Leaders, community question private meetings on toll lanes
By Jim Bradley
Wed., August 20, 2014
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Elected officials from towns north of Charlotte will have the chance to talk with the company that wants to build tolls lanes on Interstate 77 but the public won't be allowed in.
A series of private meetings have been set up for Thursday between the North Carolina Department of Transportation, Cintra and leaders in Huntersville, Davidson and Mooresville. Cintra was awarded a contract to build additional lanes along I-77 between Charlotte and Mooresville in exchange for collecting the toll revenue paid by drivers. The proposal has been controversial and so have the Thursday meetings.
"To me, it sounds like a secret meeting. When the DOT said they're going to have meetings with Cintra, they're going to be made available. I expected meetings that would involve everybody. Not just elected officials," said Huntersville Town Commissioner Rob Kidwell.
Other critics of the toll lanes jumped into the fray too. Vince Winegardner, with the group WidenI77, said the closed-door meetings raise even more questions about the project.
"If this is a done deal and the decision has been made, why do we have to have private meetings? Why can't they discuss this in public?” he said.
The DOT said the meetings with Cintra are to provide one-on-one time for local leaders to get information from Cintra. DOT said public meetings are scheduled in September.
As for Thursday's meetings for elected officials only, Kidwell said he won't attend.
"We should be able to ask those questions in the open, get the direct answers into the open because the people who put us in office deserve to know that," Kidwell said.
A caution on P3s: Let elected officials and the public beware
August 17, 2014 12:00 AM
By the Editorial Board
When it comes to public-private partnerships, so-called “P3s,” the old adage — let the buyer beware — needs to be updated for governments planning to join with private companies to do public work or assume a public function.
Let the public deal-maker beware. Let the public beware, too.
Perry’s indictment called ‘suspect,’ yet he ignored Krusee’s drunk driving arrest
By Terri Hall
August 16, 2014
The Republican Party is predictably coming to the aid of one of its own, Governor Rick Perry, who was indicted yesterday on two felony counts stemming from alleged abuses of power. Perry threatened to veto funding for the Travis County District Attorney’s Public Integrity Unit if District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg didn’t resign due to her drunk driving conviction. She didn’t resign, and Perry vetoed the unit’s funding. A Texas Grand Jury found probable cause that the governor committed crimes of abuse of official capacity and coercion of a public servant when it handed down two indictments. If found guilty, Perry could face up to 109 years in prison.
Perry’s attorney, Mary Ann Wiley, says he was acting within his constitutional powers to veto such legislation last year. The Democrat-controlled Travis County District Attorney’s office has been called into question before for its highly political case brought against Republican Congressman Tom Delay for allegedly using corporate money to influence elections. He was convicted in Travis County, but it was later overturned by an appellate court. So many are crying foul that Perry’s case is more of the same.
This is hogwash and lazy reporting. The number of toll transactions is NOT the same thing as the number of cars per day, nor is it the same as unique drivers per day. Just as a web site can boast thousands of hits per day, what advertisers really use to judge the site’s effectiveness is UNIQUE visitors per day. So this notion that somehow 7,000 transactions means 7,000 unique drivers is fallacious. A toll transaction is one time under a toll gantry. So on a 5-mile trip, one car can post 3-5 toll transactions (one every few miles or so). Then they post an equal number on their return trip, so one driver can post around 10 toll transactions per day for one round trip on just a 5-mile toll road.
Yet these business reporters seem to think they can talk-up the DFW toll roads as a success (as if they’re somehow well-liked) by printing whatever the private company says without one word of scrutiny. They should also compare how many drivers are using the toll lanes versus how many drivers are on the free lanes. That’ll give us a breakdown of what percentage of drivers on these multi-billion dollar tollways (built with tax money) are actually benefiting from the new capacity (for a hefty price tag). I’d also be instructive to know what the average cost per trip is during peak hours.
See how many drivers are paying tolls to drive on I-635, I-35E
By Nicholas Sakelaris
Staff Writer- Dallas Business Journal
August 15, 2014
The managed toll lanes on the LBJ Express attract about 20,000 drivers per day on the two phases that are open, according to the contractor.
Read Randy Salzman’s entire expose on P3s in the June/July 2014 Issue of Thinking Highways here.
Salzman's work is most comprehensive look at the dangers of P3s to date. It's a must read for citizens and policymakers alike.
A "Model" Scheme?
Thursday, 14 August 2014 00:00 By Randy Salzman, Thinking Highways | News Analysis
With about two-thirds of America's new transportation construction "public-private-partnerships," design-build P3s have been highly praised over the last decade. Contractors, politicians and financiers have been claiming that tiny slivers of private money bring efficiency to the formerly public process of highway building, spurring innovation and freeing taxpayer dollars for other key needs. But as Randy Salzman discovers, it's not without its problems
In the media, congress and across the political world, promoters pushing design-build public-private partnerships (P3s) are still claiming that private innovation is saving taxpayer money, creating good jobs and easing congestion.
Victor Vandergriff: Why not every North Texas highway can be tolled
By Nicholas Sakelaris
Staff Writer- Dallas Business Journal
August 14, 2014
Years ago, transportation planners made a decision that nearly all new highway capacity in North Texas would have a toll component, either tolled highways or managed lanes.
Looking back, Victor Vandergriff, Texas Transportation Commissioner, says he wondered at the time how people would react to that and how they would hold the decision-makers accountable for that once it came to fruition.
That time is now.
Conservatives introduce “TEA” highway bill that scraps federal program, but pushes tolls, P3s, & transit boondoggles
While Graves, Lee and Rubio may believe they’re offloading their federal gas tax revenue problem to the states, in reality, they’re seeking to compound the problem 50-fold; the states aren’t any better than the feds on transportation funding. We should not be encouraging more tolling of any kind, whether at the federal or state level. Tolls are a tax. The principle of “pay-as-you-go” must be applied at both the federal and state levels. Indeed, it must be legislated.
By Terri Hall | August 13, 2014
SFPPR News & Analysis
A group of conservative congressmen filed a bill to scrap the federal highway program and devolve the task of building and maintaining America’s highway system to the states. U.S. Rep. Tom Graves (R-GA), Senators Mike Lee (R-UT) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduced the bill dubbed the Transportation Empowerment Act or the TEA Act – H.R. 3486 in the House and S. 1702 in the Senate. The TEA acronym harkens back to the Agenda 21-inspired Transportation Equity Act (TEA) series of highway bills that opened the door to a multi-national highway system, so-called ‘innovative financing’ schemes, and widespread tolling – even imposing tolls on existing interstates.
Houghton knows better. MPO staff and TxDOT staff run everything. The MPO boards have no idea what they’re voting on. Plenty of elected officials complain they can’t get their projects into the MPO plans and they have no idea how the process works. The Alamo Area MPO meets during the day in a transit center downtown (not near any of the neighborhoods where toll roads will be) with NO public parking. We’ve had people get their cars towed and get parking tickets just to attend an MPO meeting. Then they gripe the public doesn’t show up. Really? When we have showed up by the hundreds, they NEVER once vote in favor of what the public says they want (which is no tolls). Not once in 10 years.
The 'P3' dilemma: How effective are public-private partnerships?
By Len Boselovic / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
August 10, 2014
The first of a four-part series.
Cash-strapped governments around the country that are reluctant to raise taxes are increasingly plunging forward with bold experiments: enlisting investment banks, pension funds and other eager investors to fund billions of dollars of highway, bridge and other infrastructure projects.
In Chicago, then-Mayor Richard M. Daley plugged a short-term budget gap in 2009 by turning over 36,000 metered parking spaces for 75 years to a private venture organized by Morgan Stanley. With little information and little time to analyze the transaction, Chicago’s city council overwhelmingly embraced the deal and its upfront payment of $1.2 billion.
At about the same time, Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl had considered a $452 million plan to rehabilitate his city’s woefully underfunded pension plans by privatizing parking. City council members rejected it.
This is a taxpayer funded BAILOUT of the SH 130 foreign-owned toll road. The state of Texas needs to terminate this contract immediately and take this highway back. It's an absolute OUTRAGE that TxDOT is using tax money to give truckers discount toll rates while autos pay the sticker price. Of course, the state can artificially make the traffic appear higher than it would be otherwise with this not so veiled bailout. This sort of manipulation to prop-up a failure only prolongs the inevitable, which is bankruptcy. Terminate it and get this road back for the taxpayers.
TxDOT works to bring toll discounts back to truckers on SH 130
By Amanda Brandeis
August 1, 2014
AUSTIN (KXAN) — Interstate 35 is a major artery in our city, but is often clogged with traffic. The Texas Department of Transportation says it has a solution.
The department again wants to lower tolls for big rigs on the SH 130 toll road, hoping to push truckers off the interstate. The stretch of I-35 that runs through downtown from U.S. 183 down to SH 71 is the most congested stretch of roadway in Texas, according to TxDOT.
During a pilot program in 2013, the number of trucks on SH 130 rose 44 percent. But the program ended when the funds dried up.
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