Thursday, September 24, 2009

"Rick Perry's appetite for toll roads has left drivers stranded...awaiting a project that will end up costing billions of dollars."

Toll opponent runs for governor

Hank Gilbert vs Rick Perry
Hank Gilbert vs Rick Perry

By Josh Baugh
San-Antonio Express-News
Copyright 2009

Standing in front of a boarded-up convenience store that would be razed to make way for a toll road on U.S. 281, East Texas rancher Hank Gilbert said Gov. Rick Perry's appetite for toll roads has left drivers stranded on the North Side awaiting a project that will end up costing billions of dollars.

Gilbert stopped in San Antonio Wednesday to announce his gubernatorial campaign during a 13-city tour across Texas. Gilbert, a Democrat from Whitehouse, is a strong toll opponent and sits on the board of directors of Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom, or TURF, founded by toll critic Terri Hall.

“Several years ago, right out here on Highway 281, a plan was put into place and money budgeted to ease the congestion of the people of this area by providing overpasses,” he said. “But thanks to Rick Perry's ridiculous Trans-Texas Corridor plan, and his very unfiscal-sounding plan to create toll roads all over this state, what was a couple hundred million dollars to do it efficiently and quickly has now been put on hold and is going to run into billions of dollars to convert this into a 20-lane toll road.”

Perry spokesman Mark Miner said Gilbert is condemning something that is supported and being driven by the Alamo Regional Mobility Authority.

“Once again, he's criticizing something the local officials want without coming up with solutions to move the 1,000 people a day coming to Texas,” Miner said. “What are his transportation ideas? It's easy to criticize, but what are his ideas to address the infrastructure needs of the state?”

Terri Hall and others from TURF and the San Antonio Toll Party stood behind Gilbert during his press conference. Hall said her groups' official position is that they're for “anyone but Rick Perry,” but they “love it” that Gilbert is running. Hall, a Republican, said she believes Gilbert has crossover appeal.

“What I'm seeing is that people are just fed up with career politicians,” she said. “I think we do need to look at him as a serious candidate.”

Calling for statewide reform, Gilbert said Texas needs more fiscally conservative leadership.

“Problems that we have right now in our state government are the very reason that I'm embarking on this campaign for governor,” he said.

As much as the event looked like it would be all about opposing toll projects, it touched on the subject only briefly. The majority of Gilbert's stump speech focused on education reform.

He often mentioned Perry and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison but acknowledged Democratic opponent Tom Schieffer only once, and not by name. It appears that Gilbert is preparing for a battle in the general election against whoever wins the Republican primary, though he said he's taking nothing for granted.

Former Railroad Commission nominee Mark Thompson, schoolteacher Felix Alvarado and satirist Kinky Friedman also have said seek the Democratic nomination for governor.

© 2009 San Antonio Express-News: /

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE