Wednesday, July 01, 2009

"Why should taxpayers be put in this position?"

Private toll road bill faces roadblock in Senate

Road block

Terrence Stutz/Reporter
The Dallas Morning News
Copyright 2009

Several members of the Senate Finance Committee signaled Wednesday that they will oppose legislation to allow the state transportation department to continue contracting with private companies to build toll roads in North Texas and across the state. Sen. Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, chairman of the committee, said the bill now lacks enough support to be approved by the panel and may not even be necessary given the current state of the economy.

The legislation - one of a handful of bills being considered during the special session that began Wednesday - has been requested by state transportation officials, who would lose the ability to continue entering into comprehensive development agreements for new toll roads after Sept. 1. Senators from North Texas are particularly upset over the legislation because some proposed toll roads in the area will be partially funded with public money.

"Why should taxpayers be put in this position?" asked Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas. "Why in the world should people have to pay tolls on a road that's already being built?"

West and other senators told transportation officials they should reconsider charging tolls on publicly funded highways. Some senators also indicated they were ready to "tag" the legislation to delay consideration in the upper chamber, although Senate leaders said that the House will take up the measure first. If it passes the House, then opponents are expected to try and defeat it in the Senate.

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