Toll road politics stirred up in Texas

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HoustonFreeways

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Aug 24, 2004, 9:02:41 PM8/24/04
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Austin's plan to become toll road capital of America (well, maybe Orlando
will still have more miles for the time being) is stirring up the political
pot. A local group is actively trying to force a recall of Austin Mayor Will
Wynn. Texas Comptroller Carole Strayhorn and Senator Hutchinson have come
out against the governor's policy of large-scale freeway-to-tollway
conversions.


http://www.statesman.com/metrostate/content/auto/epaper/editions/tuesday/metro_state_14a29e60a5e2e03400b6.html

Austin recall effort
www.austinTollParty.com (like the Boston Tea Party)

TxDOT has now turned its sights on Dallas to start converting freeways into
tollways. Public awareness is near zero around here and local officials are
trying to sneak the plan through.

swissJohn29

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Aug 25, 2004, 4:26:07 AM8/25/04
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"HoustonFreeways" <eslo...@NOcomcastSPAM.com> wrote in message news:<KvCdnWlmjIO...@comcast.com>...

> TxDOT has now turned its sights on Dallas to start converting freeways into
> tollways. Public awareness is near zero around here and local officials are
> trying to sneak the plan through.

The Dallas paper today ran a picture (unfortunately, not including an
article) of protesters alongside TX 121 displaying signs against the
possibility of tolling parts of the highway in the stretch east of
I-35E, including The Colony (about where the picture was taken). One
of the banners shows a website (www.stop121tolls.com) but when I tried
to look it up, it was a goose-egg. I've seen articles recently where
121 can be finished without tolling, and then some that raise the
possibility of partial/full tolls; I'm wondering how this is really
going to turn out....

I've also read about other projects that were supposedly originally
fundable (Loop 49 around Tyler, a new Loop 456 (or US 69?) bypass of
Jacksonville, etc.) but then, they either say in the same article or a
later article about the **possibility** of tolling them fully or
partially. I'm not really sure a lot of those that will be in the
area of a rural tolled highway in east Texas will go out of their way
to _pay_ when a nearby side road is free.

swissJohn29

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Aug 26, 2004, 2:53:13 AM8/26/04
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us...@hotmail.com (swissJohn29) wrote in message news:<d06d2dc8.04082...@posting.google.com>...

> "HoustonFreeways" <eslo...@NOcomcastSPAM.com> wrote in message news:<KvCdnWlmjIO...@comcast.com>...
>
> > TxDOT has now turned its sights on Dallas to start converting freeways into
> > tollways. Public awareness is near zero around here and local officials are
> > trying to sneak the plan through.
>
> The Dallas paper today ran a picture (unfortunately, not including an
> article) of protesters alongside TX 121 displaying signs against the
> possibility of tolling parts of the highway in the stretch east of
> I-35E, including The Colony (about where the picture was taken). One
> of the banners shows a website (www.stop121tolls.com) but when I tried
> to look it up, it was a goose-egg.

I tried the stop121tolls site tonight and it's working now.

HoustonFreeways

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Aug 26, 2004, 10:52:40 PM8/26/04
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Here's the latest report from the Austin American Statesman

Also, my new anti-toll web site is up. It targets Transportation Commission
Chairman Ric Williamson, a pro-toll madman who is Governor Rick Perry's
henchman on transportation issues.

http://www.firericwilliamson.com

It includes the "exclusive" cartoon featuring Rick Perry and Ric Williamson


Commentary: Dave McNeely
Road plan could take a toll on governor

AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF

Thursday, August 26, 2004

As Gov. Rick Perry heads to New York for the Republican National Convention
that begins Monday, back home in Texas his backing of tolls on existing
highways may be backfiring.

Already, two potential Republican opponents, U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison
and Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn, said the trend being pushed by
Perry and his chief toll road warrior, Texas Transportation Commission
Chairman Ric Williamson, is wrong.

"The tolling trend is not one I support," Hutchison said recently at a Texas
Transportation Summit in Irving. "If you go out to people and say you're
going to build a toll road, that's OK. But I do not think we should put
tolls on freeways we've already paid for. You've got to keep faith with the
people."

As usual, Strayhorn was even more outspoken.

Strayhorn said Monday that though she included toll roads as one possibility
for new highways in a 2001 report, she would be for them "only if they are
designed, considered, debated and built as toll roads from the beginning."

"What this governor is doing is taking existing highway projects that are on
the verge of completion and turning them into toll roads at the last
minute," Strayhorn said.

"To me, making drivers pay a toll on a road that is already funded is double
taxation," Strayhorn said.

She said Perry and other transportation officials who have endorsed the idea
"should not cram toll roads down (Texans') throats."

Hutchison, who chairs the Senate subcommittee on transportation, said she
hopes to increase the amount of Texas fuel taxes returned to the state.

The federal tax is 18.4 cents per gallon. The state currently gets back 90.5
cents for each dollar collected in Texas, Hutchison's office said. After
administrative expenses, Texas drivers sent about $2.5 billion to other
states in the past six years, a Hutchison spokesman said.

Meanwhile, state Sen. Kip Averitt, R-McGregor, says he still thinks adding a
nickel to the state's tax of 20 cents per gallon tax is a good idea.

"We're talking about doing toll roads that cost 15 cents a mile," said
Averitt, who proposed a nickel tax increase in 2001 while in the Texas House
of Representatives.

He noted that Perry and other toll backers "are getting some kickback on
that idea, especially when they're talking about tolling existing roads."

As of Wednesday, the governor's office had received more than 3,000 letters
and calls, all opposing the tolls, and many of them identical, spokeswoman
Kathy Walt said.

The state tax was last raised in 1991, from 15 to 20 cents a gallon.
Inflation since then means that if the tax were increased another nickel,
drivers would still pay less state tax per gallon than they did in 1991.

"A nickel-a-gallon, pay-as-you-go user fee makes all the sense in the world
to me," Averitt said.

"It's going to be a little bit harder politically now to get it done than it
would have been when I first proposed it, because of the price of gasoline,"
Averitt said. "But it's still a viable option that we should explore."


David J. Lynch

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Aug 27, 2004, 7:05:48 PM8/27/04
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swissJohn29 wrote:
> I've also read about other projects that were supposedly originally
> fundable (Loop 49 around Tyler, a new Loop 456 (or US 69?) bypass of
> Jacksonville, etc.) but then, they either say in the same article or a
> later article about the **possibility** of tolling them fully or
> partially. I'm not really sure a lot of those that will be in the
> area of a rural tolled highway in east Texas will go out of their way
> to _pay_ when a nearby side road is free.

What I understood at the time the time the TTC made the decision was
that the default is for *all* new high-speed, controlled-access highways
in Texas to be toll, unless specifically designated as free. Existing
alignments only would have free service/access/feeder roads.

As far as Austin goes, I believe I heard that the plan just approved by
CAMPO has more toll miles that Dallas and Houston combined. And, from
the perspective of a resident of Austin, it's insane. There is one
stretch of Loop 1/MoPac south, at William Cannon Dr, where there is a
toll fifty cents to miss a single traffic light. While I have no doubt
that a good number of people in that area can (and will) pay the toll, I
don't think there's going to be the reduction in traffic trying to cross
William Cannon that the overpass (which already had all of the
structural beams in place when the tolling decision was made) was
intended to create. There are similar worries for the tollway upgrade at
the other end of Loop 1, according to this morning's Austin
American-Statesman article about yesterday's Texas Transportation
Commission meeting.
<http://www.statesman.com/metrostate/content/auto/epaper/editions/friday/metro_state_14e2dd84306341f4007f.html>

swissJohn29

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Sep 6, 2004, 11:56:17 PM9/6/04
to
"HoustonFreeways" <eslo...@NOcomcastSPAM.com> wrote in message news:<KvCdnWlmjIO...@comcast.com>...

> TxDOT has now turned its sights on Dallas to start converting freeways into


> tollways. Public awareness is near zero around here and local officials are
> trying to sneak the plan through.

Here's another article....

http://www.zwire.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=12832520&BRD=1426&PAG=461&dept_id=528208&rfi=6

Task force formed to study proposed SH 121 tolls
09/02/2004
BY AMY MORENZ
STAFF WRITER (Plano Star-Courier)

Growing questions about turning the Collin County portion of State
Highway 121's main lanes into toll roads are being examined by a new
task force, County Judge Ron Harris said at a meeting late Monday.

A task force of county, Texas Department of Transportation and North
Texas Tollway Authority experts will soon answer issues posed by
Collin County's cities.

Harris updated Plano city, school district and Collin County Community
College leaders about the SH 121 corridor at a joint meeting Monday
among those entities.

"We are in no rush to approve this (tolls) until the answers are
there," Harris said. "The concept is still very sketchy to us. It's
awful enticing, but we want to make sure the revenues are there to pay
off the bonds."

The North Central Texas Council of Governments' Texas Metropolitan
Mobility Plan approved this month calls for tolling SH 121's currently
unfunded main lanes. Revenues from those lanes would pay for county
projects like North Central Expressway improvements and the
SH121-North Central Expressway (U.S. Highway 75) interchange. The
interchange's cost estimates have climbed from $80 million to $150
million, Harris said.

The county has been told that toll lanes would likely expedite
completing SH 121, said Ruben Delgado, Collin County's engineering
director.

The frontage lanes between Dallas North Tollway and Central Expressway
should be completed in 2008, Delgado said.

"Without the tolls, I don't know when we would have the main lanes,
period. My best guess is 2015," Delgado said. "With them, it would
probably be about 2010 to 2012."

State legislators approved the toll concept to overcome Texas'
declining gas tax proceeds and deal with its air quality issues.

McKinney has endorsed tolling SH 121's main lanes, but no other Collin
County city has officially voted. To the west, Denton County cities
are expressing increased support for tolls for their stretch of the
highway.

Construction started Aug. 23 on a six-lane controlled-access highway
for 5.8 miles of SH 121's frontage roads between Old Denton Road and
Dallas North Tollway.

Opposition is increasing statewide since the legislature gave
localities the authority to impose highway tolls, state Rep. Jerry
Madden told officials Monday.

Legislators are repeatedly receiving the same e-mail questioning the
idea. In North Texas, the Stop 121 Tolls coalition is leading the
opposition.

Madden approved the initial legislation allowing tolls for funded
highway projects. Madden has not made up his mind about which way the
SH 121 toll issue should be resolved.

As Collin County's point person on the new task force, Delgado will
review a previously confidential Texas Transportation Department
(TxDOT) study.

The "sketch" study said adding toll lanes works if every lane is
electronic and no right-of-way is required. The report said adding
tolls could generate $600 million in 40 years and repay bonds in 22
years, Delgado said.

"The study done in Austin is not consistent with how the North Texas
Tollway Authority would do it," said NTTA Chair Don Dillard. "If do a
study, you need to use the right assumptions," Dillard said.

"A lot of premises were used for the report to be looked at in more
detail," Delgado said. "All of our projections have been conservative.
We've been growing much faster than those projections."

The Regional Transportation Council is expected to finalize its
highway allocations Sept. 9.

Prospective SH 121 projects include construction of an eight-lane
freeway with frontage road from the Tarrant County line to Denton
Creek and six main lanes from Denton Creek to the Dallas North
Parkway.

The proposal does not include an estimated $50 million to build main
lanes between Hillcrest Road and Central Expressway.

Plano Mayor Pat Evans wants to learn more about Collin County's
prospective proceeds, especially for the section between the tollway
and Hillcrest.

"What about the portion between the tollway and Hillcrest? Do we have
a guarantee of keeping that money for Collin County?" Evans asked.

Collin County has received assumptions, but no hard data on the
distribution of toll revenues, Delgado said.

Dillard believes the George Bush Turnpike could serve as an example
for SH 121's future. Although initially opposed to tolls on the
turnpike, Dillard is now involved in the SH 121 task force.

The George Bush Turnpike was ultimately developed as a partnership
between NTTA and TxDOT.

"Whether it is free or not is up to the people in this room," Dillard
said.
Residents have until Sept. 9 to comment on the Metropolitan Mobility
Plan that includes the SH 121 toll concept.

Comments and questions can be submitted by mail to North Central Texas
Council of Governments, Transportation Department, P.O. Box 5888,
Arlington, TX 76005-5888; by phone to 817-695-9240; by fax to
817-640-3028; by e-mail to lha...@nctcog.org.

More information is available at the Web site for the North Central
Texas Council of Governments at www.nctcog.org/trans.

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