Monday, April 27, 2015
   
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  • MPO montage

    MPO Video Clip

    A 3 minute montage of what is wrong with transportation decision making. This Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) is the one that controls the Alamo Area funding. There are 24 other MPOs across the state of Texas
    Watch the Clip
  • TURF-BB-TexansLike

    Texans know what they like:

    There may be no such thing as a free ride, but that doesn’t mean Texas drivers can’t dream. According to a new study from Texas A&M Transportation Institute researchers, the state’s drivers would like more investment in everything from sequenced traffic lights.
    Read about the study...
  • TURF-BB-Salzman

    The Pitfalls of P3s

    Randy Salzman's work is the most comprehensive look at the dangers of P3s to date. It's a must read for citizens and policymakers alike. Salzman’s entire expose on P3s in the June/July 2014 Issue of Thinking Highways.
    Read the story...
  • TURF-BB-TBT281SpecialEdition

    Full Film Now Online!

    Truth Be Tolled is essential viewing for anyone who wants to understand how big money interests and government bureaucrats are hell bent on tolling Texas highways in spite of an overwhelming taxpayer opposition.
    Watch Trailers  Watch Full Film
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Toll agencies oppose traffic studies being made public

Link to article here.

Toll agencies testify to keep financial studies secret from the public
By Terri Hall
Examiner.com
April 18, 2015

Fireworks erupted in the Texas House Transportation Committee Thursday as Rep. Cindy Burkett laid out her bill, HB 2620, to make toll viability studies subject to open records laws. The North Texas Tollway Authority (NTTA) and Regional Mobility Authorities (RMAs) testified that they want to keep the studies secret from the public until at least 90 days prior to issuing bonds. In effect, that’s well after the public and decision makers can do anything to stop a project that’s not financially viable. The NTTA cited ‘possible’ issues with bond investors and federal securities law if the information released from preliminary studies conflict with final investment grade studies.

Committee members grilled the toll agencies for nearly an hour. Rep. Ron Simmons told the NTTA’s bond counsel that the Emerging Technology Fund bureaucrats testified against transparency, too, claiming similar issues on deals with private equity firms. But Simmons would have none of it.

Read more: Toll agencies oppose traffic studies being made public

 

Phillips berates TURF for seeking accountability

Rep. Larry Phillips tried to blast Terri Hall of TURF for daring to seek accountability from unelected toll agencies known as Regional Mobility Authorities (or RMAs). RMAs are fraught with abuses like taxpayer-funded lobbying, steering contracts to former board members, and cronyism. Yet Phillips defends RMAs and castigates the grassroots for demanding accountability. He also tries to get TURF to advocate for a gas tax hike to shore-up shortfalls in the state highway fund, rather than demand our lawmakers properly fund this core function of government from EXISTING road taxes and fees first. As long as they keep diverting vehicle sales tax to non-road purposes, it's crazy to expect taxpayers to choke down a tax hike. Phillips says, "I'm all for spending more money," rather than discipline the use of our existing taxes first.

Texas Tribune interview with Transportation Chairmen

Watch the interview here.

On April 7, Texas Tribune's Evan Smith interviewed the Senate and House Transportation Committee Chairmen, Robert Nichols and Joe Pickett. Note that they don't seem to have gotten the message from the last election that Texans DO NOT want more toll roads. The Chairmen are not motivated to take action to reduce the number of toll roads that are already on auto pilot and set to be unleashed on Texans for the next 25 years. May Texnas are paying $200-$400 a month in toll to get to work now. The tax burden is unsustainable and threatens the Texas economic 'miracle.' If all the planned toll roads are indeed built, this new toll tax on mobility will be totally unavoidable in just 10 years. 

It's also interesting to note that Chairman Nichols is opposed to mass transit because none of the systems pay for themselves at the fare box - they need public subsidies. Yet, he's blocking Texans' efforts to end taxpayer subsidies to toll roads through bills like SB 485/HB 1734 and HB 3725 that would take the toll off the road when it's paid for and end system financing (using toll revenues from one road to pay for another that can't pay for itself - in other words spreading toll revenues around to support a 'system'. System financing is socialism for roads.).

Eminent domain by private high speed rail company draws ire

Link to article here.

Eminent domain takes center stage with high speed rail project
By Terri Hall
April 9, 2015
Examiner.com

The fight over eminent domain and who should wield it came to a fore in the Senate Transportation Committee yesterday. A public hearing on SB 1601 authored by Senator Lois Kolkhorst would prevent private companies from using eminent domain for a high speed rail project. The bill narrowly passed the committee by a vote of 5-4. Surprisingly, two grassroots senators, both considered tea party candidates, Don Huffines and Van Taylor, voted against the bill along with both senators from Houston.  Texas Central Railway (TCR), whose parent company is Central Japan Railway Company, wants to build a 240-mile privately owned and operated high speed rail line from Dallas to Houston, causing the nine counties in its path to rise up in opposition.

Aside from the obvious negative impacts from a safety, land use, and quality of life perspective, the fact that this private company can wield the power of eminent domain for its own private gain has stirred up a hornet’s nest in the long-standing struggle to protect property rights. Concerned citizen Dan Agan and the President of Texans Against High Speed Rail, Kyle Workman, expressed the disgust of many Texans who vehemently object to a private company having the power of eminent domain for a private project. The easement needed would be 100 feet wide to accommodate a double track and security fencing, and even wider near substations.

Read more: Eminent domain by private high speed rail company draws ire

Hill country landowner wins a round in legal fight with developer

Link to article here.

Judge rules in favor of Hill Country landowner threatened by neighboring developer
By Terri Hall
Examiner.com
April 2, 2015

Landowners Pat and Terrell Graham won a small victory in the battle with a neighboring developer of the Johnson Ranch in the Texas Hill Country. Administrative law Judge Cathleen Parsley has ruled in favor of the Graham and Lux families recommending that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) deny the Johnson Ranch developer, DHJB Development, its permit seeking to take over a dry creek bed on the Lux-Graham family ranch to accommodate discharge of treated sewage and storm water runoff from the Johnson Ranch Subdivision (read the decision here).

DHJB initially sought a land application with TCEQ but then sought to convert it to a discharge permit. Rather than contain the treated effluent on the developer’s own 750-acre property, it decided to amend its permit and dump 350,000 gallons a day of treated sewage onto his neighbors’ property so that DHJB could build even more houses per acre.

Read more: Hill country landowner wins a round in legal fight with developer

Grassroots unveil toll road reforms at Capitol for Toll-free Texas Day

Link to article here.

TollFree Texas graphic 300Grassroots ask lawmakers for ‘Toll-free Texas,’ unveil reform package
By Terri Hall
March 25, 2015
Examiner.com

Over one-hundred Texans fed-up with toll roads popping-up everywhere converged on the Texas state capitol Monday to unveil a package of toll road reforms, like taking the toll off the road when it’s paid for and preventing gas taxes from being used to build or bailout toll roads - a double tax. Rep. Scott Sanford (R - Collin) initiated the citizens lobby day sponsored by Texans for Toll-free Highways, Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom (TURF), Texas Eagle Forum, Grassroots America, Lt. Governor’s Grassroots Advisory Committee Subcommittee on Transportation, and Texas Patriots, PAC. The groups advocated fiscal responsibility first when it comes to transportation.

With the infusion of over $1 billion a year in new cash from the state’s Rainy Day Fund with passage of Proposition One last November, citizens want to see toll roads restrained as the legislature contemplates sending more money to the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT).

Read more: Grassroots unveil toll road reforms at Capitol for Toll-free Texas Day

Austin’s complete streets policy a complete nightmare

Link to article here.

Austin’s ‘complete streets’ policy a complete congestion nightmare
By Terri Hall
Examiner.com
March 9, 2015

Austin’s social engineering is in full bloom. In an attempt to punish drivers and force them into a bus, the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) drafted a new long-range plan, 2040 Regional Transportation Plan, chalk-full of ‘complete streets’ nonsense like tearing up auto lanes and converting them into bus only lanes. CAMPO will hold a public meeting on the plan tonight at the University of Texas LBJ Auditorium starting at 6 PM.

Riverside Drive, South Congress, North Lamar, Guadalupe, Burnet Road and several other major thoroughfares, will all lose two traffic lanes. Those lanes will be turned into Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) lanes. No cars allowed.

Read more: Austin’s complete streets policy a complete nightmare

Privacy threats: Electronic invasion, license plate readers to black boxes, drivers under assault

Link to article here.

Opinion: US Senator Reports On Automobile Privacy Threat
US Senator Ed Markey condemns automobile manufacturers for privacy invasions promoted by the federal government.
The Newspaper.com
February 13, 2015

Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Massachusetts) on Monday released a report on automotive privacy highlighting the failure of vehicle manufacturers to ensure the highest levels of security and privacy. The report examined the measures industry has taken to prevent electronic intrusion and the way companies gather and treat sensitive personal information. Markey concluded that government intervention may be appropriate.

"New standards are needed to plug security and privacy gaps in our cars and trucks," Markey's news release explained. "We need to work with the industry and cyber-security experts to establish clear rules of the road to ensure the safety and privacy of 21st-century American drivers."

Read more: Privacy threats: Electronic invasion, license plate readers to black boxes, drivers under assault

Transportation Reform: Restore Local Control, Accountability

Link to article here.

Terrific article on MPOs, their importance, and why they need to be fixed.

Transportation Reform: Restore Local Control, Accountability
By Ross Kesceg
Empower Texans
February 16, 2015

Before throwing more tax money at a misunderstood transportation crisis, the legislature should first maximize the effectiveness of existing funds. But in addition to placing restrictions on how tax dollars are used, the legislature should also restrict the ability of regional governments to undermine sound policy.

The culprits behind most of Texas’ non-road transportation waste are Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs). They are federally mandated planning bureaucracies that have taken control of “voluntary” regional governments created by the legislature, such as the North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG). COGs claim to help local governments coordinate projects, but in reality, they are an unnecessary layer of government one-step removed from voters that takes power away from locally elected officials.

Read more: Transportation Reform: Restore Local Control, Accountability

5 ways privatization is fleecing American taxpayers

5 ways privatization is fleecing American taxpayers
Salon.com
February 2015

Government outsourcing goes horribly wrong more often than not. Here are a few representative horror stories

For decades we’ve been subjected to constant propaganda that government is inefficient, bureaucratic and expensive. We’re told that the answer is to “privatize,” or “outsource” government functions to private businesses and they will do things more efficiently and everyone comes out ahead. As a result we have experienced decades of privatization of government functions.

So how has this wave of privatization worked out? Has privatization saved taxpayers money and improved services to citizens? Simple answer: of course not. If a company can make a profit doing something the government had been doing, it means that we're losing out one way or another. It’s simple math. And the result of falling for the privatization scam is that taxpayers have been fleeced, services to citizens have been cut way back and communities have been made poorer. But the companies that convinced governments to hand over public functions have gotten rich off of the deal. How is this a surprise?

To read the rest of the story, click here.

Collin County lawmakers file 9 anti-toll bills

Link to article here.

3 lawmakers from Collin County take aim at toll roads with 9 new bills
By Brandon Formby
February 27, 2015
Dallas Morning News

North Texans with toll road fatigue have found champions in the Texas House. Reps. Jeff Leach, Scott Sanford and Matt Shaheen are pushing a series of nine bills that aim to dismantle the bureaucratic and financial mechanisms that have paved the way for a litany of toll projects in the state.

In North Texas alone, most highway projects under construction or in the works include some sort of tolling component. And because many involve private developers expecting profits, drivers are slated to continue paying tolls long after construction costs are recouped.

Read more: Collin County lawmakers file 9 anti-toll bills

County judge flip flops on Hwy 249 toll road in Grimes County

Link to article here.

Despite overwhelming opposition by the citizenry, this county judge reverses himself to side with special interests over his own constituents.

Grimes County Judge Expresses New Support For Highway 249 Toll Road
By Clay Falls
KBTX.com
February 20, 2015

GRIMES COUNTY, Texas - Grimes County Commissioners are continuing to oppose plans for a future toll road but the County Judge is now seeing more reasons to support the project.

Last week county commissioners voted four to one in support of a resolution opposing the Highway 249 also known as the Aggie Highway.

County Judge Ben Leman told us Friday he does think a future highway like this is inevitable.

He says TxDOT's new plan to spend $2 million on feeder roads for the project would be a benefit to Grimes county.

He told us he's disappointed but not discouraged by the commissioners' resolution.

Road funding bill moves to Senate floor

Link to article here.

Just do a simple graph that plots the rise in education spending versus road spending and you can’t even begin to make the argument Dick Lavine made during his testimony before the Senate Transportation Committee. Hands down, education and public health eat up over 80% of the budget. Roads ranges between 4%-10%. There is no ‘underinvestment’ in schools.

There’s an overzealous, loud and demanding education bureaucracy that eats up the dollars that should be sent to the classroom. There are 3 staffers for every teacher. But by starving the classroom (the part parents and students see), they can continue to claim that more money is needed for schools. Teachers should demand an end to the bureaucrats stealing their money and refusing to put money into teacher salaries and directly into the classroom (not the buildings) - but sadly, they’d rather use teachers as a political prop as an excuse to keep eating up the budget and starving other core functions of government, like roads.

State senate panel advances road funding plan
By Dug Begley | February 25, 2015
Houston Chronicle

A state senate committee moved forward Wednesday with a plan to use half the revenue from motor vehicle sales taxes for road improvements, but some senators expressed concern about unintended consequences.

The plan, sponsored by Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, and with support from Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, passed the Senate Transportation Committee 8-1 after two hours of discussion. Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, cast the lone dissenting vote.

Read more: Road funding bill moves to Senate floor

Phillips denigrates anti-toll movement

Former House Transportation Committee Chair, Larry Phillips, went on a rant attacking the anti-toll movement in Texas, blaming it on a few 'activists' who are 'lighting a fire' and stirring up trouble for pro-toll-tax loving lawmakers like Phillips. Well, we've got news for you, the anti-toll sentiment doesn't need any fomenting by activists, it happens organically on its own when taxpayers instinctively know they're being DOUBLE TAXED into poverty by this runaway tax on driving. TURF and Texans for Toll-free Highways are simply helping organize the grassroots tax revolt to pressure lawmakers to stop tolls across Texas.

Lawmakers introduce package of Toll-free Texas bills

IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Rep. Sanford, Rep. Leach, and Rep. Shaheen File Legislation for a Toll Free Texas

(AUSTIN, TX, February 24, 2015) Today, Rep. Scott Sanford (R - McKinney), Rep. Jeff Leach (R - Plano), and Rep. Matt Shaheen (R - Plano), announced a series of bills to move Texas toward a toll road free future.

Citizens who live in areas served by toll roads find themselves paying additional taxes in the form of tolls for what they feel should have been funded by their taxes paid to the state.  Individuals and businesses find that these taxes/tolls have become overly burdensome on their budgets and regard them as a substantial tax increase.
Furthermore, citizens have felt left out of the decision making process when it comes to transportation policy and decision-making.  Too many times, they hear about a distant “Authority” or “Council” over which they have no familiarity, run by names that never appear on their ballots.

Read more: Lawmakers introduce package of Toll-free Texas bills

Commissioners approve tolls for northside of San Antonio

Watch what happened on Fox 29 here.
(Note: The reporter mistook the agenda item where citizens' comment known as 'Citizens to be Heard' as the name of our group.
)


IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Commissioners approve tolls
for northside of San Antonio

Reaffirm tolls on US 281, I-10 despite
more road money coming to fix non-toll

(San Antonio, TX - Tuesday, January 17, 2015) Today, Bexar County commissioners passed a resolution brought by Kevin Wolff to 'reaffirm' what's been dubbed the $825 million 'Super Toll Plan' for toll lanes on US 281 (from Loop 1604 to the county line) and I-10 (from Loop 1604 to Boerne), and the initial non-toll expansion of Loop 1604 W (though tolls are coming from Bandera Rd. to I-35).

Read more: Commissioners approve tolls for northside of San Antonio

Abbott state of the state speech promises adequate road funds without tolls

Link to article here.

Abbott state of the state speech promises adequate road funds without tolls
By Terri Hall
February 17, 2015
Examiner.com

Texas Governor Greg Abbott outlined his priorities in his first state-of-the-state address today in a joint session of the Texas legislature, and he unequivocally promised to add $4 billion a year more to roads without raising taxes, fees, debt or tolls. That’s music to the ears of most Texans, beleaguered and weary of toll roads popping up on nearly every major highway across Texas. Abbott’s predecessor, former Governor Rick Perry, made toll roads, especially those funded through public private partnerships, the centerpiece of his transportation policy for 14 years. Now it’s coming home to roost, and Texans are saying ‘No more!’ Essentially, Abbott said ‘I hear you’ and I have a plan to fix it.

To show just how serious he is, Abbott declared transportation an emergency item, allowing these funding initiatives to be fast-tracked and considered earlier than normal. The governor’s funding plan tracks with what the grassroots have been advocating for two sessions: ending diversions of state highway funds to non-road purposes and dedicating a portion of the vehicle sales tax to roads. In addition, Abbott’s plan reaches $4 billion when combined with half of the oil and gas severance tax known as Proposition 1 funds that Texas voters overwhelmingly passed last November.

Read more: Abbott state of the state speech promises adequate road funds without tolls

Taxpayers to pay carpoolers tolls

Link to article here.

This is offensive. Our federal tax money is PAYING people to carpool by reducing or reimbursing their tolls! So those of us who don’t fall into the social engineering incentives of big government, are paying for other people’s tolls meanwhile we pay for full price to access those toll roads. This is a form of punishment for single occupancy vehicles - those who have to ride to work alone. A $1 million federal grant won't last long if even a small number of people seek reimbursment for tolls. After the TxDOT-Xerox toll billing nightmare, do we really need any more evidence that a government toll reimbursement program will be handled any better? Seriously!

What's the benefit of this Carma App anyway? Why would someone pay 20 cents a mile to carpool? They may as well drive their own car, and there’s some serious liability involved when matching total strangers to ride in a car together.

App reimburses carpoolers for paying tolls
By Amber Downing
KVUE.com
February 10, 2015

AUSTIN -- Austin is well known for it's traffic troubles, and the ever-growing population means it gets more crowded every day.

A new feature on a carpooling app may help. Commuters can now use Carma, a real-time, ride-sharing smart phone app, that pairs people with similar commute routes and schedules to enable them to find a ride or fill up their empty seats.

The app has partnered with TxTag, so drivers can be reimbursed for using toll roads. However, lately some people have raised concerns about billing issues, questioning how the app will work.

Read more: Taxpayers to pay carpoolers tolls

SCANDAL: TxDOT-Xerox $100 million toll contract blows up in Texas Senate

Link to article here.

Xerox toll collection problems explode in Senate hearing
By Terri Hall
Examiner.com
February 11, 2015

If ever there was a time to air the dirty laundry of a state agency in chaos, it’s the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) and its $100 million contract with Xerox for toll collections in Central Texas. Today’s Senate Transportation Committee hearing put TxDOT and its contractor on the hot seat with plenty of rapid fire questions from incredulous senators who could hardly believe their ears. TxDOT admitted 3.5 million toll transactions got caught up in the billing snafu that sent up to 2-year-old bills to Austin motorists, many of them padded with steep late fees and fines.

At least 30,000 motorists had valid toll tag accounts that should have been charged through their accounts, but instead received paper bills adding an extra 33% for pay-by-mail as well as additional late fees. When they tried to reach customer service at TxDOT’s toll-free number, they faced extremely long wait times before anything could be resolved.

Even more amazing was the response from Xerox Vice President Laurie Zazadio when she was asked to testify. She stated her name, said Xerox was making improvements, and concluded her remarks saying she can answer any questions.

Read more: SCANDAL: TxDOT-Xerox $100 million toll contract blows up in Texas Senate

Patrick pushes bill to dedicate vehicle sales tax to highway fund

Link to article here.

Amen! It's about time we finally make progress on shoring up our road funding shortfalls - and this bill does it without raising taxes and it can't go to toll roads!

Patrick, Nichols: Put Car Sales Tax Toward Roads
by Aman Batheja
Feb. 4, 2015
Texas Tribune

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick publicly backed a plan Wednesday to boost transportation funding by billions of dollars a year by dedicating some of the sales tax already collected on car sales to road work.

Patrick said he supported a proposal from Senate Transportation Chairman Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, that would ask voters to amend the Texas Constitution to dedicate any vehicle sales tax revenue beyond $2.5 billion annually to the state's highway fund. Nichols' plan would start in fiscal year 2018; until then, all of the vehicle sales tax collected — about $4 billion annually — would continue to go to the state’s all-purpose general fund.

Read more: Patrick pushes bill to dedicate vehicle sales tax to highway fund

Tolls impede the American spirit of the open road

Link to article here.

We agree, toll collection methods are a HUGE threat to personal liberties.

Tolls impede the American spirit of the open road
By Tom Jackson
Equipment World
February 02, 2015

Jack Kerouac would weep, were he alive today.

The author famous for making road trips a rite of passage would be shocked to find how tolls, tickets and traffic fines are being used as revenue enhancement schemes and an extension of the American surveillance state.

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Drug Enforcement Administration had developed a program to photograph license plates put them in a database to track drug dealers and criminals. You can read a synopsis of it here.

The government won’t say how many license plates are in the database, but it’s reportedly in the “millions.” And like so many other government programs, this one has morphed into a “massive domestic intelligence-gathering program.”

Read more: Tolls impede the American spirit of the open road

Repeal of private toll companies' eminent domain authority imminent

Link to article here.

NOTE: TURF prefers Rep. Yvonne Davis’ (HB 1004) bill and Sen. Bob Hall’s  (SB 444) bill to remove the eminent domain authority from these private toll corporations. Their bills are stronger than Burkett’s and no loopholes.

Texas Lawmaker Proposes Ban On Toll Road Land Confiscation
Texas state representative proposes to deny privately owned toll roads their authority to seize land through eminent domain.
The Newspaper.com
February , 2015

Opponents of toll roads in Texas no longer want to see the public gets the worst end of the bargain in "public-private partnerships. That is why state Representative Cindy Burkett (R-Sunnyvale) introduced legislation for the current session to strip private entities of the power of taking land from citizens for the use of toll road builders.

Burkett's proposal, House Bill 565, would prohibit the Texas Turnpike Corporation from taking land through eminent domain as if it were a governmental entity. A law adopted in 1991 gave the corporation this exclusive authority.

Read more: Repeal of private toll companies' eminent domain authority imminent

Montgomery County rails against High Speed Rail plan

Link to article here.

Texans oppose high speed rail through their communities, as they did when it was packaged as part of the Trans Texas Corridor. Impacts deemed 'catastrophic'!

Montgomery County leaders, residents rally against proposed high-speed rail
by Liza Winkler
Impact News
February 3, 2015

An estimated 800 Montgomery County officials and residents gathered Feb. 2 at the Lone Star Community Center in Montgomery to speak out against the proposed construction of a 240-mile high-speed rail project between Houston and Dallas by 2021.

“[The high-speed rail] is one of the biggest threats to Montgomery County in many, many years,” retired Montgomery County Judge Alan Sadler said. “Once those [assessed property value] decreases take place if this train hits this route in Montgomery County, the entirety of the county will pay the tax differential to make up for the loss. It is extreme.”

Read more: Montgomery County rails against High Speed Rail plan

TxDOT addresses toll collection, billing troubles with Xerox contract

Link to article here.

TxDOT just imposed $177,000 in fines for the problems associated with this contract. Who in their right minds spends $20 million a year to collect tolls for 3 lousy toll roads operated by TxDOT in Austin? This is a colossal waste of money. End this toll road abuse, get back to FREEways again!

TxDOT: Toll Billing Problems Being Addressed
by Aman Batheja
Jan. 29, 2015
Texas Tribune

Amid complaints from drivers about confusing bills and shoddy customer service, the Texas Department of Transportation said Thursday it is working to address concerns with its new toll billing system.

TxDOT signed a five-year, $100 million contract with Xerox last year for the company to take over its tolling operations, including billing and customer service. In recent months, some drivers on Texas toll roads have faced bills that were higher than they expected. Adding to their frustration? Long wait times on customer service calls and difficulty accessing accounts online.

Read more: TxDOT addresses toll collection, billing troubles with Xerox contract

MoPac toll road costs increase $60 million

Link to article here.

Note: the Original price tag was $136 million, now it’s going up to $197 million because of some ’stubborn’ limestone? That’s hardly a $61 million problem. That’s the trouble with these design-build contracts, the cost always goes up! Change orders, change orders, change orders - it’s how these companies game the system and the taxpayers. End the Regional Mobility Authorities. They exist to WASTE our money and impose unaccountable toll taxes.

MoPac's new toll roads likely to be delayed a few months
By Nick Simonite
Austin Business Journal
Jan 29, 2015

This highway has a habit of slowing anything down in its path — including construction crews. The toll lanes to be added to MoPac Expressway won't be typical. They'll be "managed lanes," meaning that the toll will fluctuate depending on traffic conditions. The heavier the traffic, the bigger the toll.

MoPac Expressway's new toll lanes may be ready at the end of the year rather than in September, the Austin-American Statesman reports.

Contractor problems and tougher-than-expected limestone are partly to blame, according to the report, which states that the 11-mile-long highway makeover still will cost less than the $197 million that the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority was granted for the project.

Read more: MoPac toll road costs increase $60 million

Empower Texans: Fiscal responsibility first with transportation

Link to article here.

Transportation Reform: Fiscal Responsibility First
January 26, 2015
By Ross Kecseg
Empower Texans

Predictably, the Austin establishment is calling for higher taxes, rainy-day raids and further expansion of “regionally managed” toll lanes as a means to finance roadway expansion. But before Texans allow more money to be indiscriminately thrown at transportation, the legislature should first reform the use of existing tax revenue.

The most obvious reform is to reduce motor fuel sales tax diversions, which currently sends 52% of tax revenue away from road projects and debt service. Even the federally mandated, state subsidized, liberal leaning planning bodies like North Texas’ Regional Transportation Council (RTC) oppose these diversions.

Doing so would likely require several other structural reforms to state budgeting; such as eliminating non-essential programs and agencies, dedicating future revenue streams to transportation, reforming the budgeting process to prioritize core conservative principles, and enacting stricter spending growth limits—all of which will enrage the lobbying class.

Read more: Empower Texans: Fiscal responsibility first with transportation

Traffic projections for Trinity Toll Road can be kept secret, says AG

Link to article here.

We've been trying to get this data made public ever since Rick Perry made it secret in 2007. We MUST have openess and transparanecy with this data - the pulci has a right to know if a toll road will be financially solvent BEFORE decisions are made, bond debt issued, or other public money committed.

Trinity Parkway traffic and toll estimates can be withheld, AG says
By BRANDON FORMBY This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Transportation Writer
Published: 26 January 2015

The North Texas Tollway Authority has spent 15 years and more than $1.7 million estimating the traffic impact and revenue potential of the proposed Trinity Parkway.

The agency collected the habits of Dallas drivers, the effect of various access points and how the toll road would affect nearby land usage.

That information could bolster or undercut arguments surrounding the project. It could also give a deeper understanding of the project’s potential risks and payoffs.

But the NTTA doesn’t have to share any of the information with the public.

Read more: Traffic projections for Trinity Toll Road can be kept secret, says AG

TxDOT Spends Millions in Tuition Reimbursements

Link to article here.

More waste at TxDOT. Taxpayers pay TxDOT engineers for continuing education at PRIVATE, very epxensive universities. Cut the waste and get back to building highways!

TxDOT Spends Millions in Tuition Reimbursements
By Terri Langford, Bobby Blanchard and Becca Aaronson
Jan. 22, 2015
Texas Tribune

When it comes to reimbursing state employees for education costs, the Texas Department of Transportation is far more generous than other state agencies.

After reporting this month that the Texas Health and Human Services Commission paid a top aide's $97,020 MBA tuition, The Texas Tribune took a closer look at how much state agencies reimburse employees for education costs. Of the $23.8 million state agencies spent from 2002 to part of January 2015 on tuition, conferences and other educational programs for employees, close to half went to TxDOT staffers, according to data from the Texas comptroller’s office.

TxDOT spokeswoman Veronica Beyer could not explain why the agency spends much more on staffer education than other agencies. She said doing so helps the agency attract and retain the most talented staff.

Read more: TxDOT Spends Millions in Tuition Reimbursements

Man receives toll bill for a vehicle from another state that he does not own

Link to article here.

Man Keeps Receiving Toll Road Bill
The bill is for a vehicle from another state that he does not own
Jan 14, 2015
KRGV.com

MISSION - A Mission man said he has been battling with the Texas Department of Transportation for years. The problem is a TxTag toll bill he received by mistake.

The man called 5 On Your Side for help.

Elwood and Avis Hedin have been coming down to the Rio Grande Valley from Minnesota for years.

“It's very frustrating. When you are talking to a person, it's like talking to a machine,” said Elwood Hedin.

It was back in 2012 when Hedin first got a bill from the Texas Department of Transportation's TxTag Office, which handles toll roads.

He paid his small bill, but then started getting billed for another vehicle which was not his.

Read more: Man receives toll bill for a vehicle from another state that he does not own

Multiple segments of Texas 130 eyed for truck toll discounts

Link to article here.

Why should a single Texas taxpayer pay for truckers to have toll discounts when we all have to pay full price to take the failing SH 130 tollway? This is not good policy and only prolongs the inevitable - bankruptcy for an ill-conceived toll road. This taxpayer subsidy should never happen.

Multiple segments of Texas 130 eyed for truck toll discounts
By Keith Goble
Land Line state legislative editor
January 9, 2015

Truckers traveling through central Texas could soon get another enticement to avoid driving on Interstate 35.

In an effort to reduce congestion on I-35 through the Austin area, multiple Texas state lawmakers are behind an effort to reduce truck tolls along a 49-mile stretch of state Highway 130.



The 90-mile highway connects the state capital with San Antonio to the south. It is split into six segments. Segments 1 through 4 link Georgetown to south Austin and are run by the state Department of Transportation. Segments 5 and 6 are closest to San Antonio and are run by a private group.



Sens. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, and Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, and Rep. Celia Israel D-Austin, have filed bills for consideration during the session that begins Tuesday, Jan. 13, that would reduce the expense for truckers to travel along segments 1 through 4.

Read more: Multiple segments of Texas 130 eyed for truck toll discounts

Senators call for federal gas tax hike

Link to article here.

Senators call for federal gas tax hike
By Mary Troyan
USA Today
January 11, 2015

WASHINGTON — Low gas prices have rekindled talk on Capitol Hill about raising the federal gas tax to eliminate huge annual deficits in the federal Highway Trust Fund that pays for road and bridge work around the country.

While some top Republicans remain adamant a tax hike is not the answer, there are signs that the idea, including one from Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, is at least getting a fresh look.

Corker and Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., have proposed raising the federal gas tax by 12 cents over two years and indexing it to inflation. To make the concept more palatable to fiscal conservatives, the measure would lower other taxes.

The 18.4-cent-per-gallon gas tax hasn't been raised since 1993. As vehicles have become more efficient, the revenue generated by the tax has dropped. Current stopgap funding for the Highway Trust Fund expires in May, and transportation officials in Tennessee and other states are holding back projects until uncertainty about the federal money is addressed.

Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, said this week a gas tax increase could not be ruled out. Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, agreed.

They did not endorse Corker's bill, but their comments represent more of an opening than when gas prices topped $4 a gallon.

"What we floated is obvious. There is not enough money coming in," Corker said last week.

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