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State approves bid for I-35 toll alternative (hmmm, I wonder...)
Austin American Statesman ^ | Dec. 17, 2004 | Ben Wear

Posted on 12/16/2004 6:51:41 PM PST by BobL

State approves bid for I-35 toll alternative

Spanish group led by Cintra and Zachry would pay for $6 billion of turnpikes, and give state a $1.2 billion concession payment.

By Ben Wear

AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF

The Texas Transportation Commission, not prone to staring at the mouths of gift horses, today chose a consortium to build an alternative to Interstate 35 that pledges to construct most of that road on its own dime.

Actually, the partnership led by Spanish tollroad operator Cintra and Zachry Construction corporation would spend $6 billion worth of its dimes to lay down a four-lane toll road from San Antonio to Dallas — and give the state $1.2 billion to boot.

Cintra and Zachry would construct more than 300 miles of highway, leaving a gap only for Texas 130. The corridor road would tie into the south and north ends of Texas 130, a tollroad currently under construction by Lone Star Infrastructure. Lone Star's primary partner is Fluor Enterprises Inc., one of the two losing bidders today.

The Cintra-Zachry consortium would then have a concession to charge tolls on the road for the next 50 years. The toll rates would be subject to approval by the transportation commission.

If the Texas Department of Transportation and the Cintra-Zachry group can work out a final contract in the next two months, then officials expect construction could start on the first segment from Austin to San Antonio by 2007. The other four segments would begin in 2009 and 2010, with completion of the entire route by the end of 2014.

Cintra and Zachry, along with about 16 other subcontractors, would also build other segments of the I-35 alternative and might participate in freight rail relocation projects, as well as other elements of the corridor project in decades to come.

Gov. Rick Perry, who proposed the 4,000-mile Trans-Texas Corridor during the 2002 election campaign, made an unusual appearance at today's commission meeting, joining the commissioners on the dais for a long presentation on the I-35 alternative. At the end, Perry, who has taken hits from every direction for what many saw as an unrealistic pipe dream, took a few minutes for a rhetorical victory lap.

"When our hair is gray, we will be able to tell our grandchildren that we were in a Texas Department of Transportation meeting room when one of the most extraordinary plans was laid out for the people of Texas," Perry said. "I hope there are a lot of people in this room that are knocked back on their heels saying, 'I can't believe it.' Well, believe it."

Just how Cintra and Zachry can afford to lay out all of the money, give the state $1.2 billion for the right to operate the roads, and then make money, remained unclear Thursday.

Jose Lopez, United States and Latin America director for Cintra, said the toll rates would be comparable to current Texas toll rates, generally between 10 cents and 20 cents a mile for passenger cars and three to four times that for large trucks. And he said the company's financial plan did not include making money off concessions along the roads such as fast food joints or gas stations.

Cintra and Zachry, simply put, believe that if they build it, the drivers will come. One possible incentive: The 2003 legislation that allowed the state to build the Trans-Texas Corridor, or let someone else build and operate it, allows speed limits on the road of up to 85 miles per hour.


TOPICS: Government; Miscellaneous; News/Current Events; US: Texas
KEYWORDS: i35; texas; toll; tollroad; transportation; trolls
Pardon me if I seem a bit suspicious here, but I'm supposed to believe that a private company is willing to spend $7.2 Billion of its own money to build a toll road that runs parallel to a freeway that is mostly underutilized. Something tells me that it would be a good idea to take a close look at whatever ends up getting signed.

The bottom line:

Tolls will have to be imposed on I-35 (currently a freeway), simply because Governor Perry's White Knight will require it. Otherwise no sane CEO would ever drop that kind of money.

If you want to know why the Republican Governor here is about to get creamed in the Primary, this is a prime example.

1 posted on 12/16/2004 6:51:41 PM PST by BobL
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To: BobL; TXnMA

TTC Ping


2 posted on 12/16/2004 6:54:17 PM PST by BobL
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To: BobL

7 billion dollar contract could make every politician in Texas
a millionaire several times over.

What a vehicle for corruption this deal is.


3 posted on 12/16/2004 6:59:12 PM PST by dwilli
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To: BobL
He can't, federal law prohibits tolls being placed on any Freeway which federal funds were spent building.
4 posted on 12/16/2004 7:00:25 PM PST by Brellium
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To: BobL

Sounds like a horse swindle to me.


5 posted on 12/16/2004 7:04:51 PM PST by Endeavor
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To: BobL

The I35 corridor between San Antonio and Austin is in the Final stages of upgrade to 4 Lane, New Braunfels and San Marcos being the few remaining bottlenecks, But this portion is already close to capacity, IMHO. But, living in Texas most my Life I do smell a RAT here. Thats a lot of money, someones gonna pay and it will probably be the taxpayers of Texas if the past is any indication.


6 posted on 12/16/2004 7:06:54 PM PST by corbe (mystified)
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To: BobL

I'm suspicious too, but do you really think I-35 is underutilized? I drive the section between Austin and Dallas fairly regularly, and feel I'm taking my life in my hands with every white knuckled trip. It's congested and dangerous, and road rage seems to be on the increase.


7 posted on 12/16/2004 7:07:38 PM PST by McLynnan
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To: Publius

Know anything about this?


8 posted on 12/16/2004 7:07:42 PM PST by Willie Green
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To: Brellium
That's why he's able to get away with this money grab. People don't think he's going to pull the plug on our "Free" freeways. He's about to.

You haven't seen the latest transportation bill that Congress is about to pass - it starts the process of tolling on the existing interstates.

Also, take a look at this article:
http://www.borderlandnews.com/stories/borderland/20040925-172793.shtml

It talks about putting toll booths up on I-10 near El Paso. While the plan did get rejected, the article makes no mention of the feds preventing the tolling.

There are similar plans in work in Pennsylvania (I-80), and Virginia (I-81), both of which are currently freeways were paid off long ago. These plans are still active, as far as I know.
9 posted on 12/16/2004 7:09:54 PM PST by BobL
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To: BobL
more info here.
http://www.corridorwatch.org/ttc/index.htm
10 posted on 12/16/2004 7:17:50 PM PST by red-dawg
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To: BobL
First we pay to build the Interstate System then we pay for the privilege of driving on it? Are they even going to kiss us after their through?
11 posted on 12/16/2004 7:24:47 PM PST by LPM1888 (What are the facts? Again and again and again -- what are the facts? - Lazarus Long)
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To: McLynnan

"I'm suspicious too, but do you really think I-35 is underutilized? I drive the section between Austin and Dallas fairly regularly, and feel I'm taking my life in my hands with every white knuckled trip. It's congested and dangerous, and road rage seems to be on the increase."

Yes, there is heavy traffic on that stretch at times, but even so, is the traffic bad enough to drive people off of I-35 and have them pay 15 to 20 cents per mile - to pay off a $7 Billion investment. I can't see how. Maybe 20 or 30 years from now there could be some spillover traffic, but no company in its right mind would wait that long for its return on investment.


12 posted on 12/16/2004 7:27:29 PM PST by BobL
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To: red-dawg

Familiar - thanks.


13 posted on 12/16/2004 7:28:50 PM PST by BobL
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To: BobL
Cintra Consortium-(Cintra, Concesiones de Infraestructuras de Transporte, S.A.)

Cintra
Ferrovial-Agromán
Zachry Construction Corporation
Earth Tech, Inc.
PriceWaterhouseCooper
JP Morgan Securities
Bracewell & Patterson
Pate Engineers, Inc.
Aguirre & Fields LP
Rodriguez Transportation Group
OTHON, Inc.
Railroad Industries Incorporated
Amey
Mercator
Public Resources Advisory Group
Southwestern Capital Markets
National Corporate Network
HRM Consultants

14 posted on 12/16/2004 7:29:48 PM PST by PeaceBeWithYou (De Oppresso Liber! (50 million and counting in Afganistan and Iraq))
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To: BobL

It's going to get worse.
The politicians are taking more and more liberties in the way they act towards the "people".
They can get away with just about anything, these days, and they know it.
They and the "elite" think they are some kind of royalty with God given rights to take anything they want.


15 posted on 12/16/2004 7:30:15 PM PST by philetus (Zell Miller - One of the few)
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To: Willie Green

Yes. This is part of the Trans-Texas Corridors project. Go to the Texas DOT website and click on the appropriate links.


16 posted on 12/16/2004 7:33:51 PM PST by Publius
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To: philetus
"The politicians are taking more and more liberties in the way they act towards the "people"."

Tell me about it. One byproduct of the toll road conversion is that we all get to drive around with little transponders in our car, so that our "friends" in Austin can keep an eye on us. As far as I know, the State of Texas has no privacy provisions for this data, so anyone with access, for any reason, can keep an eye on us, and figure out our patterns. Don't be surprised that in the near-future, the state starts selling this data to people like private employers.
17 posted on 12/16/2004 7:43:26 PM PST by BobL
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To: BobL
runs parallel to a freeway that is mostly underutilized.

Mostly underutilized? Have you driven between Dallas and Austin on I-35? Add a few hundred Mexican trucks a week thanks to NAFTA, and you'll have folks more than willing to pay the cost of a tank of gas to ride a tollway at 85 mph.

18 posted on 12/16/2004 7:53:33 PM PST by PAR35
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To: PAR35

There certainly will be people willing to pay to get out of the traffic - but will there be enough people to do that, for this company to get anything close to a reasonable return on investment? I just can't see how - unless the state removes the freeway option for the same route ($7.2 Billion is LOT of money).


19 posted on 12/16/2004 7:59:36 PM PST by BobL
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To: BobL
($7.2 Billion is LOT of money).

I certainly wouldn't invest any of my money in such a project. Most of the tollways around urban areas such as Dallas, Houston and Atlanta seem to make more sense economically (although the Hardy toll road would make more sense if it actually went anywhere).

20 posted on 12/16/2004 8:08:55 PM PST by PAR35
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To: Willie Green; BobL
For info on the Trans Texas Corridor, see: Corridor Watch

Would you believe 4,000 miles of 1/4 mile- wide rights-of-way containing

That's a roughly 1,000 square mile land grab...

(Thanx for the ping, BobL...)

21 posted on 12/16/2004 8:08:58 PM PST by TXnMA (Back home in God's Country -- and that's where I plan to stay until they "plant" my carcass here!)
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To: BobL

Be nice if the headline told us which state.


22 posted on 12/16/2004 8:09:27 PM PST by Xenalyte (Anything is possible when you don't understand how anything happens.)
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To: BobL

Are you saying that they plan to eventually remove I 35?


23 posted on 12/16/2004 8:10:05 PM PST by Ben Ficklin
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To: PAR35
"I certainly wouldn't invest any of my money in such a project. Most of the tollways around urban areas such as Dallas, Houston and Atlanta seem to make more sense economically (although the Hardy toll road would make more sense if it actually went anywhere)."

Exactly - the key is to have a monopoly or a captive audience if you want to make money in this business. If you don't have one or the other, you will lose your shirt. In this case, the company doesn't appear to have either - which is why it would be a really good idea for people to review exactly what our Governor is committing this state to (maybe a guaranteed return on investment - who knows?)
24 posted on 12/16/2004 8:21:08 PM PST by BobL
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To: All; BobL

The starter of this thread is completely misleading on this issue, as was exposed in this thread:

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1299709/posts

Forced to adjust his tune several times as one lie after another was exposed by numerous posters.

The bottom line is that this freeway corridor is crowded, with nearly 250,000 more residents added EACH YEAR! Additionally this is the primary corridor for freight coming out of Mexico into the US. Yes the demand is there, ask anyone who has to travel I-35 any weekend, or commute it in San Antonio, Austin, Ft. Worth, and Dallas. The 85 mph speed limit will be a big draw, and by tolling this will be built years before TXDOT could afford to do it. The reason for that is the company can borrow against the long-term future revenue stream, quickly raising capital better than the traditional bonding process. And its a user fee, so you only pay for it if you choose to use it. Far closer to capitalism and conservatism than forcing everyone to pay for roads they may never use by exacting increased taxes without choice.


25 posted on 12/16/2004 8:21:22 PM PST by Diddle E. Squat
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To: Xenalyte

"Be nice if the headline told us which state."

Sorry, I got hit once for re-writing a headline (breach of FP protocol), so I'm a bit reluctant. But I could have put that info in parantheses somewhere. I'll me sure to sneak in next time.


26 posted on 12/16/2004 8:23:27 PM PST by BobL
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To: Willie Green; BobL; All
The TTC wil consume ~1000 square miles of land.

To put that into perspective, the land area of the entire State of Rhode Island is 1,045 square miles...

27 posted on 12/16/2004 8:25:41 PM PST by TXnMA (Back home in God's Country -- and that's where I plan to stay until they "plant" my carcass here!)
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To: PAR35
although the Hardy toll road would make more sense if it actually went anywhere

Perspective, I guess. I use the Hardy Toll Road nearly every time I go down to Houston, since more often than not I'm hearing traffic reports of an accident on I-45, and it flows far better even during rush hour. BTW, the tollway authority is about to start construction to extend it from I-610 to downtown, which will further increase its utility. Should be done within 5 years.

28 posted on 12/16/2004 8:25:52 PM PST by Diddle E. Squat
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To: TXnMA

That's also just a conceptual vision plan for the next 50 YEARS. Most of those roads won't be constructed, nor land purchased, nor even studied for several more decades.


29 posted on 12/16/2004 8:28:57 PM PST by Diddle E. Squat
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To: Diddle E. Squat

Thanks for exposing this fraud.


30 posted on 12/16/2004 8:36:02 PM PST by sinkspur ("It is a great day to be alive. I appreciate your gratitude." God Himself.)
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To: BobL; Xenalyte; John Robinson
"Be nice if the headline told us which state."

This is a perennial FR problem. The "right" way to fix it would be to add a "State" field to the "Post Article" form.

However, that could involve adding a new field into an already-running database with lots of archived records -- not something I could advocate doing...

(John, is it even worth asking?...)

31 posted on 12/16/2004 8:36:33 PM PST by TXnMA (Back home in God's Country -- and that's where I plan to stay until they "plant" my carcass here!)
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To: Diddle E. Squat
". Far closer to capitalism and conservatism than forcing everyone to pay for roads they may never use by exacting increased taxes without choice."

I can take it. I have thick skin. This gentleman obviously is either an insider or has plenty of money to burn. I meet neither of those criteria.

I would like to say that I did effectively rebut every attack on that thread. Let's also get past the capitalism / free market lines. As I said earlier, only when a company, like Flour, can find a need, take a map, draw a straight line from Point A to Point B, clear everything in its path, and then lay concrete, will you have the free market that you dream of. That's what Southwest Airlines did in a true free market. I'm waiting for you to tell me how that's done with surface transportation. The bottom line is that surface transportation will NEVER be free market. So let's move on.

What has the people upset on this thread is that the governor is committing the taxpayers of this state to a $7.2 Billion contract and I challenge anyone to produce a study showing how this project will make any money when side-by-side with a freeway. I'd also like you (or anyone) to post a copy of the following documents:

1) The Request for Proposal
2) The Proposal received and tentatively approved
3) The final contract (hopefully prior to signing)

I can PROMISE you that there will be protections of some kind for this company in those words - or they will not invest $7.2 Billion of their own money - the congestion may be bad, but it's not that bad. That is why the people on this thread can see though your defense of the governor and know they are about to get the shaft.

32 posted on 12/16/2004 8:37:36 PM PST by BobL
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To: sinkspur
"Thanks for exposing this fraud."

I guess that I wrote the article, and then I wrote the TTC plan, particularly where it says that Texas whats to buy Interstates to start tolling them (Page 16, first bullet).

I guess that I was behind the plan to put up toll booths on I-10 near El Paso, and toll booths on the existing SH-249 freeway northwest of Houston. (both later killed, but the attempt was certainly there)

You do have to have a lot of imagination to believe that this governor is not leading to a toll-road only state. Unfortunately, I don't.
33 posted on 12/16/2004 8:42:01 PM PST by BobL
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To: sinkspur; BobL
Thanks for exposing this fraud.

Mr. GovShill, when you can refute the objections to Perry's wet dream raised here, you might be worthy of coming back here and calling another FReeper a "fraud"...

34 posted on 12/16/2004 8:46:01 PM PST by TXnMA (Back home in God's Country -- and that's where I plan to stay until they "plant" my carcass here!)
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To: TXnMA
No thanks. You guys are hysterics.

That's another kind of "wet."

35 posted on 12/16/2004 8:47:45 PM PST by sinkspur ("It is a great day to be alive. I appreciate your gratitude." God Himself.)
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To: Diddle E. Squat

Let's go one step further. Let's say I-35 does remain a functional freeway. I want to know why on earth any NAFTA truck would ever pay 50 cents or more per mile to drive on the toll road - when the driver is lucky to make that much in the first place. I can think of 2 options:

1) I-35 is impassable either due to neglect or traffic
2) I-35 has its own tolls

Either way that drivers either lose.




36 posted on 12/16/2004 8:49:37 PM PST by BobL
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To: Diddle E. Squat
Most of those roads won't be constructed, nor land purchased, nor even studied for several more decades.

If the people of Texas have anything to say about it, the whole TTC concept will be s***-canned as soon as we can dump the RINO who now squats in our Governor's office.

37 posted on 12/16/2004 8:52:28 PM PST by TXnMA (Back home in God's Country -- and that's where I plan to stay until they "plant" my carcass here!)
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To: BobL
"When our hair is gray, we will be able to tell our grandchildren that we were in a Texas Department of Transportation meeting room when one of the most extraordinary dumb@$$ plans was laid out for the people of Texas,"... RINO Perry
38 posted on 12/16/2004 8:55:23 PM PST by TXnMA (Back home in God's Country -- and that's where I plan to stay until they "plant" my carcass here!)
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To: Xenalyte
"Be nice if the headline told us which state."

Don't embarrass yourself by letting it slip that you aren't from Texas.

39 posted on 12/16/2004 9:06:50 PM PST by bayourod (Our troops are already securing our borders against terrorists. They're killing them in Iraq.)
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To: bayourod

That ain't embarassin' -- it's plumb mortifyin'! '-)


40 posted on 12/16/2004 9:09:14 PM PST by TXnMA (Back home in God's Country -- and that's where I plan to stay until they "plant" my carcass here!)
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To: bayourod
"Don't embarrass yourself by letting it slip that you aren't from Texas."

Non-Texans are allowed too!!

Actually, this is a national problem, that could pretty much be snuffed out in Washington, if they chose to do so. All they would have to do is NOT tamper with the structure of the Interstate Highway system. But they are tampering, so we have to now fight it at the state level, as when governors come up with harebrained schemes.
41 posted on 12/16/2004 9:15:03 PM PST by BobL
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To: TXnMA
If the people of Texas have anything to say about it,

Therein lies the trouble. We won't have a say. Perry is determined to turn Texas into a toll hell just like NY or PN. He's one of the slimiest pubbies in office. I wouldn't vote for Perry for dog catcher, because he'd soon be proposing taxes on all dog tags.

42 posted on 12/16/2004 10:00:28 PM PST by zeugma (Come to the Dark Side...... We have cookies!)
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To: BobL
Pardon me if I seem a bit suspicious here, but I'm supposed to believe that a private company is willing to spend $7.2 Billion of its own money to build a toll road that runs parallel to a freeway that is mostly underutilized.

Underutilized? WTF???

43 posted on 12/16/2004 10:37:08 PM PST by Erasmus ("The best laid men gang oft a-gley." -- R. Burns (almost))
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To: Erasmus
"Underutilized?"

No - mostly underutilized. The stretches (of I-35) in and near the cities clearly packed and could some widening. But the rest of the freeways does move smoothly most of the time. This plan, at this price, does not even cover the Austin stretch, right in the middle - that's being done separately
44 posted on 12/17/2004 4:52:44 AM PST by BobL
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To: BobL
"When our hair is gray, we will be able to tell our grandchildren that we were in a Texas Department of Transportation meeting room when one of the most extraordinary plans was laid out for the people of Texas," Perry said. "I hope there are a lot of people in this room that are knocked back on their heels saying, 'I can't believe it.' Well, believe it."

We will tell our grandchildren of how our extraordinary plans ruined local economies, ran numerous Texans off their land, and put the state's taxpayers on the hook for massive debts, all for a problem that could have been solved by widening I-35 a little...

45 posted on 12/17/2004 11:30:35 AM PST by Tolerance Sucks Rocks (Deport 'em all; let Fox sort 'em out!)
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To: Brellium

I think that the state could apply to the Federal Government to convert a federally funded freeway to a tollway...


46 posted on 12/17/2004 11:31:50 AM PST by Tolerance Sucks Rocks (Deport 'em all; let Fox sort 'em out!)
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To: Tolerance Sucks Rocks

"I think that the state could apply to the Federal Government to convert a federally funded freeway to a tollway..."

Presently true. In the next Transportation Bill (likely to pass earlier this year) they won't even have to apply. A rogue governor, for example, can simply decree that his Interstates will be Toll Roads. But that would never happen in Texas (ha).


47 posted on 12/18/2004 7:19:20 AM PST by BobL
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To: BobL
A rogue governor, for example, can simply decree that his Interstates will be Toll Roads.

Shouldn't there be legislative approval for such a conversion? after all, it could come under raising revenue, and the people should be involved in such a thing.

48 posted on 12/18/2004 8:27:32 AM PST by Tolerance Sucks Rocks (Deport 'em all; let Fox sort 'em out!)
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To: Tolerance Sucks Rocks
Amen.

The governor slipped this one past us when people weren't looking. We used to have a real simple system - pay as you go. If you want to build, you have to have the money. It worked great until about 12 years ago, when the state started diverting highway money. About 3 years ago the governor got people to agree to a constitutional amendment that allowed "creative financing" of highways. No one (other than me, I think) understood the implications. The amendment passed and the governor is now in the process of building a multi-hundred billion dollar toll road system - that, by definition, will result in the end of our recently functional freeway system.

He's doing it this way, so that he can go to the voters in 2006 and say (with a straight face) that he didn't raise their gas taxes. That little $400 monthly addition to our credit card bills is now a "user fee".
49 posted on 12/18/2004 9:35:54 AM PST by BobL
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