Friday, December 11, 2009

Cintra en Canada: "There is no control on how much this foreign company can charge."

Private ownership of Highway 407 is a public problem


By Bruce Owers
The Waterloo Record (Canada)
Copyright 2009

In the early 1990s Ontario was almost bankrupt under Bob Rae’s NDP government. But it desperately needed new roads, as it still does today. So the Rae government built a toll road around Toronto and it was a great success. It was a cash cow called the 407 ETR. The government of Mike Harris then later foolishly leased this road for 99 years to a Quebec-based company for a substantial amount of money. This was in May 1999, and was done to reduce the deficit and look good.

Before the Harris government could lease the road, however, they had to pass new legislation to allow this because never before had a public road been sold to a private company. This very flawed legislation was passed in November 1998. The new Quebec owners then closed the deal and Ontario had sold its first highway. This Quebec company then sold the road at a profit to Spanish owners, thus assuring that profits from the road would never be taxed in Canada.

As part of this deal, the Ontario government agreed that individual licence plate renewal would be denied if there were any outstanding tolls against that plate and its owner. So this arrangement, in practice, made our government a collection agency for a privately held, for-profit foreign consortium. In addition, the terms of the deal stated that there would be no statute of limitations on these bills and that they would never go away even if the citizen went bankrupt. Even your income tax has a statute of limitations.

The 407 ETR refuses now as then to produce any photographic or other evidence that what they bill is an accurate reflection of the offending vehicle’s presence on their roadway. So there is no accountability and the government still collects their bills for them. Oh, I forgot to mention that the company decides on the interest rate on these “forever” bills and currently it is 26.82 per cent compounded monthly but it varies based on the whims of the Spanish owners.

And there is a definite problem with who gets billed. In very short order after the sale of the highway, according to the media of that time, 100,000 citizens who had never been on the road had been incorrectly billed. The MPPs were deluged with complaints and so the Conservatives under then transportation minister David Turnbull told the private Spanish company to “clean up their act. Until there was evidence of that happening their collection deal was cancelled.” This was in 2000. But in 2005 the 407 ETR went to court to reinstate its original sweetheart deal. The judge ruled in its favour even though this company still showed no accountability and still did not produce evidence of the legitimacy of its charges.

The government of Premier Dalton McGuinty should have appealed this decision but did not. Now the government is the collection agency for the Spanish consortium. Now the agreement covers any vehicle that is owned by the person who has an offending licence plate. So if you own six vehicles and one of them is alleged to have been on their road, your government will not issue any licence plates for any of your vehicles until you pay the alleged bill at your government licence office, whether it is correct or not.

The toll in 1999 was seven cents a kilometre. and now it is 19.85 cents a kilometre. There is also a monthly accounting fee of $2.50 and a video charge of $3.25. That is far beyond the rate of inflation and there is no control on how much this foreign company can charge.

The tolls here are higher than anywhere that I travel. This road is simply built through corn fields, which are nothing like Mexico or Italy with mountains, tunnels, bridges, etc., and still those countries have tolls that are substantially lower. You can travel from here to Los Angeles for less toll than it costs to cross Toronto. I believe the current toll in Mexico is 13 cents per kilometre, but that includes automatic medical coverage for everyone in the vehicle.

With all the road tax that we Ontarians pay, the last thing we ever expected was a toll road. We need to buy back this road and break the deal with this consortium.

I find this whole arrangement both offensive and intimidating. If any Canadian government is going to collect for any privately held company, change the rules on the statute of limitations, etc., then it had better collect for all private companies on the same terms. This current arrangement discriminates against all other private companies.

Please contact me at if you have had billing problems with this company. I am compiling a list of complaints for action by our local Liberal MPPs. They can correct this situation if they have the will to do it. If not, then there is an election coming.

© 2009 The Waterloo Record:

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"As toll roads proliferate in North Texas, drivers will soon need to be more vigilant."

Different toll roads, rates for North Texas


Dallas Morning News
Copyright 2009

CURRENT RATES: NTTA has set toll rates on all its roads at 14.5 cents per mile, with an automatic 5.6 percent increase every two years. But as toll roads proliferate in North Texas, drivers will soon need to be more vigilant, as rates will vary.

LBJ FREEWAY: One of the busiest highways in America, LBJ Freeway will be rebuilt in 2011, with completion expected by 2016. When it opens, it will feature a mix of free and paid lanes. Rates on the paid lanes will depend on how busy the free lanes are. Rush-hour rates will likely start at about 50 cents a mile, but could spike to $1 or more if traffic warrants.

SH 161: Rates on this highway, now just partially open, are the same as on other roads. But a proposal floated Thursday could mean that rush-hour drivers would be charged more if traffic assumptions prove too optimistic once it is complete.

SAM RAYBURN TOLLWAY: Rates were higher than elsewhere until the rate increase in September. Now, they are the same. But under the toll agreement with NTTA, rates could increase by as much as 17 percent during rush hour by January 2012.

© 2009 The Dallas Morning News:

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

"I don’t understand the logic to this."

Member of tollway authority's board takes staff to task over collections


Dave Lieber
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Copyright 2009

At least there’s one representative on the North Texas Tollway Authority fighting for fairness in fees, fines and penalties.

Victor Vandergriff, an Arlington businessman who serves as the board’s vice chairman, gave top authority staffers a tongue-lashing this week.

Faced with public anger about a collection process that can turn a $1 toll fee into $500 in fines, penalties and other costs, the authority had postponed any public discussion of what to do about it until Monday’s finance committee meeting in Plano.

There, Vandergriff let it rip:

"I have significant concerns about the level of detail provided here today," he said after hearing two staff reports on the collections process. "We’ve been waiting for this for months, and this is what we get?

"I’m not a happy camper. To be honest with you, your presentations were lacking in detail here."

He complained that the authority’s staffers gave him copies of their report on fees and collections only a few days before the meeting. "I want to request getting information in a more timely manner," he said.

He complained that even before that, staffers were slow to answer the "hue and cry" of the public about perceived inequities in collections procedures. "It’s taken us way too long to get before this body," he said. "We need to avoid that in the future and do things more promptly."

He complained that the authority’s budget may be too strongly based on collecting penalty fees.

"That budget, I believe, contains, as a serious component of it, [income from] administrative fines, fees and penalties. That puts pressure on this agency to basically balance this on the back" of the collection process. "That concerns me a great deal."

Rather, he said, the budget should be based on "a reasonable and fair collection cost."

The tollway authority staff conducted a survey of 21 tolling agencies and found that 15 assess roughly the same late fees and penalties, three were higher and three were lower.

Staffers concluded that the North Texas authority’s fee structure is fair.

Their proposal to the board? "Staff recommends formalizing the new invoice process." Wow. That should make everyone happy.

Led by Vandergriff, the board decided not to go along with that. The problems are far more complex.

"I’d like to understand in writing precise collections costs," he said testily.

Minutes later, staffers tried to get the board’s blessing on a second proposal — to hire as its outside collection agency the Austin-based law firm of Linebarger, Goggan, Blair & Sampson L.L.P.

Linebarger also does delinquent-tax collection for Arlington, Fort Worth and Tarrant County. It has offices in Texas and 12 other states.

The Star-Telegram has reported that Linebarger collects about $1 billion in delinquent taxes each year for more than 2,000 government entities, according to the firm.

But the firm has been accused of using unnecessary muscle to secure contracts.

In 2004, a former partner in the firm pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery in a scandal that also involved a former San Antonio councilman. Locally, a $2,000 Linebarger campaign contribution to then-Mayor Barton Scott prompted the Mansfield City Council to deem the donation inappropriate and fire the firm.

Vandergriff complained that it made no sense to hire a collections firm when the authority hasn’t figured out how to run its collection process.

"Pretty serious stuff," he said of the proposed Linebarger hiring. Yet the only the information Vandergriff said he was given was "nine pages of PowerPoint, not a lot of data, and you’re asking us to approve this today? Is that what I’m understanding?"

"I don’t understand the logic to this," he added.

Pam Hicks of Arlington has complained to The Watchdog that a tollway authority customer service representative told her that if she didn’t pay $82, "I would be subject to arrest."

She said this about Vandergriff: "I’m very glad that someone is standing up for what’s right. I don’t know how far he can hold them accountable, but at least he’s not letting them off the hook and saying they can continue to do business as they are."

* * *

Watchdog alert: State Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, is collecting your stories, ideas and comments to help battle the authority’s policies. Her e-mail is Her U.S. mail address is Senator Jane Nelson, P.O. Box 12086, Austin, TX 78711.

A closer look Number of invoices mailed for payment by the North Texas Tollway Authority:

2006: 500,000

2007: 1 million

2008: 2 million

2009: 3 million

Source: NTTA

© 2009 Fort Worth Star-Telegram:

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Unaccountable Regional Transportation Council wants NTTA to push toll taxes even higher

Michael Morris says NTTA should charge higher tolls during peak hours


Michael Lindenberger
Dallas Morning News
Copyright 2009

Michael Morris, director of the Regional Transportation Council, wants the North Texas Tollway Authority to commit to raising its toll rates on two major new toll roads, State Highway 161 in Dallas County, now under construction, and the soon-to-be-built Southwest Parkway in Fort Worth.

The rates should go up during peak hours, meaning that rates would go up when the need for the toll roads is greatest, said Morris.

That is already going to happen eventually on State Highway 121, Morris said, and doing so on the two new roads would help boost NTTA revenues. That's important, Morris said, because NTTA and the region are scrambling to bring the cost down on Southwest Parkway, and one way of doing so is to ask TxDOT to serve as a guarantor for payments to bond holders on both that road and State Highway 161.

That insurance from the state could save NTTA hundreds of millions of dollars on its efforts to finance both State Highway 161 and the 28-mile Southwest Parkway in Fort Worth, since it would entitle NTTA to lower interest rates. But, if the revenues from the roads were much less than expected, the state could have to kick in the difference in a given year.

Officials on all sides of the negotiations said that is highly unlikely. Still, Morris said the higher rates during peak hours would provide additional cushion, and lower the already negligible risks to TxDOT that it would have to cover any payments by NTTA.

So far though, the state has not agreed to offer the backstop on both roads, and some of its leaders have said in recent months that it would not do so.

Just now, John Barton, assistant executive director of TxDOT, is telling the RTC that the TxDOT commissioners are receptive to the idea of working with NTTA, but the department is still reviewing it.

Beyond the question of the financing terms, the presentation here has focused on ways to reduce the construction costs of Southwest Parkway, initially estimated at $1.87 billion. One way those costs could come down significantly is if the project is built in stages.

No decision on how to proceed has been made.

"I don't think we are there quite yet but it is an enormous step," NTTA chairman Paul Wageman said.

Update: Michael Morris takes issue with this characterization of his comments today. He makes two points: a) he would push for the NTTA to include the rush-hour pricing approach only if doing so helps make the financing more attractive, something that won't be known for sure until a final agreement is reached with the state department of transportation and whatever deal is struck is reviewed by credit rating agencies, and b) the higher rates would only be required if revenue from the new roads fails to meet requirements set by the lending agreements.

© 2009 Dallas Morning News:

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Tuesday, December 08, 2009

"This sort of behavior is why the public trust in our elected officials is at an all time low..."

Medina calls Perry Arrogant Aristocracy - “Allow Texans to hear all candidates."


The Cypress Times
Copyright 2009

There have been many invitations to participate in debates and forums coming through our (Debra Medina's) office. The public certainly deserves to hear from each of the candidates.

Unfortunately, we’re receiving multiple reports that each time we confirm, the governor cancels. It seems that Rick Perry has learned, over the years, that in order to protect his incumbent status he must be in total control of who he is on stage with and holds the media hostage to his demands.

University of Houston students planned a huge Texas gubernatorial forum. Sixteen Republican and non partisan conservative organizations came together to host the event. They rented the theatre and called the media. Production took months. They called Rick Perry’s office to make sure they scheduled it on a day when he could attend. In the end, after months of planning and selling tickets to cover the cost, Perry would not show. The students and other groups had to return ticket money in disappointment.

In early November, the Texas Press Association scheduled a gubernatorial debate in Galveston. “We thought it would be great for the city of Galveston to have the publicity surrounding such an event,” stated Ed Sterling of the Association. The city would have benefited economically and since the devastation of Hurricane Ike they have undergone a tremendous amount of hardship. The invitations were sent and Rick Perry and Kay Bailey were confirmed. Debra Medina was confirmed and two days later we were told the event was canceled as the demands of Rick Perry were not being met. The sponsor had invited all the candidates.

KERA, a public broadcasting station in Dallas, is publicizing that Rick Perry and Kay Bailey will be debating on January 14th. During an interview earlier in the year, they had assured us that Debra would be included as she had already met the criteria of the station. “When I called on November 19th, Shelley Kofler, News Director for KERA let me know that Debra is not invited to debate at this time, even though we meet their criteria,” said Penny Langford Freeman, Medina’s campaign manager. “There are demands by the other candidates, even to where the mic and the seating is placed. So much cost goes into the production that we can’t risk having the two front runner candidates canceling.” Kofler stated.

This is how fat cat incumbents perpetuate their political career: holding the media hostage to their demands thus preventing open and transparent debate by all the candidates.

“I have been a grass roots activist for a long time. I have seen this type of thing go on and voters deserve to know about it. Governor Perry has taken on the attitude of arrogant aristocracy. This sort of behavior is why the public trust in our elected officials is at an all time low and the word “politician” has become synonymous with “cheat and liar,” said challenger Debra Medina.

“We know that it is not against the law for Rick Perry to cancel but the arrogant demands that he be allowed to dictate who else is on stage is a tragic abuse of power that ultimately harms the very public he is sworn to serve,” Medina added.

Why does Rick Perry have so little respect for the voters and the rule of law? Why doesn’t he want to have healthy debate with all of the candidates? “I will tell you why” said Langford Freeman, “Not only is he arrogant. He does not want you to hear what is really going on in this state and he knows that Debra Medina is dedicated to telling the truth.”

The Debra Medina campaign will press on all fronts to insure that the people are given the opportunity to hear from all the candidates. “If Rick Perry wants what is best for Texas, he will stop these aristocratic power plays and show up to debate ALL candidates. Texans deserve to hear that debate,” said Medina.

“We are demanding that he come down off of his royal high horse and talk to the people who pay his salary,” Langford Freeman said.

© 2009 The Cypress Times:

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"Our governor holds meaningless signing ceremonies, and declares himself to be a property rights supporter... his words and actions do not line up."

Eminent domain reform 60-day plan outlined


Southwest Farm Press
Copyright 2009

Kay Bailey Hutchison greeted members of the state’s largest farm organization with a pledge to fix a broken eminent domain system within 60 days of when she takes office as the new Texas governor.

“As governor, I will make reforming our state’s eminent domain laws a priority, and I will designate that issue an emergency item during the 82nd legislative session,” Hutchison told the more than 1,200 farmers and ranchers gathered at the Fort Worth Convention Center Monday for the 76th annual Texas Farm Bureau state convention.

“You will never have to worry about government ever again taking your property for a less than public reason once I’m in the governor’s office,” she said. “We will fix eminent domain.”

Lawmakers must better define “public use” and “economic development,” she said. “I will also see to it that landowners or their heirs can repurchase condemned property for the original purchase price whenever a planned project is canceled or extensively delayed.”

Hutchison also vowed to include consideration of diminished access to property when calculating a fair level of compensation, something current Gov. Rick Perry shunned in past attempts to remedy eminent domain laws in the state.

“Protection of private property interests is critical,” Hutchison said. “Our current governor says he believes this, too. He holds meaningless signing ceremonies at the Alamo, and declares himself to be a property rights supporter. Unfortunately, this is another area where his words and his actions do not line up.”

Texas Farm Bureau has made eminent domain reform a priority in the last two legislative sessions in Austin. In 2007, the organization fought relentlessly for HB 2006, which would have overhauled the state’s eminent domain policies. After winning the Senate and the House, the legislation died at the hand of Perry’s veto pen.

When similar legislation bogged down earlier this year in the 81st session, Perry failed to show the leadership necessary to get the bill passed, nor did he bother adding the issue to the agenda of his special called session, said Kenneth Dierschke, president of Texas Farm Bureau and TFB’s Friends of Agriculture Fund Inc. (AGFUND), the organization’s political action arm.

“AGFUND’s support of Kay Bailey Hutchison as the next governor of Texas is a matter of trust,” Dierschke said. “We’ve always been able to take Sen. Hutchison at her word, and she will do more of the same as governor of Texas at a time that is of critical importance to farmers, ranchers and property owners in our state.”

In addition to defining her eminent domain policies, Hutchison railed against Perry’s management of the Texas Department of Transportation and its supposed twice killed Trans-Texas Corridor, known by many in the Farm Bureau as the biggest land grab in state history.

© 2009 Southwest Farm Press:

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"It's folly to think there will be enough money from the taxpayers to pay all this debt back."

Tone-deaf politicians vote for WHOPPING 57 toll projects!


Terri Hall
Copyright 2009

Despite the overwhelming outcry against toll roads in our community, the San Antonio Bexar County Metropolitan Planning Organization (or MPO) voted to put 57 toll projects into its long-range plan yesterday.

There will be no escaping the reaches of this new tax on driving in Bexar County.

Removing controversial private toll contracts that hand our public roads over to private, usually foreign, corporations for a half century from the MPO's plan is a HUGE victory, but seems of little consolation when the Board voted for a plan that will amount to the largest tax increase in the history of Bexar County.

Today's Express-News article makes it appear as though tolls were just kept as an "option," however, the Federal Highway Administration has stated if a project is designated in an MPO plan as tolled, they will only approve what's consistent with the MPO's plan. So non-toll options are NOT on the table for these projects.

Sampling of the toll projects just approved:

-Hwy 90 (from 410 to 211)
- I-10 (from 410 to county line)
- ALL of Loop 1604 (not just the north half)
- 281 (from Loop 1604 to Comal County line)
- I-37 (from 410 S to the Atascosa County line)
- Bandera Rd (from 410 to 1604 still appears despite amendment to remove it)
- interchange at I-10 & 1604
- interchange at 281 & 1604 (northbound ramps)
- interchange at 1604 & 151
- interchange at 1604 & 90
- interchange at 1604 & 1-35
- interchange at I-35 & 410
- Kelly Pkwy/Spur 371 (US 90 to SH 16)
- ALL of I-35 (from Atascosa to Comal County line), and more!

Two elected officials on the board were no shows, Senator Jeff Wentworth and Bexar County Commissioner Chico Rodriguez (Councilwoman Jennifer Ramos attended but left the meeting prior to the vote on the 57 toll projects), so yesterday's decisions were largely made by appointees who don't even answer to the taxpayers, including two votes by TxDOT employees that cast votes for their own projects in a colossal conflict of interest.

TxDOT, despite its total lack of credibility having presided over a $1.1 billion "accounting error," two botched environmental studies for the US 281 toll road, and the abuse of taxpayer money to hire registered lobbyists and implement a PR campaign to lobby for toll roads and the Trans Texas Corridor, has convinced most MPO Board members that the sky will fall and all projects marked "toll" will fall out of the plan if they don't continue to do Rick Perry's bidding and designate virtually all new capacity to our roadways for tolling. This same chicanery is being played out in all the urban MPOs.

There are other solutions, like changing the financial assumptions to include the most fiscally conservative way to fund highways, a modest gas tax increase, instead of reliance on tolling, but TxDOT persistently manipulates the numbers to make any gas tax solution appear to fall short of the "need." A study done by the Texas Transportation Institute at Texas A&M stated that an 8 cent gas tax increase indexed to inflation would preclude the need for a single toll road in the state of Texas, yet TxDOT sticks to its talking points that it would take $1.00 or more gas tax increase to fix our "unfunded" roads.

What's truly amazing is that anyone would fall for such nonsense coming from an agency that's lost the trust of lawmakers and taxpayers alike. The Sunset Commission issued a scathing review of TxDOT two years ago and it's clear this agency is broken, but how to fix it is what's gnawing at many lawmakers. We say, elect a new governor and fumigate the TxDOT Greer building in Austin for a total house cleaning for starters.

Locals to pick-up the tab for STATE highways

Though there are conflicting reports about when this language showed-up, the MPO just adopted a plan that requires ALL available funds to be "leveraged" and requires the locals to come-up with the cost of maintaining any new capacity to STATE highways. TxDOT District Engineer, Mario Medina, told the MPO Board in no uncertain terms that "if you want to build new roads, you're going to have to find a way to pay for the maintenance of them."

This is yet another unfunded mandate coming from an unelected, out of control state agency in Austin that's making local taxpayers pay for what's the State's job - to build and maintain STATE highways. Last I checked, TxDOT has its own budget for road maintenance and many lawmakers have complained about TxDOT dumping more and more of its money into maintenance and diverting it away from new construction in order to push tolling.

Requiring ALL available funds to be leveraged means an increase in local taxes or tolling. Leveraging also means DEBT, heaps of it. So this means we won't be able to take gas tax money and build an overpass or expand a road, now the local MPO will have to leverage ALL its monies by borrowing against it or matching it with local tax money in order to get access to the money we already pay the state for state roads.

Representative David Leibowitz tried to strip these unfunded mandates from the plan, but the same culprits who voted to keep 281 and 1604 toll roads after 5 1/2 hours of public testimony AGAINST the toll roads on October 26 at Alzafar Shrine, voted to keep these requirements in the MPO plan.

MPO members who voted to increase debt, taxes, and the likelihood of massive tolling:

Commissioner Kevin Wolff
Councilman John Clamp
Councilman Ray Lopez
Selma Councilman Bill Weeper
Two TxDOT votes
Two Via votes
One county employee
Two city employees

The only board members voting for the taxpayers were:

State Representative David Leibowitz
Commissioner Tommy Adkisson
Mayor of Leon Valley Chris Riley
Councilman Reed Williams

The board also unanimously voted to find the money to do an independent study of non-toll options for 281 north (advanced by Com. Kevin Wolff) and the west side of 1604 (from Bandera Rd to Hwy 90, advanced by Rep. David Leibowitz). Leibowitz noted that such a side-by-side comparison of toll versus non-toll proposals should have been studied years ago prior to the board turning these projects into toll roads. Exactly! In fact, for US 281, TxDOT already has a valid non-toll plan that it refuses to acknowledge or sponsor that is less than half the cost to build as the RMA's toll road (one-tenth the cost when you factor in the toll road debt). It's truly an egregious waste of $500,000 of taxpayer money to hire outside consultants to do what our highway department run by Rick Perry refuses to do.

TURF Statement to MPO Board prior to vote

(Edited for clarity) Having 57 toll projects in your long range plan will reap severe economic impacts on this community, impacts that have not been properly studied nor considered before entering into such a plan. A very conservative estimate of the debt required to get these projects off the ground is $20 billion dollars! The level of discretionary income in this community cannot sustain this level of debt much less the level of new taxation required to pay it all back. TxDOT's current two-year budget shows that anticipated toll revenues ($1 billion) do not even cover half the debt service payments ($2.5 billion in payments for just the next two years, we're $12 billion in debt TOTAL) we already require as a state. It's folly to think there will be enough money from the taxpayers to pay all this debt back. In fact, much of our current gas tax is going to cover debt service for toll roads. This is, in part, why the money to fix our roads without tolls is disappearing.

The overwhelming public feedback at the MPO's visioning sessions that began several years ago was not only opposed to tolling, but especially handing our public roads to private, usually foreign, corporations using CDAs. Your draft long range plan even states this in the public involvement section. Given this information, what is the point of federally mandated public involvement if this board submits a plan to the feds that does the exact opposite of what the public feedback asks you to do?

We believe the way this plan was drafted has serious problems.

The RMA revised the project list, including changes in the scope and costs of its projects, and submitted it as late as December 3, just 4 days before scheduled adoption today, December 7. For instance, the RMA lists the cost for the northbound ramps to the 281/1604 interchange as $59 million, yet it's bloated the cost for the southbound ramps to $140 million (we found out during the MPO meeting that $20 million of that is going to the RMA to "manage the project"). We believe the higher cost is to eat-up the stimulus money on fixing anything but 281 north.

Originally the RMA promised to fix 281 north non-toll "if a pot of money dropped out of the sky from somewhere." In came the stimulus money...but documents submitted to a legislative committee showed it submitted the 281 project as a toll road, though it would have been paid for with stimulus money. Then, the RMA dropped 281 altogether and promised to build the WHOLE 281/1604 interchange non-toll with stimulus money, then they cut the project in half and never revised the cost downward. The RMA wants to toll the northbound ramps to connect to a future toll road on 281, so since it's tied to the 281 toll project, the feds told them they couldn't build the northbound ramps until the new environmental study for 281 is complete. So now we're paying for the cost of a WHOLE interchange and only getting half of it simply because the tolling authority, the RMA, wants to toll those northbound ramps!

The latest road project list removes some of the toll language (I believe from the unfunded list), yet the projects are still anticipated for tolling and this smacks of chicanery meant to hide information and deceive the public as to what the MPO is really putting in its plans. In fact, the initial presentation of the MTP draft to this policy board was Sept 28 and the MPO staff completely re-wrote parts of it and distributed a totally different draft just 3 days later at its October 1 Open House, including a totally new set of financial assumptions and the inclusion of CDAs. Again, this wreaks of trying to hide the truth. Also, parts of the draft given to the public on October 1 weren't even filled in and had key financial figures filled in with merely "XXX."

Having the project list and parts of the MTP revised multiple times since the ONE public hearing held October 1 (which was to fulfill the requirement in the MPO bylaws Policy 5 for public involvement to have at least one public hearing for any major updates to the MTP. There's also a requirement that the MPO follow its two-step plan for MTP/TIP updates and allow a 30 day public comment period), there should be a new public hearing held in order to brief the public on the new proposed changes to the MTP (like the project list, number of toll projects, CDAs, and a review of projects costs, etc.) and a subsequent 30 day review for public comment (basically start the 30 day review over again since the MTP draft has changed multiple times without notifying the public and starting the 30 day process over again). Neither the MPO's two-step process nor the public hearing requirements were properly fulfilled in how this plan was put together, especially considering the cost and scope of several projects were changed at the last minute.

We'd like a parliamentary ruling on whether or not it's permissible to take a vote on this plan today.

© 2009

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