Sunday, September 21, 2014
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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.

Congressman DeFazio announces plans to pay for roads and bridges

Link to article here.

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.

Read more: Congressman DeFazio announces plans to pay for roads and bridges


Indiana Toll Road Remains Contentious Infrastructure Financing Case

Link to article here.

Indiana Toll Road Remains Contentious Infrastructure Financing Case
By Tom Curry
Roll Call
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.

TxDOT approves $97 million for El Paso street car

Link to article here.

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.

Read more: TxDOT approves $97 million for El Paso street car

Cintra grabs I-77 public private partnership in NC

Link to article here.

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.

Read more: Cintra grabs I-77 public private partnership in NC

Local leaders question toll plans on US 75

Link to article here.

State, county leaders question proposed toll lanes along U.S. 75
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.

Read more: Local leaders question toll plans on US 75

Obama highway plan called 'crazy'

Link to article here.

OBAMA: My Highway Plan Is 'Not Crazy, It's Not Socialism, It's Not The Imperial Presidency'
By Brett LoGiurato
Business Insider
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."

Read more: Obama highway plan called 'crazy'

Toll Roads, State Gas Tax Hike Discussed by Legislature

Link to article here.

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.

Read more: Toll Roads, State Gas Tax Hike Discussed by Legislature

Calls to reform federal transportation spending before tax hikes

Link to article here.

Here’s a Crazy Idea: What About Reforming Transportation Spending Instead of Hiking Taxes?
By Emily Goff, Heritage Foundation
June 26, 2014
Daily Signal

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.

Read more: Calls to reform federal transportation spending before tax hikes

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