Friday, October 30, 2009

"Hank Gilbert has the only transportation plan out there among challengers to Rick Perry from either party."

Will voters buy a tax increase for roads?


Rodger Jones/Editorial Writer
The Dallas Morning News
Copyright 2009

And maybe put a guy like Hank Gilbert in the governor's office?

The rancher Democrat announced his transportation plan yesterday in Fort Worth, including an 8-cent gas-tax hike and permanent indexing of the tax to cost of construction.

It came on the same day as doomsday scenarios laid out elsewhere in Fort Worth, before the Texas Transportation Commission. Money for roads continues to slide by the billions as cars use less fuel.

Coincidentally, regional transportation guru Michael Morris suggested to commissioners that traffic and roads might get so bad that voters could end up supporting raising taxes for roads.

Enter Gilbert. Does he have a chance with voters with his tax plan, as Morris might suggest? One trade-off Gilbert offering is to make it very tough to get more toll roads built. He has strong backing of anti-tollers across the state.

Gilbert said his gas tax plan would cost the average commuter between $1.20 and $1.60 a fillup. Say that's $10 a month for a lot of people. It could sound like a bargain for those who pay as much in tolls as they do to the electric company each month. A Frisco resident who commutes downtown on the tollway pays more than $8 a day if they have a TollTag.

Other things to like about Gilbert from the standpoint of local transportation officials: He is bullish on mass transit. (Aside: That could win him points with this newspaper's editorial board, considering our years-long push for expanding regional rail transit.)

The Gilbert plan says:

Improving and further integrating additional transit models into Texas' transportation infrastructure makes both financial and environmental sense. Hank proposes making more state funds available to cities to improve existing transit systems in the state's major metropolitan areas.

Hank also proposes funding more "ring line" transit routes and commuter/light rail systems to allow commuters to travel around a city's center without going through it, and connecting these ring lines to existing transportation infrastructure to make public transportation more efficient and consumer-friendly. ...

Hank proposes expanded high speed commuter rail lines. Hank proposes funding to allow cities with large suburban populations to create (or expand) commuter rail to help commuters get in and out of major metro areas faster and more efficiently.

Like it or not, Gilbert has the only transportation plan out there among challengers to Rick Perry from either party.

© 2009 Dallas Morning News:

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE