Skip to comments.Freeways aren't free, and Texas politicos don't want to pay
Posted on 01/25/2018 11:06:29 AM PST by Tolerance Sucks Rocks
Just after the end of World War I, a young Army officer who was born in Denison, Texas, was assigned to accompany an expedition of military vehicles driving across America. The mission was to determine the difficulties the nation might face moving an entire army across the continent.
Lucky thing the country was no longer at war. The convoy constantly ground to a halt on unpaved roads, sinking into mud, slipping into ditches and sliding into quicksand. The cross-country journey took 62 days, averaging about six miles an hour, something close to the speed of a leisurely walk.
The lessons of that ordeal stuck in the young officer's mind. A generation later, former Lt. Col. Dwight D. Eisenhower cited his 1919 convoy experience as a reason for Congress to authorize construction of the Interstate Highway System. The commander-in-chief also proposed paying for the new freeway system with revenues from federal excise taxes on gasoline and lubricating oil.
President Eisenhower knew not only how to get freeways built, but also how to pay for them. We could sure use his help today in Austin. Instead, we're stuck with state leaders who can't figure out how to perform the basic governmental function of paying for highway projects. Our state's political leadership needs to quit dodging this issue and make some tough decisions about how Texas will finance its future roadways.
The problem is that freeway projects cost a lot of money, but the Republicans running the show in Austin don't have the political courage to pass the cost onto taxpayers. Take, for example, what recently happened to a couple of highway expansions proposed for the Dallas and Austin areas. The Texas Transportation Commission removed them from its ten-year plans because both of those projects rely partly on revenue from toll roads.
Conservative elected officials once embraced toll roads as a way to bankroll increasingly expensive highway projects without raising taxes. But the proliferation of these pay-for-play roadways has triggered a tea party style backlash. So state lawmakers faced with a prairie fire of popular opposition have flip-flopped from toll road champions to toll road critics.
So it has come down to this: Our state's Republican leaders won't raise taxes to raise money for highways, but now they're also against toll roads. How in the world do they propose to pay for new road projects?
That's a serious concern for pragmatic local elected officials. As the Chronicle's Dug Begley reports ("Toll road pushback worries area leaders," Monday, Page 1A), government leaders in the Houston area are fretting about what this means for the future of highway construction here. The massive redesign of the freeway system around downtown Houston was included in the state's latest plan, but some local transportation officials worry about the next step in that huge undertaking. Translator
And make no mistake, Texas needs more money for highways. The American Society of Civil Engineering considers at least 38 percent of Texas roads to be in fair or poor condition, and the Federal Highway Commission rates nearly one in five bridges in our state as either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. Meanwhile, TXDOT reported that between 2002 and 2014, highway construction costs rose 80 percent. At the same time, cars and trucks are becoming more efficient, so they're burning less gasoline and the state is collecting less in tax revenues.
Texas can't make concrete and asphalt out of fairy dust. No matter how low our taxes go, no major corporation like Amazon will want to move into a state that doesn't have decent roads. Our state's elected leaders should follow Ike's example. They should face the unavoidable truth that Texas needs to raise a lot more money for transportation projects, and they need to devise a plan to get the job done.
I have some ideas. No Toll Roads.
Stop spending highway money on bike paths, mass transit, parks, greenbelts, diverted to the general fund and other non-road activities. Then, get back to me about any shortfall.
If it is truly a real shortfall and not a fake one, I’d be willing to see an increase in the gas tax, but you have to prove to me the money you are now getting is not being wasted first.
There is not a major thoroughfare in the Houston area that is not a toll road. I have friends down there that pay a regular $200 to $300 bill every month for tolls. And that’s with the discounted auto-pass box.
I’m willing to bet the most expensive part of a road is the labor needed to build it. And yet we have tens of millions of able bodied males rotting in our prisons. Why cant we put them to work rebuilding our infrastructure? Why do we pay 10 union guys to stand around while one does the actual work?
Sell bonds to get the funds.
Pay the bonds off over time.
Where would we be today, if our grandparents had acted this way?
Im so sick of incompetence.
What we collect in gas taxes would support the bonds.
Why do we need new roads? It isnt solely due to roads being old. There are many more cars on the roads. And all those cars are being filled with gasoline that is taxed.
The better mileage argument fails, for that reason.
Our elected officials lie their asses off.
And can someone explain how cost supposedly went up 80% when wages have been flat for decades?
“Stop spending highway money on bike paths, mass transit, parks, greenbelts, diverted to the general fund and other non-road activities.
AMEN onto that Amen also!
Which is why I warn folks about toll roads, but even here we have folks who think theyre Great.
Austin budgets highway money for road construction. When the money runs out, construction stops until the next budgeting cycle.
11 years ago I moved to San Antonio from Jersey. Last year I went back to Jersey and I saw the same barriers and construction project going on which started before I left. To put it into perspective, I have seen a 1/2 dozen major road construction projects completed in San Antonio in the last 2 years.
That is factually incorrect.
45,59, Ih10, Highway 6, 290, 610, 288, LaPorte Freeway etc are not toll roads, they are traffic nightmares, but not Toll Roads.
Only the HTR, Parts of Beltway 8 and the Grand Parkway are to my knowledge toll roads down here.
As usual, the Houston Chronicle is lying.
According to Texas Comptroller, in 2000 Texas collected 2688.2M$ in motor fuel taxes. In 2015, Texas collected 3,446.2M$. Those are different years than the article mentions, but still an increase of 28% over 15 years is not a decrease in absolute revenue. The article specifically states that the state is collecting less revenue - that is not the truth.
Make “prevailing wage” illegal and watch the cost of construction projects nosedive.
Here’s an idea.
No money for bike lanes, they have no skin in the game.
Some kind of tax for electric vehicles. No hard, propane powered have been paying it for 40 years.
No more extras on construction. I don’t need a Lone Star on every bridge.
Then raise gasoline and diesel .10 a gallon.
Then stop bitchin’
Got on a toll road in Austin a few months back. They mail you an invoice. It’s typically no more than a few bucks. I never got the bill so I forgot all about it. Then one day I got a bill for around $70. I called and was told it was late fees. Because I never saw a bill, typical Postal service, she gave me a $20 discount.
Westpark Tollway, also.
I45, US 59, I10 and US 290 aren’t toll roads. And where there are toll roads you can take the service roads for free. If course, that sucks.
Around here we usually pay it to illegal foreign aliens.