"With new toll hikes, the NTTA is asking some drivers to spend hundreds more a year in tolls... on high-end landscaping projects.".
By DAVID SCHECHTER
DALLAS — With new toll hikes, the North Texas Tollway Authority is asking some drivers to spend hundreds more a year in tolls.
At the same time, the agency is spending millions of dollars on high-end landscaping projects to beautify its roadways.
How can they justify that?
In the last half-dozen years — while the local economy was good — the NTTA has spent $14 million on landscaping. But now that the economy is bad, it has no plans to change how much it spends on plants, trees and grasses.
"We've made over $100 million in cuts this year," said NTTA spokeswoman Sherita Coffelt. "If we would have never put a single strip of landscaping on a single road in NTTA history, we'd still be in the positon we're in right now."
The NTTA is about to shell out almost $3 million this year for new landscaping projects, and more landscaping is planned for the future as the agency builds more roads.
But is it wise to spend more money on landscaping when some motorists will have trouble paying higher tolls that were recently authorized?
"When people are driving on toll roads, they expect a safer experience, an asthetically pleasing experience," Coffelt said. "While some people don't want to pay for the asthetics, others do."
Though many drivers say they'd rather have lower tolls, the NTTA also says landscaping is more than window dressing. The greenery cuts pollution, reduces erosion and attracts high-quality business development.
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