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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Friday, September 11, 2009

“The time for childish antics and peevish, ego driven behavior is over. We need serious, responsible people in government not 4 more years of bluster"

Gilbert Questions Perry’s Motives In Sending Texas Rangers To Border

Hank Gilbert2
Copyright 2009


AUSTIN—Hank Gilbert (D-Whitehouse), a Democratic candidate for Texas Governor, today questioned Texas Governor Rick Perry’s motives for sending special teams of Texas Rangers to the Texas-Mexico border this week.

“Drug violence, narcotics trafficking, and human smuggling isn’t just a problem that cropped up on the border yesterday. It has been ongoing,” Gilbert said. “If the Governor thought it was such a big problem, why did he wait until in the middle of a heated election cycle to do anything about it,” he continued.

Texas Governor Rick Perry has repeatedly campaigned on border safety issues, including a pricey electronic monitoring system that allowed citizens to monitor the border. “All of Perry’s border policies have been a dismal failure, best summarized by the phrase ‘too little, too late’. If the Governor was using the border as anything other than a campaign issue, then why didn’t he get his predecessor, George W. Bush, to do something to curb border violence when he was president,” Gilbert continued.

“Perry has never bothered to pay attention to the border until it is politically expedient. Earlier this year, when it became evident that he would have a battle for the hearts and minds of GOP primary voters, he began his faux begging to the Obama Administration for resources the state already possessed. He’s comical. He’s a drugstore cowboy who thinks Texas exists in a vacuum.”

Gilbert also said that Hutchison’s criticism of Perry’s announcement was laughable. “Kay Bailey Hutchison has been a U.S. Senator for more than a decade. She hasn’t done anything to curb border violence and drug cartels. For her to even lift a finger to criticize Governor Perry from her ivory tower on the Potomac is irony befitting a fiction writer,” Gilbert continued. “If sniping from Washington is her idea of leadership, then maybe she should stay in Washington and do what she does best, nothing,” he continued.

“The Texas Rangers are among the most elite law enforcement agencies in the world, and they do a great deal to keep Texans safe and combat crime. Governor Perry sending the Rangers to the border is a criminal misallocation of one of our state’s finest law enforcement resources. Evidently the Governor doesn’t understand the difference between a situation that needs a state police force and one that requires more serious intervention,” he said.

“As your governor, I won’t go hat-in-hand begging for money after calling for Texas to secede from the United States. I’ll go to Washington and articulately make our case on behalf of all Texans. We’ll send the drama and over-blown theatrics back to Paint Creek when Governor Perry leaves Austin once and for all,” he concluded. “The time for childish antics and peevish, ego driven behavior is over. We need serious, responsible people in government not four more years of bluster.”

© 2009 Hank

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Bailed out investment banksters reap benefits from high tech market manipulations

SEC Probes Manipulation by ‘Advanced Trading Systems’


By David Scheer
Copyright 2009

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is “rigorously” investigating whether traders are using technology to manipulate markets, the agency’s enforcement and inspections chiefs said today.

The regulator is probing suspected “market manipulation based on complex use of technology and advanced trading systems,” said SEC Enforcement Director Robert Khuzami and acting examinations director John Walsh in testimony prepared for a Senate Banking Committee hearing. They said the inquiry is among a list of active cases, also including unspecified Ponzi schemes, hedge-fund abuses and insider trading.

SEC spokesman Kevin Callahan said he couldn’t immediately comment beyond the testimony.

Lawmakers including U.S. Senator Charles Schumer have pressed the SEC to ban so-called flash trading, which gives firms a split-second advantage in viewing stock-trading requests. The agency said today it will consider proposing a ban at a Sept. 17 meeting.

Federal prosecutors also drew attention to potential abuses of automated trading in July, when they said software allegedly stolen from Goldman Sachs Group Inc. by a former programmer might be used to “manipulate markets.”

Computer-program trading represented almost 27 percent of volume on the New York Stock Exchange in the last week of August, according to the NYSE’s most recent report. Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Barclays Capital Inc., Bank of America Corp.’s Merrill Lynch subsidiary and Deutsche Bank AG’s securities unit accounted for the most volume, the data show.

‘Complex Landscape’

High-frequency trading accounts for less than 1 percent of Goldman Sachs revenue and the firm doesn’t use flash programs in executing client agency orders, the company said last month in a statement addressing the “complex landscape” surrounding this issue. In a letter to clients, Goldman Sachs also said it doesn’t try to profit from advance knowledge of their orders by betting its own money.

The Goldman Sachs programmer, Sergey Aleynikov, was arrested July 3 and charged the next day with theft of trade secrets and transportation of stolen property in foreign commerce. At Aleynikov’s arraignment, Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Facciponti said the programmer transferred code to a computer server in Germany and that others may have had access to it, a claim Aleynikov has denied. He is free on $750,000 bond.

Goldman Sachs spokesman Ed Canaday didn’t immediately respond to a message seeking comment on the SEC testimony.

© 2009 Bloomberg.vom:

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Half a billion in gas taxes will subsidize privatized toll deal with Cintra in North Texas

Taxpayers get shafted in toll deal with Spanish company


Terri Hall
Copyright 2009

Is there ANY elected official looking out for the taxpayers anymore?

So much for taxpayer protections and oversight from Texas Attorney General, Greg Abbott. Even after Abbott held-up several controversial comprehensive development agreements (CDAs, also known as public private partnerships, PPPs) for months declaring them unconstitutional, he recently gave final approval to allow a contract with Spanish toll operator, Cintra, to takeover parts of the LBJ freeway, I-635, in Dallas. The deal will use Dallas Police and Fire Pension System and will charge 75 cents PER MILE to use toll lanes, and even worse, a half a billion in gas taxes will subsidize the deal with Cintra, in a massive DOUBLE TAX scheme.

It's the hefty amount of public money in the deal that caused Abbott to deem it unconstitutional - to have one Legislature bind a future Legislature with its obligations. Wasn't this a major objection to the Wall Street bailouts? Privatizing profits and socializing losses?

Governor Rick Perry, who has grown fond of criticizing Washington, has taken a page out of their playbook and applied it to Texas toll roads. There's a reason these deals are called public private partnerships. The private operators come in and milk the taxpayers by exploiting the government powers of eminent domain and raiding public money to subsidize toll roads that aren't viable otherwise, and they walk away with the profits for a half-century at a time.

CDAs are sweetheart deals that guarantee congestion on free routes through the use of non-compete agreements (which prohibit expanding or building free routes without paying penalties), guarantee 12-19% annual profits, lower the speed limits on surrounding free routes (to drive more traffic to the toll road), and cash-in on taxpayer-backed low interest loans.

The authorization to enter into CDAs expired last week. The grassroots saw to it that such deals were squashed in Perry's special session that attempted re-authorize the contracts that sunset August 31. Many lawmakers took offensive to being called back to Austin for to extend sweetheart deals for private industry.

However, Perry and some sold-out legislators made certain that about a dozen CDAs were excepted out of a moratorium passed in 2007 to allow many CDAs to move forward until 2011, including the LBJ project, I-820 in Tarrant County, Loop 9 in North Texas, the Grand Parkway in Houston area, and both Trans Texas Corridor contracts among others.

As the details of these remaining CDAs are made public, the taxpayers must remain vigilant to require the Attorney General to do his job and protect taxpayers from billions in risky leveraged debt that prices 90% of motorists off our public freeways. The race for the next Governor, Attorney General, and state legislature must keep these CDAs and toll road policies front and center. In every public forum, ask each and every candidate his/her stand on privatized toll roads, the Trans Texas Corridor, and how he/she plans to address transportation funding in the next session.

© 2009

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"More doubt over the aggressive traffic claims bidders use to win the multi-billion-dollar [toll road] projects."

Leighton starts lawsuit against ConnectEast



The Australian
Copyright 2009

EVER since global credit markets shut 12 months ago, the infrastructure debate has centred on how to attract funding, and now Leighton has provided one more cause for concern.

Its contract dispute with ConnectEast highlights the fact that while developers and operators want the government to take on more risk in the aftermath of the GFC, the private sector operators are masters at minimising their own risks.

Leighton isn't getting as much money as it thought it would because the traffic estimates were too high.

Ask the company whether it would have handed the money back if the estimates were too low, and the response is laughter: "We had a contractual right."

It would all be a great game if the consequences were not serious, but at risk is the level of infrastructure development and who shares the risks and rewards.

In the dispute, Leighton wants to add cream to its considerable booty from the project and in the process hurt minority shareholders by kicking $50 million from ConnectEast's market value.

You would think Leighton would want ConnectEast to have more, not less, money to pay it.

The dispute creates even more doubt over the aggressive traffic claims bidders use to win the multi-billion-dollar projects.

Unfortunately the system now rewards bidders for being too aggressive.

Behind the facade of nation building, financiers and contractors use every bit of leverage to maximise their take at the risk of hurting the small shareholders who were mistakenly happy to back the project.

After watching this performance they have another reason to think again and -- just like last week's decision by Brisbane City Council to go it alone on the $1.8bn Northern Link Tunnel -- taxpayers will have to pick up the tab.

To be fair to Leighton and its chief operating officer David Stewart, the ConnectEast dispute is a straight contractual fight -- which means there will be rights and wrongs on both sides -- but it's the timing of this stoush and the regularity of Leighton's use of lawyers to top up its money jars that raises questions.

Leighton handles virtually 100 per cent of the big road construction in Australia, with most big contracts a battle between its divisions rather than against another firm. The $2.5bn ConnectEast's East Link project was no different.

The ACCC was happy to wave through mergers among the big developers to leave Leighton in control.

Leighton's John Holland boss Glenn Palin and Thiess's Neville Power were negotiating with ConnectEast's John Gardiner until last Friday when talks broke down.

As it happens, ConnectEast is in the middle of a $420m capital raising, with the institutional issue formally closing yesterday and raising $309m.

As part of the spoils for winning the project, Leighton picked up a $7.5m bonus on completion and 260 million shares in ConnectEast -- of which it still owns 113 million. It decided against participating in the capital raising and -- as was its right -- collected $2.3m for selling its rights.

That after all was the virtue of ConnectEast chair Tony Shepherd's offer structure, which gave every shareholder a right to participate and to collect some value if he or she decided against taking up the rights.

So Leighton pocketed the money, then dropped the bombshell with news of the litigation, which helped push ConnectEast below the rights price for the first time in over a week, with the stock closing yesterday down 5.4 per cent at 35c.

Maybe Leighton didn't plan it that way, but it just so happens the litigation threat came at the point of maximum leverage over Shepherd and potentially maximum harm to his capital raising. The claim itself is over traffic forecasts made by Hyder Consulting, which was hired by the bid team that included Leighton, Macquarie Group and ConnectEast.

Hyder said by April the road would carry 258,000 cars a day, but so far it has been more like 159,000.

The difference mattered in several respects, but the important things to know are that Leighton has had a representative on the board the entire time, so knew all about traffic numbers and was happy to pay Hyder's costs.

One of the problems when governments sell tollroads is they encourage bidders to overestimate traffic numbers -- the more cars on the road, the lower the tolls that can be charged and the lower the costs.

In this case, Leighton collected a $7.5m success fee, $2.5bn in constructions fees, plus equity in the project and, as late as yesterday, its $2.3m for forgoing its rights.

All of this because the traffic estimates were higher than reality, which meant Leighton would get a lower bonus for completing the road five months earlier.

The bonus was linked to traffic use and the time of completion with the risk, of course, that finishing late would have resulted in millions of dollars in penalties.

The big rewards are designed to reflect the risks taken, but the dispute throws into doubt the level of risks.

The published claims of $400m in damages are fairyland stuff because the actual amount at risk is more like $75m, of which ConnectEast has already provided for $30m.

When projects are delayed, Leighton sues the government and anyone else to blame them to recover funds, and when the numbers fall short of projections it attempts to recover its upside.

Downside doesn't seem to be in the equation, which, of course, means risk is not large.

Brookes' float pitch

ONE of the problems with high-profile floats is they let insiders air their claims, as has happened already with some Myer staff complaining about being forced to work too many weekends, under pressure to sell more and in the process staff morale is at an all-time low.

The retailer rejects the claims and when Saint Bernard Brookes hits the podium on Friday, he will talk up cultural change in the company, helped by the fact that some 18 per cent of full-time staff are on short-term incentives and 400 are in the equity pool, which owns 7.5 per cent of the company.

Saint Bernard also invested in the $1.4bn buyout, but the size of his stake was not divulged yesterday.

Store managers are encouraged to run the business like its their own, with 10 key criteria for their bonuses including sales, costs, shrinkage (theft), profits, customer care, sale of house brand products, maximising sales per transaction, safety and selling warranties with electrical products.

Before TPG acquired the business, it was earning between $60-$100m a year and now, the 2009 year earnings before interest and tax will be more like $235m with earnings margins up from 2 per cent to 7 per cent.

Debt will be cut further from the float proceeds from $660m to around $450m.

With all that profit growth in the past, how much can be expected in the future?

There is no doubt TPG and Saint Bernard have fixed a broken company and in the process have also grown profits dramatically.

So if they are selling a business on historical EBIT multiples of 13 times, even with over $400m in capital expenditure, ask yourself how much in costs have been removed which will have to be replaced?

The good news is TPG's global track record for retail floats is 27 per cent-plus outperformance against the relevant indexes for the likes of Petco, J Crew, Burger King and Debenhams.

This time, the pitch will also start with Myer One club members being certain targets for the float team of Macquarie, Goldman Sachs and Credit Suisse.

© 2009 The Australian:

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Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Spanish toll road builder to create more impacts on Dallas commuters

Facebook and Twitter may be used to inform people about highway construction

you're dead


Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Copyright 2009

The private developer responsible for rebuilding Northeast Loop 820 and Texas 121/183 in Tarrant County is working on a strategy that may include Facebook, Twitter and text messaging to keep commuters informed about the project during an estimated five years of construction.

Work on the $2 billion project could begin as early as next year, if the Federal Highway Administration approves an environmental study as expected this fall. The job includes reconstruction of existing lanes and the addition of four toll lanes on Loop 820 and Airport Freeway. Continuous frontage roads also would be added.

While commuters have anxiously awaited improvements to congested highways in Northeast Tarrant County, the complicated project is sure to cause orange barrel-related headaches for drivers, making it crucial to keep motorists informed about progress, Robert Hinkle, director of corporate affairs for the North Tarrant Express project.

"We’re going to have to figure out how to communicate our message, including the use of social media," Hinkle said to members of the 35W Coalition Wednesday. He later added that text messaging and Internet tools such as Facebook and Twitter may be used to spread the word about lane closures and detours.

The 35W Coalition, a group of business and political leaders, meets quarterly to track progress on efforts to expand roads in north Tarrant County, particularly between downtown Fort Worth, Alliance Airport and Dallas/Fort Worth Airport.

Hinkle was hired earlier this year to become the local face of North Tarrant Express Mobility Partners, a group of companies led by Spain-based Cintra that was awarded the contract to expand Northeast Loop 820, Texas 121/183 and eventually Interstate 35W. Cintra has leased office space in North Richland Hills.

The work is expected to be paid for with $570 million in state highway dollars, and about $1.4 billion in private investment. NTE Mobility Partners would keep proceeds collected on the toll lanes through March 2061.

NTE Mobility Partners has leased office space in the Frost Bank building at 9001 Airport Freeway, and brought in Belen Marcos from the Chicago Skyway and Indiana Toll Road projects to serve as chief executive of North Tarrant Express.

Hinkle grew up in Northeast Tarrant County and graduated in 1975 from Haltom High School. He now lives in Mansfield, and has worked in the corporate communications field in Austin, Washington and abroad.

© 2009 Fort Worth Star-Telegram:

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Loop 9 continues as segment of renamed Trans-Texas Corridor

Trans Texas Corridor as such is gone

Regional segments, such as Loop 9, part of new 'vision'

Innovative connectivity plan


Leslie Gibson
Rockwall County Herald-Banner
Copyright 2009

Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) has no intention of developing the Trans Texas Corridor TTC, said agency spokesperson Chris Lippincott, on Wednesday.

He confirmed what was said by transportation planners in the Aug. 26 Rockwall County Road Consortium meeting, that the TTC is almost gone. Instead, local input will be key to developing transportation segments serving regional needs, through a new plan, Innovative Connectivity in Texas/Vision 2009.

The vision was unveiled in January at the fourth annual Texas Transportation Forum, in which TxDOT Executive Director Amadeo Saenz outlined new plans for corridor width, transportation mode, use of existing facilities, timelines, and level of involvement of local officials and citizens in the planning.

“Texans have spoken, and we’ve been listening,” said Saenz. “I believe this transformed vision for the TTC and other major corridor development goes a long way toward addressing the concerns we’ve heard over the past several years.”

Focus will be on segments closer to 600 feet wide, rather than the 1,000 plus of TTC, and be named per the highway numbers originally associated with each segment, such as I-69, SH 130 and closer to home, Loop 9.

Loop 9 is proposed to be a 44-mile-long new road running along the southern edge of Dallas County, dropping into Ellis County, and turning north through the western edge of Kaufman County and back east into Dallas County in order to connect Interstate 20 and US 287, as well as major cross streets. It was first conceived in the 1950s. “It may be developed by the private sector, it may end up as a toll road because of lack of resources,” Lippincott said.

It is a TxDOT project.

It’s east-west portion would also tie into the Outer Loop, a ring of connected roadways around the Metroplex, being coordinated by North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG).

At the Kaufman/Dallas County border, where Loop 9 heads northwest, the Outer Loop would break off and head northeast into Rockwall County if Rockwall County’s preferred Outer Loop alignment is ultimately chosen, or into Hunt County.

“North Central Texas COG is as sophisticated an agency of this type as there is in this state,” Lippincott said in the phone interview. “The means it has are vast,” he said, noting NCTCOG, as the other metropolitan planning areas in the state, receive some federal funding.

When told that some citizens expressed concern at the Consortium meeting that the Outer Loop is a Trans Texas Corridor in disguise, he said, “I don’t want to minimize questions. They (the citizens who are concerned) should stay involved.”

“Every time we build a road, we’ve got to listen and work with the people,” he said.

Right of way can not be purchased until there is money, and not until an environmental impact statement is approved. A draft environmental impact statement for Loop 9 is due in late 2009.

“At some point we will have to acquire the land if we build Loop 9,” Lippincott said. On that subject, he said roads “mean different things to different people. “If you’ve got a McDonalds or a 7/11, Loop 9 could be the greatest thing that could happen. If you’ve got a retirement home, you’ll have a different view,” he said.

TxDOT is expected to hold a public hearing on Loop 9 in the fall; the date is yet to be announced.

Though TTC is essentially gone, “what remains is the challenge created by traffic across our state,” Lippincott said, noting that Texas grows by 1,000 people a day. To that end, TxDOT is still holding public meetings on the 600 mile I-69 project.

© 2009 Rockwall Herald Banner:

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Monday, September 07, 2009

Toll road boondoggle scheme still dogs Rick Perry

Texas gov's opponent uses toll road plan as ammo

View Trans-Texas Corridor TIME LINE: [HERE]


The Associated Press
Copyright 2009

Gov. Rick Perry ditched his plan to build a $175 billion network of toll roads that would crisscross the state after it ran into strong opposition, but he hasn't been able to shake the issue altogether.

Perry cast his Trans-Texas Corridor project as a way to relieve Texas' traffic congestion by building highways in a state growing by 1,000 people per day.

But he had to scale down the project considerably after it ran into opposition from farmers and ranchers, who said it threatened their land, and open government advocates, who derided its secret contract with a Spanish company.

Now a fellow Republican, U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson, has seized on the road project as she seeks to take his job, saying the project and Perry's transportation policies smack of arrogance.

"It's part of the overall argument — he's been there too long and look at the things he's failed at," Jim Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin, said in describing Hutchison's strategy.

Toll roads and transportation alone may not be enough to turn an election, but Hutchison seems to be using them as a way to raise questions about Perry's competence, Henson said.

Perry, the state's longest-serving leader who is seeking a third full term, faces Hutchison and party activist Debra Medina in the GOP primary in March. Though recent polls have shown Perry with a lead over Hutchison, they also show large numbers of undecided voters, indicating the public isn't fully paying attention yet. The Republican primary winner is expected to be the favorite heading into the fall 2010 general election.

Perry proposed the sweeping toll road and high-speed rail corridor in 2002. The name "Trans-Texas Corridor" is now gone, but two key roads in the project — one parallel to Interstate 35 and another that is to be Interstate 69 running from northeast Texas to the Rio Grande Valley — remain in the planning stages.

"We have to continue to move people and the products of companies that call Texas home," said Perry campaign spokesman Mark Miner.

Hutchinson has yet to present her own plan but she says she wants to reform and expand a state transportation commission. Her campaign says she opposes toll roads unless local officials and voters agree to them, and they say she worked in the Senate to halt federally funded toll roads.

"It is time to return to our tradition of free, quality highways and roads," Hutchison said in kicking off her campaign last month. She calls the Trans-Texas Corridor "the biggest land grab in the history of Texas."

An interest group that opposes toll roads, Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom, is looking closely at candidates from both parties, said its founder and direct, Terri Hall.

"Most of our supporters are well aware that we're in the anybody-but-Perry mode," Hall said. The group has not endorsed anyone in the governor's race, but a Democratic candidate, Hank Gilbert, is active in the group.

In arguing against state-orchestrated toll roads and for private property rights, Hutchison plays up her close ties to the Texas Farm Bureau, which opposes the toll road corridor. She sides with its stance on eminent domain, and pointed that out following Perry's veto of a property rights bill the bureau backed in 2007.

Perry, too, is trying to show he cares deeply about property rights, and earlier this year voiced support for a state constitutional amendment banning the government from taking private property and giving it to a developer to boost the local tax base.

This isn't the first time Perry has defended himself on toll roads in an election. Independent candidate Carole Keeton Strayhorn unsuccessfully ran against Perry in 2006 by attacking his toll road project.

Strayhorn's campaign privately acknowledged at the time the strategy might help win over rural voters, but not the urban voters who are key to victory. And those are voters Hutchison will need in March.

Perry's spokesman equates Hutchison's toll roads complaints with Strayhorn's.

"It's almost identical," Miner said, "and it shows that criticism is not a solution."

© 2009 The Associated Press:

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Sunday, September 06, 2009

Annual commute on North Texas toll roads jumps to $1400

Toll Road Revolt

Allen Man Protests Recent NTTA Rate Hike


Shana Franklin
Copyright 2009

Fred Hall of Allen drives almost 150 miles a day to and from work in Hurst. Much of his commute is on toll roads, but the single father of two is boycotting those toll roads for one work week starting tomorrow. He's asking others to do the same in protest of the NTTA's rate hike that started September first. Fred Hall says, "Too many people are hurting financially because of the economy. I do not believe it is right for them to go ahead and do this."

Fred Hall says the cost of his annual commute will jump from about $1100 to $1400. It's a price he says is too high, despite the NTTA's claim the hike is needed to maintain a financially viable system of roadways. Fred Hall says, "We're hoping if we can get the attention of the NTTA board members that they will back down and not do this increase."

An NTTA spokesperson issued a statement today in response to our inquiries about the boycott. It says, "The NTTA understands people have a choice when they drive, and we hope they select NTTA roads for their value in time savings, and for the high-quality, well-maintained and safe driving experience they receive."

We talked to a handful of drivers who use toll roads today. Driver Kohshean Kuda says, "Would I boycott it? No. But I think somebody should at least." Fred Hall's idea was a popular one, but according to many, not perfect. Driver Asia Williams says, "I don't know if it's plausible because there are so many people who need to take it and not to mention it's gonna make it worse for all the other roads to go on, so I think it's just kinda gonna make a big mess out of it."

© 2009 TKDAF-TV:

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