Skip to comments.Yeah, we voted on tolls — kinda
Posted on 10/16/2006 6:45:49 AM PDT by Tolerance Sucks Rocks
Do you remember voting on the Trans-Texas Corridor?
Me neither. But I think I might have. Sort of.
Toll road proponents have said over the past couple of years that Texans had voted to authorize what has turned out to be a very aggressive push for toll roads. Gov. Rick Perry said as much in the Oct. 6 gubernatorial election debate.
One of the moderators relayed a question from a McKinney woman asking why Texans haven't gotten to vote on the "Trans-Texas Corridor and related toll highways."
The corridor is Perry's 4,000-mile plan of tollways, railroads and utility lines.
The governor's response was deft.
"First and foremost, the people of Texas had the opportunity to vote on a substantial amount of that in a constitutional amendment," he began, going on to say that the Legislature had debated and passed toll laws in several sessions. The voters, he said, "sent a clear message of how we're going to build infrastructure."
What actually happened is that in a September 2003 election, 810,855 Texans said yes to ballot language that only the most wonkish among them could have known authorized wholesale borrowing for toll roads. The 45 words on the ballot, in fact, do not include the words "toll" or "turnpike."
Here's what Proposition 14 proposed:
"The constitutional amendment providing for authorization of the issuing of notes or the borrowing of money on a short-term basis by a state transportation agency for transportation-related projects, and the issuance of bonds and other public securities secured by the state highway fund."
I was told at the time that the purpose of this was to allow the agency to borrow here and there against future gas-tax revenue to address cash-flow problems. And that, in fact, is what the first part of the language refers to.
But then there's a comma, and some more words. Some technical but powerful words that amounted, apparently, to the electorate saying, "Whoo-eee, slap some toll roads on us, baby!"
Now, Texans did approve another constitutional amendment, this one in 2001, that created the Texas Mobility Fund, and it actually said the money could go to "state highways, turnpikes, toll roads, toll bridges, and other mobility projects." A total of 543,759 Texans said yes to that one.
In 2003, lawmakers dedicated some fees allowing that fund to borrow $4 billion or more.
And as the governor said, that same year the Legislature approved a huge bill allowing the creation of the Trans-Texas Corridor. That bill, passed in a session marked by Democrats fleeing to Ardmore, Okla., and a $10 billion budget gap, got little press coverage.
Did Texans vote on the Trans-Texas Corridor? Not in any real sense.
Did we vote on a "substantial amount" of the toll road revolution? Yes, technically, in a special September 2003 election with predictably poor turnout and all the focus on other amendments, we gave the Texas Department of Transportation carte blanche to borrow for roads and charge tolls.
Who knew? Almost no one.
I still don't recall the legistlature voting on it.
Thanks for the ping!
My understanding is that Cintra/Zachry takes the hit if they go over budget on the TTC.
This plan was originally touted as using private funding, but that has changed since the deal was signed. The Texas Comptroller, Carole Strayhorn, issued a Special Report which exposed freeway tolls as double taxation and found no bid contracts given to non-elected board members and their friends in her report on Central Texas RMA. One of the companies that reportedly got no bid contracts in that report is run by a convicted criminal. They have used our tax dollars for a biased push poll
Perry keeps touting lack of money, but there is enough money and highway improvements that have already been funded are being rolled into this toll scheme. They are also invoking a gag rule to keep people from finding out the truth. They only released these details because they were forced to by the Attorney General.
Bottom line...the whole thing stinks. Until they start telling the public the real facts without all the spin and sleight of hand, they aren't getting my vote.
"Yes, much better to fund our roads through raised taxes than to actually let private investors fund much of them and let each person have a choice in whether or not they want to pay for a particular road. Can't have that..."
So you like the idea of continuing to pay gas taxes and also paying toll charges so we can have more people move to Texas to fill more roads? Just how crowded do you want our State to become? Would 1 billion be a large enough population to suit you or do you think we need even more yankees to move to Texas?
They got some federal loans designed to encourage the building of toll roads. If federal money builds local roads, that's fine with me. It will be paid back by Cintra anyway.
It's good that you investigate the "secret connections" to Cintra, but those are also the industry experts and probably some of the most qualified people to make these decisions. I wouldn't immediately assume the worst of people like that.
And the super secret contract is probably only secret so Cintra's competition doesn't learn their inner workings.
That's the same line of thought that made Austin's roads such a mess during the 90s population growth.
Real Cynic No More:
Oh, like the new SH 130 roadway project in the Austin area that's months ahead of schedule and millions of dollars under budget?
The opponents have brain dead arguments against the toll road plan. The "Big Dig" in Massachussetts went over budget precisely because it is funded by federal tax dollars and the contractors had no incentives to keep costs low. The TTC is ultimately funded by tolls people pay to use the facilities. As the owners and builders of the improvements built in the state owned corridors, both Cintra and Zachary have tremendous incentives to keep costs down and build the corridors quickly in order to start getting their money back.
Toll roads are a conservative method of financing roads. Tolls are users fees for using roads. The exise tax on motor fuels was supposed to be a type of user fee, but politicians divert those funds according to the seniority of the politicians in Washington not according to how much each state paid into the highway fund. The system the DemocRATS wanted set up would have been even worse. They wanted to build the Interestate Highway System out of general revenues as a way of redistributing income. As far as I am concerned the federal excise tax on motor fuels should be abolished or it should never be increased letting inflation erode the real value that tax. There is no way to reform budget allocations short of taking the money away from Washington politicians. I am even more against funding roads out of the income tax.
The toll roads I am familiar with in Houston were all built much faster and under budget compared with state and federally funded highway projects of similar capacity. TxDOT has been upgrading I-35 between San Antonio and Hillsboro for over 15 years and they're nowhere near finished rebuilding that highway from 2 lanes to 3 lanes. By the time they're finished with that upgrade in maybe a decade, it will be obsolete. In fact it would have been obsolete if it had been completed in 1990.
First, it is a 320 mil LOW INTEREST LOAN. As a percent of the total project, that is a small amount. A loan HAS TO BE REPAID.
Since you and your little blogger are trying to obscure, we have to assume that this is the TIFIA loan that has been thrown up and shot down before. As such, should not Texas be entitled to the same as othere states?
For those that want to know, follow the link below, and scrioll thru the table of contents looking for "TIFIA"
And as I said, I'm fine with toll roads. AS LONG AS ALL THE OTHER CRAP I AM CURRENTLY PAYING THAT WAS SUPPOSED TO FUND THESE SAME ROADS GOES AWAY.
No sign of that happening any time soon. Ergo, they are double and triple dipping us.
What I don't like is that Perry is proceeding even though we voted it down in San Antonio. Strayhorn isn't lying when she says 'land grab.' There are people along I-35 who don't want to part with their property.
Perry's statements in this campaign don't ring true to me.
We visited Houston and it's tough to have enough quarters. And rather expensive to navigate the city, especially when the tolls aren't always the same. I can't speak about Austin, but then we don't really like each other, these two cities.
Plus, I'll still be paying annual registration, inspection, gas taxes, ect...
In our case, they want to toll the roads our tax dollars have already paid for. It's no secret the anti-toll group here is backing Strayhorn. I most likely will, too.
Yeah... they are doing that here as well. Justification? "You can still use the frontage road for free". Yeah... right. If you have seven hours to kill just to make it from one side of the city to the other.
Not only that, but the owners of the toll companies are not American, did you know that? And in some cases those frontage roads will be owned and maintained by them, too. It's a bill of goods they're forcing on us.
You can get around Houston without paying tolls using the freeways that were there before the toll roads were built, but it will take you longer, because there they are more congested. I guarantee you that if I wanted to make sure I got to IAH in time to make a flight, I'd take the Hardy toll road rather than I-45 or US-59.