Wednesday, November 19, 2008

"I believe I started a chain reaction that will continue to pay off."

Tollroad gadfly leaves Texas


Ann Fowler
Oak Hill Gazette
Copyright 2008

Sal Costello, an Oak Hill area resident who has been a thorn in the sides of pro-toll politicians for the past four years, quietly packed up and moved to Illinois this summer.

He told the Gazette, "Life is short. I'm retired from activism. I'm focusing on my family and my health. I picked up jogging a couple years ago and I'm trying to de-stress my life. As always, I am fascinated by what is most efficient. We purchased a solar passive home, and I hope to reduce our need for energy as much as possible over the coming years."

Costello got involved in the anti-toll movement when the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) tried to toll the nearly-completed section of Mopac that crossed over William Cannon. He founded the Texas Toll Party to fight the myriad of toll roads planned for Austin and to delve into the business dealings of the parties involved, calling into question many relationships and transactions of people and businesses who he perceived to be pro-toll.

But his zeal took a toll on his home life. Costello wrote on his blog, "I would eat and sleep the fight for about four years, doing just enough to hold on to everything else as the months slipped away. A number of times that obsession came too close to taking my family and my home from me."

He added, "I decided to move on. In early July we put our home up for sale and received a cash offer in 10 days. Part of the deal was a super fast closing. So within three weeks we went from a sign in the front yard to driving away in a U-Haul filled with everything we own towards Southern Illinois."

Costello moved from Austin, home to nearly a million people, to a town of 400. It's a bit of a culture shock, he said, but it's home to his wife, who grew up nearby.

Costello knows he will be remembered – negatively by some, positively by others.

"I believe I started a chain reaction that will continue to pay off," Costello said. "Although not all 2004 tolls have been stopped, many tolls on freeways we've already paid for have been stopped and corrupt elected representatives have been de-elected/fired.

"Sections like the William Cannon/Mopac overpass are available to all drivers for free," he said. "That road alone will save Southwest Austin families hundreds of millions of dollars. I've heard some people call that stretch the ‘Costello Bridge.' I kind of like the ring to that."

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