Thursday, July 30, 2009

"Although the hot topics discussed at San Angelo affect Central Texas, the meeting was held hundreds of miles away in San Angelo."

Transportation Commission passes toll road amnesty


News 8 Austin
Copyright 2009

The Texas Transportation Commission passed a proposed toll amnesty provision allowing for fine, fee, and penalty forgiveness at a meeting in San Angelo Thursday.

Toll amnesty and the future of at least one Central Texas project were topics on the plate at a special state transportation meeting, Thursday in San Angelo. At stake: The spending of millions of tax dollars.

Based on a final draft, the Texas Transportation Commission passed a toll amnesty provision that will allow people that have been delinquent in their toll road payments a chance to make good on those charges and possibly be forgiven a portion or all of their fines, fees and penalties.

While details pertaining to the amnesty are not finalized, the commission is taking into account the following considerations regarding the amnesty provision:
  • The recommended time period for the one-time amnesty is 60 days
  • The amnesty provision may be implemented by Sept. 1, 2009
  • Those who take advantage of the amnesty provision would have 90 percent of fees and fines waived but they would have to pay the remaining 10 percent plus the tolls
  • Payment of tolls is required by law.
Those who take advantage of the amnesty provision would have to sign up for a TxTag.

Toll amnesty would apply to roads operated by TxDOT only. Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority (CTRMA) roads, including U.S. 183-A would not fall under toll amnesty.

According to the Texas Transportation Commission, there are approximately 3 million delinquent tolls owed totaling approximately $50 million in fees and fines owed. The total amount of delinquent transactions that fall under this is 2.9 million.

The amnesty provision has sparked a heated debate.

Some people contend that this provision is unfair for all the people who have abided by the law and paid the toll road charges from the beginning.

Still, others say that the Texas Department of Transportation has been billing citizens unfairly, and this amnesty provision is reparation.

At a later date, the commission may also consider publishing in newspapers those people who are delinquent and don't take advantage of amnesty. The commission believes this would serve as a deterrent, essentially getting the people to pay through embarrassment.

The other controversial issue discussed at the meeting revolved around a nearly $32 million loan TxDOT would make to the CTRMA for the U.S. 290 East (Manor Expressway) Project.

The commission gave final approval for the loan to CTRMA for right-of-way and design of the project.

Several rights organizations have filed complaints with the Federal Highway Administration, saying the project unfairly impacts low income people and minorities who live in that area.

CTRMA disagrees with civil rights groups who filed a complaint with the Federal Highway Administration in regards to the Manor Expressway. CTRMA said there will be plenty of free lanes for those who don't want to use the toll road.

CTRMA commits to paying off that loan within two years.

CTRMA and the financier for TxDOT would have to work out the final terms.

Although the hot bed topics discussed at the San Angelo Convention Center affect Central Texas, the meeting was held hundreds of miles away in San Angelo.

As noted, the toll road amnesty is based on a final draft, but the commission approved the passing at Thursday’s meeting.

For more information click on the link to access the Transportation Commission's meeting schedule and agendas.

News 8's Bob Robuck will bring you more information from San Angelo later today.

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