Thursday, December 25, 2008

"This lame duck [Bush] administration is going to force us to let big banks, foreign governments and foreign companies own our roads."

Law allowing privately-built toll roads may lead to higher fees


Copyright 2008

Changes to toll road regulations could make you pay up.

Instead of that money staying here it could go to foreign companies.

In its closing days, the Bush administration is pushing through a new rule that favors private companies building your toll roads.

Local leaders say that's bad for the region and will cost north Texans more to drive.

"I'm furious about it," said state representative Linda Harper-Brown of Irving.

She says public entities, like the North Texas Toll Authority, follow strict rules about toll increases.

Not so, with private companies.

"When it's a private entity that holds that road, then he's going to charge the highest market value for it. He's going to charge as much as he can get," Harper-Brown said.

Harper-Brown is one of many lawmakers - Democrat and Republican - who oppose the federal rule.

It gives private companies the first crack at building toll road contracts.

Currently, toll authorities, like the NTTA, get first dibs on toll road construction projects.

In some cases, a portion of their profit is returned to the region to fund other, free road, projects.

"This doesn't benefit the working Texan, or the working American," said Harper-Brown.

Who does it benefit?

Harper-Brown says big investment banks who lobbied for the new rule.

The banks back multi-billion dollar toll projects because they're so profitable.

She says the Bush administration is doing the banks an obvious favor.

"I'm furious that this lame duck administration is trying to push a rule down on us which is going to force us to let big banks and foreign governments and foreign companies own our roads," said Harper-Brown.

The NTTA opposes the new rule. So do eight other toll authorities in Texas.

They just wrote a letter to the Department of Transportation asking that the rule be withdrawn.


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