Streetcar funds should be redirected to expand 281 without tolls
By Terri Hall
July 29, 2014
Undoubtedly, most San Antonians have heard the great news that the city and county have pulled their support for the downtown streetcar plan. Naturally it begs the question, so where will those dollars go now? Anti-toll groups, Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom (TURF) and Texans for Toll-free Highways (TTH) call on the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), the city, and county to permanently scrap the street car and use those funds to expand US 281 North (outside Loop 1604 to the county line) without tolls.
Sen. Donna Campbell - (830) 626-0065 or
Stop light onslaught proposed for 281 draws record crowd
By Terri Hall
July 10, 2014
The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) struck a nerve yesterday, and it wasn’t pretty. Nearly 300 angry residents of the Bulverde-Spring Branch area showed up for what they thought would be a public meeting on the fate of US 281, only to be greeted with a standing room only venue stuffed with more people than the little library could handle and a bunch of aerial maps and consultants who couldn’t or wouldn’t answer their questions.
No formal presentation was made by TxDOT to explain what the plan entailed. Attendees were expected to piece everything together on their own and know what to ask in order to get properly informed. The line to get in was wrapped around the room and out the door where attendees waited up to 20 minutes just to enter. No one anticipated the record attendance.
We disagree with the characterization by TTI that Abbott's promise to fix Texas roads without raising taxes, fees, or tolls somehow means TxDOT can continue to build toll roads at their current rate. Nice try big money boys, but that doesn't compute. If one more toll road is added once Abbott takes office, that's raising the tax burden, period. We can fix our roads without tolls using existing taxes and the voters will insist on it. It requires getting lawmakers' fingers out of our road taxes and prioritizing existing revenues to fund this core purpose of government - public infrastructure.
A G.O.P. Shift Against Toll Roads in Texas
By AMAN BATHEJA
New York Times
JULY 3, 2014
The Republican state convention drew national headlines last month with candidates and activists staking out hard-line positions on homosexuality and immigration.
Less noticed was a significant shift in the party’s stance on transportation, particularly the state’s reliance on toll roads. In the new platform, Republican delegates removed a provision backing “the legitimate construction of toll roads in Texas” and replaced it with language opposing some aspects of toll projects in Texas, particularly the use of public money to subsidize private entities.
The conservative pushback against toll roads comes as Gov. Rick Perry prepares to leave office after 14 years marked by a sustained push for toll roads and toll lanes. With about 25 toll roads, according to the Texas Department of Transportation, the state has used the projects to stretch limited funds and expand its highway network. Most of the toll roads have opened or been expanded since 2000, the year Mr. Perry took office.
“There is an enormous amount of toll fatigue in Texas,” said Susan Fletcher, a Republican delegate from Collin County who supported the new platform language.
Terri Hall, founder of the anti-toll road group Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom, led the effort to change the platform position. To explain why delegates had adopted her proposals with little debate, she pointed to a 41-mile stretch of Highway 130 between Austin and Seguin. The privately run toll road opened in 2012 with lawmakers promoting it as a model for the future. Yet the road has not proved popular with drivers. Last month, Moody’s Investors Service reported that toll revenue had come in far below initial projections.
We have long-supported dedicating the vehicles sales tax to roads, but Nichols' bill does it far too slow to make an appreciable effort to stop the reliance on tolling. Since lawmakers have stolen from our highway funds for decades, it's time they restore it and make restitution...NOW instead of ask Texans to pay $24/day in tolls to get to work. Nichols has never seen a toll road he didn't like - including those propped up with gas taxes, property taxes, sales taxes, and guaranteed by the Texas taxpayer. He's part of the problem, not the solution. Until thwre's a provision to keep these funds from being used to build, subsidize, or guarantee toll roads, NO DEAL!
Third Proposal Floated to Pay for Road Construction
By Jim Forsyth
June 30, 2014
The head of the Senate Transportation Committee says there is a better way to pay for TxDOT's crushing highway maintenance, repair and construction needs than raising the gas tax or building toll roads, Newsradio 1200 WOAI reports.
State Sen. Robert Nichols (R-Lufkin) told the San Antonio Mobility Coalition he will propose a constitutional amendment when lawmakers meet in January to dedicate a large portion of the vehicle sales tax to roads.
Big money's optimism is certainly warranted since they structure every deal to fleece the taxpayer and grant themselves government-sanctioned monopolies. Government is complicit in the scheme as the big money greases their wheels...our politicians are supposed to be safeguarding the public interest yet their fiduciary duty is nowhere to be found among the graft.
Big-Money Optimism but Many Unanswered Questions About Private Infrastructure Investment
By Tom Curry
June 24, 2014
Senate Finance Chairman Sen. Ron Wyden spoke for many transportation officials when he said recently, “There are hundreds of billions of dollars in private capital sitting on the American sidelines. Surely some of that can be invested in American infrastructure.”
Probably no topic is hotter right now in the public infrastructure world than private-public partnerships, which aim to entice the owners of those hundreds of billions of dollars of private capital to invest in rebuilding and expanding the nation’s highways, ports and bridges.
The corruption with P3 contracts continues...meanwhile Texas doesn't have an Inspector General to watchdog such deals despite taxpayers insisting on one. Such fraud is most assuredly happening in lax Texas.
Inspector general delves into 460
By Matthew Ward
Thursday, June 19, 2014
Virginia’s transportation secretary has asked the state Inspector General’s Office to join its internal review of the Route 460 project.
“Secretary Layne directed VDOT’s Assurance and Compliance Office to conduct a review of the Route 460 P3 project,” department spokeswoman Tamara Rollison said Thursday.
The office’s multi-pronged mission, according to VDOT’s website, includes investigating alleged “fraudulent, illegal and/or inappropriate activities.”
Electronic toll collection is a massive money-making scheme where the punishment doesn't fit the 'crime.' It impedes our freedom to travel and ruins people financially - just to get to work and usually for innocent mistakes.
Drivers rack up tickets on toll roads
The switch to a cash-free payment collection system is turning into a potential moneymaker.
By Morgan Cook
Orange County Register
June 27, 2014
The switch to a cash-free payment collection system is turning into a potential moneymaker for county toll roads, in the form of a jump in the number of penalties from toll violations.
The new system also has sparked confusion for drivers and a customer service crisis at the Transportation Corridor Agencies, with tens of thousands of people calling help lines only to face long waits, and often no answer at all, according to documents presented at June 12 board meetings of TCA directors.
Members of congress are sitting down with investment bankers to ask them how well public private partnerships are working out for the taxpayers. Really? These are the very scoundrels ripping us off charging toll fees in excess of $23/day and congress gives what they say credibility with this charade?
No Simple Calculation in Comparing Public, Private Investment
By Tom Curry
June 17, 2014
When members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee conferred with investment bankers in New York on Monday, one question they wrestled with was how to compare the cost-effectiveness of traditional infrastructure investment (states or other government entities issuing bonds to pay for projects) with public-private partnerships — PPPs or P3s — that give private investors stakes in toll roads and other projects.
Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., asked a panel of investment bankers and one academic urban planner “how public infrastructure projects and facilities are evaluated for efficiency and, if there is such a model, do you folks have it?” He wondered, “Are we just now starting to figure that out” and “is there any metric” that determines cost, risk, and efficiency for public projects compared to private ones.
Indiana Toll Road operator facing debt woes
Indianapolis Business Journal
June 19, 2014
A state agency says it is monitoring the Indiana Toll Road operator's finances as it works to make an upcoming debt payment on the financing of its $3.8 billion lease payment to the state eight years ago.
The Indiana Toll Road Oversight Board has asked the Spanish-Australian investor group Cintra-Macquarie about the status of the payment it owes this month after state officials made similar inquiries after news reports that it was struggling last year to make an interest payment, board Director James McGoff told The Times of Munster.
Pocahontas 895 toll road under a new operator
Australian company previously controlled Pocahontas 895
BY MICHAEL MARTZ
June 17, 2014
Pocahontas 895 has a new operator, a year after an Australian company walked away from a long-term concession for the underperforming toll parkway across the James River between Henrico and Chesterfield counties.
DBi Services, based in northeastern Pennsylvania, quietly assumed control of the parkway — the first road built by public-private partnership in Virginia — on May 15 and informed local government officials two weeks later.
The company took over operation from Transurban, an Australian company whose board of directors voted last June to transfer control of the highway to a consortium of European banks that holds $300 million in debt on the project, not including a $150 million federal loan that must be repaid.
Congressman DeFazio announces plans to pay for roads and bridges
By Reed Black
Land Line Now Magazine
June 16, 2014
Last week, U.S. Rep Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., announced his plan for paying for roads and bridges.
It calls for eliminating the gas tax at the pump and taxing oil at the refinery level instead. The oil tax would be indexed to increase with inflation, and the oil companies could pass along the cost of the tax to consumers.
DeFazio says the 24-cent federal tax on diesel would remain, but would be indexed so that truckers would not pay a disproportionate share.
DeFazio told “Land Line Now” on Sirius XM that the alternative to his plan is a nation of toll roads.
Indiana Toll Road Remains Contentious Infrastructure Financing Case
By Tom Curry
June 17, 2014
For Rep. Michael E. Capuano, the senior Democrat in a group of House Transportation Committee members that met with New York investment bankers Monday, the key private infrastructure investment case that needs explaining is the 2006 lease of the Indiana Toll Road by a group of investors including Macquarie Atlas Roads, created by the Macquarie Infrastructure Group, an Australian firm.
As states take a keener interest in public-private partnerships to pay for infrastructure, “the first major one in the country that I remember was the Indiana Toll road and, as I sit here today, I still do not have answers” on the benefits and costs of that deal, Capuano, D-Mass., said during the discussion.
“It’s a relatively straight-up project, it’s not like a water project that might be complicated, it’s not unique” and yet, he complained, there’s not enough data on the cost of the project.
“I need to be able to compare how many cars and how much toll money was being generated before it was sold, and how many cars and how much toll money now. Kind of simple. And we [the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee] haven’t gotten them.”
“If the cars aren’t there [on the toll road], where did they go? And if they’re going on to another road, is that road now need more infrastructure upgrades? Does that other road now have time constraints, now people are being backed up? What about its impact on the rest of our infrastructure? I don’t know the answer,” he said after the event.
Karl Kuchel, chief operating officer of Macquarie Infrastructure Partners in New York, did give the committee members some insights at the roundtable event Monday.
The traffic numbers for the Indiana toll road “are below the projections that were used for the original transaction” in 2006, Kuchel said.
When the Indiana Toll Road transaction was financed, private investors made a $3.8 billion payment to the state of Indiana. Traffic “has not performed to the level of our expectations — no surprise given the economic conditions from when the transaction was completed in 2006 to today.”
But he said, “None of that downside reverts to the public sector. That [loss] goes to equity in the first instance and then to the lenders. So it’s a private-sector risk at the time the transaction was financed. A view was taken on traffic. The present value of that was paid over [to the state] in the purchase price — and the equity and debt holders have to live with that.”
He said the Brisbane, Australia, tunnel example cited to the committee by Columbia University urban planning Professor Elliot Sclar as a case of another private infrastructure investment gone awry was in the same category. It was financed with private money, the project was delivered “and then traffic did not meet projections. From the public-sector perspective, if you wanted to be glib, you would actually say that they [the public] received a piece of infrastructure at well below the cost of its procurement. Because the private sector took the risk on traffic, financed 100 percent of it, and as it turns out, the traffic is not sufficient to justify the return.”
He added, “This is what risk is – and the private sector tries to price it.”
Despite some disappointments, there are still reasons to do private-public partnerships, Kuchel suggested.
He argued that “competition is a powerful driver of efficiency in these transactions. As somebody who invests private capital, PPP transactions can take sometimes years and millions of dollars just to submit a bid. You want to know as you’re going through that process, what the parameters are … and you want know that you will be competitive and hopefully successful. That drives you constantly to be looking at ways in which you can deliver the project more efficiently” – and the cost savings hopefully can be paid through to the taxpayers.
When TxDOT wastes our road money on silliness like street cars that don't solve (and actually cause) traffic problems, they're never going to win back the public trust or get their cooperation to give them more money. Street cars were removed for safety concerns and the fixed track became obsolete and replaced by more nimble and flexible buses. It's lunacy to install them again and waste taxpayer money on such nonsense when this same agency is whining for more money & claiming we can't get our roads widened without paying expensive tolls.
Funding approved for Downtown streetcar line
Work could begin on $97M project this summer
By Robert Gray
El Paso Inc.
June 29, 2014
A $97-million project to restore streetcar service to Downtown El Paso has received state funding and construction could start as soon as August.
Sometimes called trolleys, the streetcars were a part of life and work in El Paso until the early 1970s.
Returning streetcar service to Downtown has been a dream of many for a long time, but the project had been stymied for years because there had been no funding.
I-77 tolls could be $9 to $11, study says
By the Charlotte Observer
Monday, June 23, 2014
A Mooresville-to-Charlotte round trip on planned Interstate 77 toll lanes is projected to cost $9 during the morning rush hour and at least $11 in the afternoon, according to state documents obtained by a Lake Norman area citizens group.
Widen I-77, which opposes tolls on N.C. interstates, obtained the documents through a Freedom of Information Act request.
The documents predict that Mooresville-to-Charlotte tolls will jump to at least $20 one way by 2035, according to the group.
State, county leaders question proposed toll lanes along U.S. 75
By JULIETA CHIQUILLO
Dallas Morning News
July 2, 2014
RICHARDSON — Several Collin County and state officials voiced concerns Tuesday about TxDOT’s plans to turn HOV lanes into toll lanes along a section of U.S. Highway 75.
The elected officials were among more than 120 people at the Richardson Civic Center for a public meeting about the proposal.
Under a plan unveiled last month, single-occupancy vehicles would be allowed to use the managed HOV lanes by paying a toll. Car poolers would have to register to use the lanes for free. The plan involves a stretch of U.S. 75 beginning near LBJ Freeway and ending in Allen.
OBAMA: My Highway Plan Is 'Not Crazy, It's Not Socialism, It's Not The Imperial Presidency'
By Brett LoGiurato
July 1, 2014
A rather exasperated President Barack Obama pressed Congress to find a solution to the looming Highway Trust Fund crisis, arguing "it's not socialism" to want to build new highways and bridges in the country.
"It's not crazy. It's not socialism. It's not the imperial presidency," Obama said Tuesday afternoon during a speech in front of the Georgetown waterfront with the Key Bridge in the background. "We're just building roads and bridges, like we have for the past 50 years."
It's important to note that Donna Campbell campaigned on an anti-toll platform. Now she's calling for toll roads to be part of the mix in conflict with her own party's gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott who promises to fix Texas roads without raising taxes, fees, or tolls.
Toll Roads, State Gas Tax Hike Discussed by Legislature
By Jim Forsyth
June 24, 2014
Lawmakers now say it will take between $4 billion and $5 billion a year to simply maintain the state’s crumbling road system, and state lawmakers are considering the possibility of a hike in the gas tax, 1200 WOAI’s Chris Fox reports.
Here’s a Crazy Idea: What About Reforming Transportation Spending Instead of Hiking Taxes?
By Emily Goff, Heritage Foundation
June 26, 2014
Americans know the drill. When Congress faces a gap between its spending wants and available money, it is quick to ask for more money, instead of fixing the spending side of the budget ledger.
This time it’s Senate Finance Committee chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., who has proposed a rag tag group of revenue provisions, including hiking taxes on heavy vehicle use, aimed at filling a hole in Washington’s Highway Trust Fund (HTF). Federal gas and diesel taxes deposited in to the HTF go to pay for road, bridge, transit, and other surface transportation projects in the states.
Yup, you got it: Wyden’s focusing on new ways to collect money – without even mentioning spending reforms.
Conservatives on the committee rightly grumbled at its total lack of spending cuts, and now the committee is going back to the drawing board to try and find more palatable reforms all around.
Wyden isn’t alone: Others in Congress have called for gas tax hikes or bailing out the fund with postal reform revenue. But few have proposed reforming spending out of the HTF. In other words, lawmakers by and large aren’t interested in, changing which programs are eligible for the federal gas and diesel taxes deposited into the HTF.
Upcoming TURF Events
- Streetcar funds should go to fix US 281 without tolls
- TxDOT plans to add 12 stop lights on freeway in Hill Country
- GOP platform retreat from tolls gets noticed by NYT
- Senator seeks to dedicate vehicle sales tax to highways
- Special interests lobby to rip-off taxpayers with P3s
- Americans to be taxed by the mile
- Inspector general delves into 460 in VA
- Toll collections spark outrage in CA
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Latest Press Releases
- Election victory represents power shift that will benefit anti-tollers
- Obama seeks to lift ban on tolling existing freeways
- Krier's conflicts of interest pose problem for council seat
- TURF prevails, lawsuit moves forward, allows depositions of TxDOT’s top brass
- Texas Senate votes to gouge citizens with "market based" tolls
- Anti-toll candidates sweep in many key races
- Public drain for private gain: Prop 6 rural water raid to benefit developers
- Dirty trick: TxDOT bypasses legislature to enact law using rule change