Saturday, September 12, 2009

"They are gouging us twice, and then we still have to pay to ride the toll’s outrageous."

Stimulus funds to be used for toll road

$90m of federal stimulus to build Manor Expressway

CTRMA stimulus


Carla Castaño
Copyright 2009

AUSTIN- Federal stimulus dollars, to the tune of $90 million, is going to build a portion of Manor Expressway, a toll road to be constructed by the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority. The road will connect US 183 to and from US 290.

The $90 million in funding was requested by the Texas Department of Transportation, on behalf of the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority. Proponents say it will create 500 jobs. Opponents say the jobs are only temporary and having to pay to use the toll roads amount to a double tax.

We went out to the intersection to ask drivers what they think of the toll road project.

"I use the toll roads quite frequently,” said Gus Rhines of Kyle.

We caught up with Rhines as he was fueling up just off US 290 near US 183 in Northeast Austin. Another driver said she steers clear of the toll roads, said even when her GPS directs her that way.

"I definitely avoid those,” said Holly Dixon of Round Rock. “They are way too expensive."

Both Dixon and Rhines oppose using $90 million of stimulus money to fund four flyovers to connect 183 and 290, especially since they will have to pay 50 cents per trip to use the toll road.

"I think they are gouging us twice, and then we still have to pay to ride the toll roads,” said Dixon. “I think it’s outrageous."

Rhines is a mill worker. He’s been out-of-work since February and does not think $90 million should be spent to create temporary construction jobs.

“There’s a lot of us have lost jobs and I think they could find something much more needed to use that stimulus money on besides bridges and highways,” said Rhines.

However, using tax dollars to build toll roads is not new for Central Texas.

The Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority said this project will create 500 construction-related jobs when they start building this January - just what the stimulus money was meant for.

"Congress had a very important message when they generated the stimulus program and that was to put people back to work and that’s what these stimulus dollars are doing,” said Wes Burford, Director of Engineering for Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority.

Adding it will mean 2,200 jobs to complete Manor Expressway and extend it all the way to state highway 130, which should be open by 2015.

Proponents say with or without stimulus money the two year flyover project would still have to be done.

"The project will help with the congestion in the intersection and the congestion that is along the cooridor,” said Burford. “That will significantly help unload the congestion at the US 183 and Cameron Road intersection as well."

The bidding process should begin in November or December.

© 2009 KXAN:

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