDOT's decision to use tolling to fund new roads, the route and necessity of the proposed superhighway and the state's decision to partner with private companies to run toll roads.

State officials have said toll roads are necessary because of congestion and transportation spending costs outpacing gas tax revenue.

If the public is to be lobbied for support of these projects, TxDOT should leave the financial responsibility up to the private companies that would benefit from toll road contracts and non-government entities that support those projects.

TxDOT has said future projects could be halted because of a predicted deficit of at least $1.8 billion by 2012.

The Appropriations Committee also will review transportation spending over the past five years and study alternatives for funding future transportation projects.

And that scrutiny should start with spending taxpayer money on self-promotion of controversial road projects and the manners in which they are funded.

©Houston Community Newspapers Online 2007

© 2007 :

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Monday, December 03, 2007

"It's not about building capacity, it's about revenues."

Crowded meeting, lots of e-mails show the passion over toll roads


Carlos Guerra
San Antonio Express-News
Copyright 2007

After getting a bunch of e-mails from toll road opponents — and a forwarded e-mail apparently sent out by the Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce — urging people to show up in force, I knew that Monday's meeting of the Metropolitan Planning Organization would be worth watching.

The organization is a local intergovernmental agency that approves all transportation projects, and Monday's meeting was called to unveil how much the toll trolls will extract from travelers once two toll lanes in each direction and a tolled interchange are built on U.S. 281 north of Loop 1604.

It is expected that the toll structure set for San Antonio's first toll road will set the price for the rest of this area's 70-odd miles of planned toll lanes.

After 15 minutes looking for a place to park, I showed up 33 minutes before the 1:30 meeting. Even so, I had to wade through a crowd of 42 people who were being kept outside the VIA building by a stern-faced security guard at parade rest, guarding the door.

A sign proclaimed that the fire marshal had limited attendance to 208 people, though this rule apparently did not apply to journalists, who were welcomed in. This was the first time they had to turn the public away from a meeting, said Scott Ericksen, who is, ironically, the agency's public involvement coordinator. But rules are rules.

Inside, the crowd was peppered with familiar faces from both sides of the issue. But it differed from other public meetings convened to discuss toll roads, especially the "hearings" convened to unveil the Trans-Texas Corridor, in which well over 90 percent of the speakers condemned tolling. This time, the toll advocates' attendance was impressive.

The meeting, Metropolitan Planning Organization board member and County Commissioner Tommy Adkisson said, was being held "at a very inconvenient time" for working people, and he urged City Councilwoman Sheila McNeil, the chairwoman, to get the show going so the public could be heard on this increasingly acrimonious issue.

The Greater Chamber, I was told, mounted a major effort to get its people to attend.

"I got 442 e-mails generated by the Chamber," County Commissioner Lyle Larson mused, pointing to a breakdown of the senders. "You've got engineering firms, 86; real estate firms, 67; construction and engineering, 37; homebuilders, 33 ...

"These are all folks that have a vested interest in getting construction under way. But I can tell you that the lion's share of correspondence I've gotten over the last 31/2 years has been opposed to (toll roads), and I mean by the thousands."

Like others, Larson doesn't buy into the notion that tolling is the only option for alleviating traffic congestion. And he questions the numbers the Texas Department of Transportation has issued to support its pro-tolling arguments.

"On the state level, at least, they're focused on revenue," he said.

"It's not about building capacity, it's about revenues.

"That's why you are seeing the state come in now to subsidize the (U.S.) 281 corridor by about $112 million," he added. "They have been indicating all along that there was no money available for 281, and all of a sudden, they found $112 million."

At $35 million each, he said, "If they had the $112 million in 2003 when (TxDOT) was supposed to start construction on the first three overpasses, we would have gone a long ways at building overpasses at all seven intersections that have traffic lights (on U.S. 281) and alleviated a lot of the congestion by now."

As for the argument that Houston, Dallas and Austin have embraced tolling options, Larson said, "Well, I've always thought San Antonio was unique. I don't want to be like Houston, Dallas and Austin (in the) way they developed their urban areas, and adding toll roads is nothing to be proud of."

To contact Carlos Guerra, call (210) 250-3545 or e-mail His column appears on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

© 2007 San Antonio Express-News:

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"More than 1.8 million toll transactions remain unpaid as of Oct. 31"

State to crack down on unpaid tolls

Drivers who ignore bills will be fined $5 per transaction next year

December 3, 2007

The Dallas Morning News
Copyright 2007

Now may be the time to pay those pesky invoices for unpaid tolls from the state transportation department. Beginning next year, Texas will begin mailing violation notices to drivers who have ignored invoices for unpaid tolls.

It will take a lot of envelopes, given that the state says more than 1.8 million toll transactions remain unpaid as of Oct. 31.

The state began collecting tolls last December, when it began charging for access to the portion of Highway 121 in North Texas that had opened earlier last year. Since then, it has also begun collecting on toll roads near Austin and Katy, spokeswoman Gaby Garcia said Monday.

Drivers who go through an electronic toll gantry without a toll tag are mailed an invoice at the address associated with the vehicle's registration. The state transportation department says that it is owed about $1.2 million in unpaid tolls from drivers who have ignored those invoices.

Other toll roads in North Texas are operated by the North Texas Tollway Authority, which already sends violation notices – and imposes much stiffer fines – to those who do not pay. It will begin operating State Highway 121 early next year as well.

But the fines are new for the state, which has mulled a plan to send violation notices for months without any action. Beginning early next year, that will change.

The state's fines will be small – $5 per transaction – and will be assessed only against drivers who have ignored at least two previous invoices.

But even at $5 a pop, the amount owed could add up to real money.

Each time a driver goes through an electronic toll gantry, he or she is assessed a new toll. Each of those charges – often for just a few dimes – is considered a separate transaction and, if not paid, could trigger the $5 fine.

"The clear message here ought to be that now is a really good time to pay your balances, and to make sure you have responded to any invoices," Ms. Garcia said Monday.

The state transportation department has not decided when to begin sending the letters but is expected to do so early next year. In the meantime, Ms. Garcia said drivers with unpaid balances can avoid fines by paying up. Drivers unsure what they owe can call a customer service line at 1-888-468-9824, she said.

NTTA already has a system for collecting unpaid toll invoices – including sending a bill after 45 days with fines of $25 for each unpaid toll transaction. Unpaid fines can be sent to a collection agency.

© 2007 The Dallas Morning News Co

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"They went, they spent and they partied with your money."

The Investigators

Report Uncovers More Questionable Spending By NTTA


Bennett Cunningham Reporting
CBS 11 News Channel 11 (Dallas/Ft Worth)
Copyright 2007

Vienna, AustriaThey went, they spent and they partied with your money.

Two weeks after an exclusive CBS 11 hidden camera investigation showed North Texas Tollway Authority officials spending tens of thousands of dollars on a first class trip to Europe, more financial records reveal more perks.

According to records obtained by CBS11, North Texas Tollway Deputy Executive Director Rick Herrington arrived to the International Bridge, Tunnel, and Turnpike Association Tollway conference in Vienna, Austria 3 days before it started.

According to those documents, Herrington billed the NTTA for meals on those non-conference days, sometimes at the maximum daily rate of $149. Herrington did not provide any receipts in the documents obtained by CBS11.

When CBS11 attempted to ask Herrington about it, a NTTA public relations assistant quickly escorted him away before answering any questions. Later, a representative said Herrington acted in accordance with NTTA policy.

CBS11 also examined more of Herrington's expense reports and found he billed the NTTA $154 for Internet access while in Vienna before the conference began. He also charged a $25 airline fee for his extra heavy luggage and $50 for 2 phone adapters to the NTTA.

Herington also put in for food reimbursement on the same day he flew on an American Airlines plane, where he received lunch and dinner. He submitted meal reimbursement for $149.

CBS11 first reported how five NTTA representatives traveled to Vienna for an international conference on tollways, costing tollway users more than $42,000.

CBS11 cameras watched as some NTTA representatives enjoyed the high life, partying every night and eating catered dinners in castles with open bars. The cameras were also rolling as some went souvenir shopping and sightseeing instead of attending the conference.

Three NTTA representatives chose to fly business class at a cost of $7,000 per ticket. All this happened days after the tollway raised your rates to drive on the tollway.

This type of behavior outraged State Senator John Carona, a Dallas Republican, who was surprised that the state government currently has no power to audit the NTTA. He said that he would fight to give the Auditors Office the power to audit the NTTA.

Carona called it "a glaring mistake and something we need to do something about... We also need to make sure the travel policy mirrors the state. The state is very frugal with its money and the same policy should apply to the NTTA."

Many of the receipts from the Vienna trip are still not available for public review. The ones CBS11 did get have been blacked out like a top-secret government document.

Carona points out, "The real thing the public expects is disclosure and open records, and that's what has been lacking in this."

Expense reports from the NTTA's Chief Financial Officer Susan Buse show her bill for air and hotels far exceeds any other top-level employee at the NTTA. Buse controls the purse strings and is now the president of the IBTTA, which puts on the lavish conferences like the one in Vienna.

It has been nearly two months since her Vienna trip, and the NTTA still has not provided her hotel receipts. A copy of her $7,000 business class airline ticket shows she arrived in Vienna five days early. When asked about her spending, she said, "I'm not going to talk about that now."

Records obtained from an earlier trip to Boston show Buse charged the NTTA for an amphibious boat tour on the Charles River. A spokesperson said she has written a check to reimburse the agency.

NTTA Executive Director Jorge Figueredo said he wants to change the type of culture uncovered by CBS11. "I'm going to make it clear, when we go to work we go to work," he said.

If you want to tell the NTTA how you feel about its policies, click here for their contact information. Or you can go to the December 19 NTTA board meeting to speak your mind.

© 2007 CBS Broadcasting Inc.

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