Keep Free Lanes Free Act filed by Taylor, Sanford

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

SENATOR VAN TAYLOR AND REPRESENTATIVE SCOTT SANFORD FILE LEGISLATION TO STOP PROLIFERATION OF TOLL ROADS

AUSTIN, TX - State Senator Van Taylor and State Representative Scott Sanford filed the Keep Free Lanes Free Act. Filed as S.B. 891 and H.B. 1311 respectively, these bills would prohibit the conversion of any free lanes into tolled or managed lanes.
 
Senator Taylor stated, "The people of Senate District 8 have spoken loud and clear that they are fed up with the excessive tolling that engulfs our communities. Tolls are just a tax by another name. The people's tax dollars funded 'free' lanes to begin with and converting those lanes into tolls is simply government trying to orchestrate double tax."
 
Representative Sanford added, "Tolls are extracting an additional tax on our families and businesses.  Collin County is surrounded by tolls, making us a gated community with one large transportation bill."

The truth about the 281 HOV lanes

While the TxDOT presentation graphic tries to misrepresent what TxDOT, the RMA, and Via are actually doing, it’s clear that today there are SIX unrestricted highway lanes open to all cars on US 281 (see Google maps image), and once they finish, there will only FOUR unrestricted freeway lanes. The two inside highway lanes will be converted to an exclusive, restricted HOV-bus lane. So the actual highway capacity open to ALL vehicles will SHRINK, not expand. Even though the highway lanes will FINALLY have overpasses, there will still be congestion since they are adding NO NEW highway lanes and instead are taking away an existing lane that’s open to all cars and making it an exclusive lane for carpoolers and buses.

In fact, the new lanes they’re building are the frontage roads to the outside of the existing freeway lanes, regardless of how this drawing is labeled. A Google Earth view of 281 clearly shows that the frontage roads stop at Loop 1604 and the highway in the middle continues on 281 all the way past the county line. The RMA drawing tries to call the highway that exists today ‘access lanes,’ but even the Federal Highway Administration recognizes US 281 as a US highway (so does the signage in the corridor), even if our local and state government try to say it’s not.

Residents have been promised an additional general purpose lane (open to all traffic) for nearly 20 years, now they’re not only NOT going to build any additional freeway lane, they’re going to take a lane open to all traffic away.

281 HOV lanes 281 lanes s

Citizen Lobby Day: Toll-Free Texas

See what is happening and how you can get involved. Attend the monthly TURF meeting...


Toll Free Texas 400

Monday, April 17, 2017
8:30 AM to 5:00 PM

A joint effort for Tax-Day at the Capitol in Austin.

Show our legislators that 'We Mean Business!'

Come help us along with like-minded grass-roots groups from across the state of Texas. 

Location: Texas State Capitol
Address: 1100 Congress Avenue
              Austin, TX 78701
             (meet on the South Capitol steps)

 >> Register Today!  

Your freedom to travel is at risk!

Gathering on South Capitol stepsConcerned citizens from across the state will gather in Austin to interact with lawmakers on transportation-related issues. We’ve seen a massive increase in our cost to drive through tolls, handing control of our public roads to private foreign corporations, and  unsustainable debt sweep the state, with more to come unless we make our voices heard.

This is a day when CITIZEN lobbyists come to the Capitol to advocate on what matters to grassroots Texans -- like getting an affordable, pro-taxpayer transportation policy in place.

Lots of activities planned:

  • a press conference,
  • have our group recognized from the House and Senate floor,
  • visit offices and speak to legislators,
  • lawmakers address TURF group in special 'Legislative Hangout' Q&A
  • breakout sessions including: 'Social Media 'how to'', 'Follow the Money', 'Voter Fraud' 
  • and a lot more!

Be prepared...

  • The public parking garage east of the Capitol is at 12th Street and San Jacinto. If that garage is full another is located north of the Capitol at 18th Street and Congress at the Texas History Museum. Parking costs $10-12/day.
  • shirt backBring money for lunch. We plan to eat together on the South Capitol lawn. For a box lunch from Jason's Deli, the cost is $12.07. We need your order by Thursday, April 6 to reserve your lunch. No orders will be taken on site. You must order in advance. Otherwise plan on getting lunch in the Capitol Grill (wait times in the food lines can exceed 30 minutes).
  • Bring a notebook to take notes (optional). Fliers, maps and materials supplied by TURF.
  • T-shirts with our message are available for $15. Please order your t-shirt by Sunday, March 26.
Citizen lobyists being oriented

We need you!

We need a HUGE crowd to show up to talk to legislators about transportation. There are already some very bad proposals being pushed by special interests (more tolls in the hands of private corporations), and without a grassroots revolt, it'll sail through without a whimper of opposition. Plan to come and have others join you.


If you're interested in coordinating a carpool,
contact Terri Hall or call (210) 275-0640.


Two things to do to register...

  Order your shirt  
Order by Sunday, March 26


Shirts are $15 each and ordered through the "Booster" website. You will pickup your shirt at the event.

      Order your lunch  
Order by Thursday, April 6


Box Lunches are $12.07 each and ordered through the NE Tarrant Tea Party "EventBrite" page. On that page, click on the green 'Tickets' button and choose your Jason's Deli sandwich option of Turkey & Cheese or Ham & Cheese. Both options come with chips, pickle, cookie and bottle of water.

Drive to privatize a fad that’s fading fast

Link to article here.

Politics and the Financial Crisis Slow the Drive to Privatize

A deal to lease the Pennsylvania Turnpike, left, failed last year. Private operation of Chicago parking meters has run into criticism.
By LESLIE WAYNE
New York Times
June 4, 2009

It was hailed as a win-win for Main Street and Wall Street — a way for states and cities, along with financiers, to make some money.

But now privatization, the selling of public airports, bridges, roads and the like to private investors, looks like a boom that wasn’t. Deals are collapsing. Airy hopes of quick profits are vanishing. And what was celebrated as a new wave in finance is, for the moment, barely making a ripple.

What happened? The financial crisis, for starters. The easy money that Wall Street was counting on to finance its purchases has largely disappeared. Then the Obama administration unintentionally damped interest with its $787 billion economic stimulus package, a windfall that local governments are now racing to spend.

Bankers concede they got a bit ahead of themselves. When times were good, investment banks and private investment funds raised billions of dollars in hopes of buying infrastructure. But many state and local governments resisted selling because of money, politics or both.

Some deals turned out to be less lucrative than these would-be sellers had hoped. Government officials also began questioning whether taxpayers would be better off if infrastructure were in private hands. After Chicago sold its parking system to a private operator, for instance, drivers had to feed meters with as many as 28 quarters to park for two hours.

“We will see a few transactions,” said Fred Pollock, a vice president at Morgan Stanley Infrastructure, a private equity fund. “But we know what we won’t see — a tidal wave of projects.”

Some big names still want to enter this business, among them Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts. Such investors have raised about $180 billion for global infrastructure projects. Large funds have also been established in Australia, Britain and Bahrain, where such public-private partnerships are more common. More than 20 states enacted legislation in recent years to allow some form of private-sector investment that would help fill budget gaps and repair crumbling roads, bridges and even airports.

But now the deals are falling apart. In April, a much-anticipated $2.5 billion plan to privatize Midway Airport in Chicago collapsed after a group of investors was unable to obtain debt financing. The deal, which had been in the works for four years, was to have been the first in a Federal Aviation Administration project that would have allowed up to five major airports to move into private hands.

Midway was just the latest setback. The biggest was the failure last fall of the largest deal proposed to date — a $12.8 billion lease of the Pennsylvania Turnpike to an investor group headed by Citigroup and a Spanish investment firm. Postmortems into that failed effort show that privatization advocates vastly underestimated the political opposition the deal would stir up in the Pennsylvania legislature.

Late last month plans to privatize “Alligator Alley,” a 78-mile stretch of Florida highway that connects Fort Lauderdale with Naples, collapsed when no bidders showed up. The failure has had a ripple effect — in Mississippi, state officials have pushed back the bidding schedule for a new 12-mile toll road.

Then there is the $1.2 billion privatization of 36,000 parking meters in Chicago. In the five months since the deal took effect, widespread complaints about poor service and rising parking rates have created a political firestorm for the Chicago City Council. Public opposition was so strong that on Wednesday the council approved a delay in voting on any future asset sales.

Chicago public officials have called the work of the private operator, Chicago Parking Meters L.L.C., “simply unacceptable.” For its part, the operator has apologized and announced it would delay price increases at the meters.

Proponents of public-to-private asset sales point to the $1.8 billion lease of the 7.8-mile Chicago Skyway in 2004 and the $3.8 billion raised by Indiana through a 75-year lease of its toll road in 2006 as successful pioneering efforts.

In Indiana, the money went to pay for a 10-year highway infrastructure program, and Gov. Mitch Daniels was re-elected last year promoting the lease, despite bumper stickers that read “Keep the Toll Road, Lease Mitch.”

The stimulus money, as well as other infrastructure money promised by Congress, has provided temporary relief for cash-poor municipalities. But this situation will not last forever.

“They still have expenses, and revenues will not keep up,” Scott Pattison, executive director of the National Association of State Budget Officers, said of state and local governments. “Some states will have to look at asset sales and decide. Once we step back from this crisis mode, I think they will be looked at again.”

If the market revives, the problems that scuttled recent deals may provide some lessons. In the case of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, politics clearly played a role in the deal’s collapse. A study by the Pew Center on the States found that proponents of the deal had overpromised what the turnpike could fetch and had failed to make it clear where the money would go.

After indicating that the turnpike might be valued at as much as $26 billion, when the winning $12.8 billion bid came in lawmakers felt it looked too small. Even more, there was concern that the money would be squandered and that the state was putting a valuable asset into foreign hands, since the top bidder included a Spanish company.

“It simply wasn’t a sufficient bid by a long shot,” said Joseph F. Markosek, a state legislator and head of the Pennsylvania House Transportation Committee.

Similar sentiments are coming into play in Florida, where few had expected Alligator Alley to be leased. “I believe the private partnership is like fool’s gold,” said David Aronberg, a state senator in south Florida who has led the fight against privatization. “It only looks good from afar.”

Foreign companies invest aggressively in U.S.

Link to article here.

Overseas Investors Buy Aggressively in U.S.
By PETER S. GOODMAN and LOUISE STORY
New York Times
January 20, 2008

Last May, a Saudi Arabian conglomerate bought a Massachusetts plastics maker. In November, a French company established a new factory in Adrian, Mich., adding 189 automotive jobs to an area accustomed to layoffs. In December, a British company bought a New Jersey maker of cough syrup.
For much of the world, the United States is now on sale at discount prices. With credit tight, unemployment growing and worries mounting about a potential recession, American business and government leaders are courting foreign money to keep the economy growing. Foreign investors are buying aggressively, taking advantage of American duress and a weak dollar to snap up what many see as bargains, while making inroads to the world’s largest market.

Last year, foreign investors poured a record $414 billion into securing stakes in American companies, factories and other properties through private deals and purchases of publicly traded stock, according to Thomson Financial, a research firm. That was up 90 percent from the previous year and more than double the average for the last decade. It amounted to more than one-fourth of all announced deals for the year, Thomson said.

During the first two weeks of this year, foreign businesses agreed to invest another $22.6 billion for stakes in American companies — more than half the value of all announced deals. If a recession now unfolds and the dollar drops further, the pace could accelerate, economists say.

The surge of foreign money has injected fresh tension into a running debate about America’s place in the global economy. It has supplied state governors with a new development strategy — attracting foreign money. And it has reinvigorated sometimes jingoistic worries about foreigners securing control of America’s fortunes, a narrative last heard in the 1980s as Americans bought up Hondas and Rockefeller Center landed in Japanese hands.

With a growing share of investment coming from so-called sovereign wealth funds — vast pools of money controlled by governments from China to the Middle East — lawmakers and regulators are calling for greater scrutiny to ensure that foreign countries do not gain influence over the financial system or military-related technology. On the presidential campaign trail, the Democratic candidates have begun to focus on these foreign funds, calling for international rules that would make them more transparent.

Debate is swirling in Washington about the best way to stimulate a flagging economy. Despite divided opinion about the merits, foreign investment may be preventing deeper troubles by infusing hard-luck companies with cash and keeping some in business.

The most conspicuous beneficiaries are Wall Street banks like Merrill Lynch, Citigroup and Morgan Stanley, which have sold stakes to government-controlled funds in Asia and the Middle East to compensate for calamitous losses on mortgage markets. Beneath the headlines, a more profound shift is under way: Foreign entities last year captured stakes in American companies in businesses as diverse as real estate, steel-making, energy and baby food.

The influx is the result of a confluence of factors that have made the United States both reliant on the largesse of foreigners and an alluring place for opportunistic investors. With American banks reeling from the housing downturn and loath to lend, businesses are hungry for cash.

The weak dollar has made American companies and properties cheaper in global terms, particularly for European and Canadian buyers. Even as Americans confront the prospect of a recession, economic growth remains strong worldwide, endowing oil producers like Saudi Arabia and Russia and export powers like China and Germany with abundant cash.

As the German company ThyssenKrupp Stainless broke ground in November on what is to be a $3.7 billion stainless steel plant in Calvert, Ala., its executives spoke effusively about the low cost of production in the United States and the chance to reach many millions of customers — particularly because of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which allows goods to flow into Mexico and Canada free of duty.

“The Nafta stainless steel market has great potential, and we’re committed to significantly expanding our business in this growth region,” said the company’s chairman, Jürgen H. Fechter, according to a statement.

Foreign giants like Toyota Motor and Sony have been sinking capital into American plants. Investment in the American subsidiaries of foreign companies grew to $43.3 billion last year from $39.2 billion the previous year, according to the research and consulting firm OCO Monitor.

“This is a vote of confidence in the American economy, the American marketplace and the American worker,” the deputy Treasury secretary, Robert M. Kimmitt, said. “These investments keep Americans employed and keep balance sheets strong.”

Five million Americans now work for foreign companies set up in the United States, Mr. Kimmitt said, and those jobs pay 30 percent more than similar work at domestic companies. Nearly a third of such jobs are in manufacturing, which explains why Rust Belt states have been wooing foreign investment.

“We’ve lost 400,000 manufacturing jobs,” said Michigan’s governor, Jennifer M. Granholm, a Democrat, who has traveled three times to Europe and twice to Japan in pursuit of investment since taking office in 2003. “I’ve got to get jobs for our people.”

Some labor unions see the acceleration of foreign takeovers as the latest indignity wrought by globalization.

“It’s the culmination of a series of fool’s errands,” said Leo W. Gerard, international president of the United Steelworkers. “We’ve hollowed out our industrial base and run up this massive trade deficit, and now the countries that have built the deficits are coming back to buy up our assets. It’s like spitting in your face.”

Other labor groups take a more pragmatic view.

“We need investment and we need to create good jobs,” said Thea Lee, policy director for the A.F.L.-C.I.O. in Washington. “We’re not in the position to be too choosy about where that investment comes from. But it does bring home the consequences of flawed trade policies over many, many years that we’re in this position of being dependent.”

At the center of concern is the growing influence of sovereign wealth funds, which invested $21.5 billion in American companies last year, according to Thomson. Analysts say they could skew markets by investing to improve the fortunes of their national companies or to pursue political goals.

“This is a phenomenon that could be called the growth of state capitalism as opposed to market capitalism,” said Jeffrey E. Garten, a trade expert at the Yale School of Management. “The United States has not ever been on the receiving end of this before.”

Perhaps emblematic of national ambivalence, in an appearance on CNBC last week, the voluble market analyst Jim Cramer spoke in menacing terms about the growing role of state investment funds from the Middle East and China.

“Do we want the communists to own the banks, or the terrorists?” Mr. Cramer asked. “I’ll take any of it, I guess, because we’re so desperate.”

Proponents of investment from overseas note that finance from sovereign wealth funds is a mere trickle of the overall flow from abroad. Indeed, the bulk comes from Europe, Canada and Japan. Just as Americans have scattered investments around the world in pursuit of profit — with holdings of foreign stock and debt exceeding $6 trillion in 2006, according to the Treasury Department — foreigners are looking to the United States, with their capital generating economic activity, proponents say.

If fear of foreign money now inspires Americans to erect new barriers, that would damage the economy, said Todd M. Malan, president of the Organization for International Investment, a Washington lobbying group financed by foreign companies.

“The policy choices on the negative side would have enormous economic implications that would make the current situation look like a bubble bath,” he said.

Tensions spawned by foreign investment hark back to the 1980s, when Japan snapped up prominent American businesses like Columbia Pictures, and some intoned that the American way of life was under assault. The new wave of foreign money is washing in at an even more important time, analysts say.

The United States has lost more than three million manufacturing jobs since 2001, with foreign trade often taking the blame. Foreign-made goods now account for roughly one-third of all wares consumed in the United States, roughly tripling their share over the last quarter-century. The soaring price of oil and a widening trade deficit underscore how the American economy is increasingly vulnerable to decisions made far away.

In 2005, Congressional opposition scuttled a bid by the state-owned Chinese energy company Cnooc to buy the American oil company Unocal. The following year, furor on Capitol Hill prevented DP World, a company based in the United Arab Emirates, from buying several major American ports.

No such outcry has greeted the purchase of stakes in major Wall Street banks by state investment funds in the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, China, Singapore and South Korea. This is largely because the banks sold passive slices and ceded no formal control, which would have set off a federal review of the national security implications. But the silence also reflects the imperative that these enormous institutions swiftly secure cash.

“It would be good if these companies didn’t need all this capital and better if the capital was available in the United States,” said Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, who was a vocal opponent of the DP World deal. “But given the situation that these institutions find themselves in and the fact that there’s a pretty strong credit squeeze, there’s only two choices: Have foreign companies invest in these firms or have massive layoffs.”

In years past, particularly when Japanese money washed in, many foreign purchases proved not to be so prudent in the end. This time, with the dollar weak and troubled American companies in a poor bargaining position, the prices really do seem cheap, some economists say.

“They’re buying financial assets at well under book value,” said Gary C. Hufbauer, a trade expert at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

Trade experts assume tensions will rise as developing countries — which tend to have more state companies — continue to expand their share of investment in the United States.

Canada still spends the most money buying stakes in American companies — more than $65 billion in 2007, according to Thomson. But other countries’ purchases are growing rapidly. South Korea’s investments swelled to more than $10.4 billion last year from just $5.4 million in 2000. Russia went to $572 million from $60 million in that span; India to $3.3 billion from $364 million.

But even if political tension increases, so will the flow of foreign money, some analysts say, for the simple reason that businesses need it.

“The forces sucking in this capital are much bigger than the political forces,” said Mr. Garten, the Yale trade expert. “If there is a big controversy, it will be between Washington on the one hand and corporate America on the other. In that contest, the financiers and the businessmen are going to win, as they always do.”

Citizen Lobby Day 2013


TURF Thanks You! We had great participation in the Citizen Lobby Day @ the Capitol

>> Check out the photos on our Facebook page


See what is happening and how you can get involved. Attend the monthly TURF meeting...



Texas State Capitol - Austin, TXTuesday, March 12, 2013 - 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM
Location: Texas State Capitol
Address: 1100 Congress Avenue
              Austin, TX 78701
             (meet on the South Capitol steps)

Gathering on South Capitol stepsYour freedom to travel is at risk!

Concerned citizens from across the state will gather in Austin to interact with lawmakers on transportation-related issues. We’ve seen a massive increase in our cost to drive through tolls, handing control of our public roads to private foreign corporations, and  unsustainable debt sweep the state, with more to come unless we make our voices heard.

This is a day when CITIZEN lobbyists come to the Capitol to advocate on what matters to grassroots Texans -- like getting an affordable, pro-taxpayer transportation policy in place.

We have lots of activities planned:
  • a press conference,
  • have our group recognized from the House and Senate floor,
  • attend key committee hearings,
  • visit offices and speak to legislators,
  • lawmakers address TURF group in special Q&A.
Be prepared...
  • The public parking garage east of the Capitol is at 12th Street and San Jacinto. If that garage is full another is located north of the Capitol at 18th Street and Congress at the Texas History Museum. Both cost $8/day.
  • Bring money for lunch in the Capitol Grill
  • Bring a notebook to take notes (optional). Fliers, maps and materials supplied by TURF.
  • T-shirts with our message will be available.

Citizen lobyists being orientedWe need a HUGE crowd to show up to talk to legislators about transportation. There are already some very bad proposals being pushed by the leadership (more debt, more tolls), and without a grassroots revolt, it'll sail through without a whimper of opposition. Plan to come and have others join you.

If you're interested in coordinating a carpool,
contact Terri Hall or call (210) 275-0640.

What do taxpayers want?

Ending Transportation & Political Gridlock in Texas

A pro-taxpayer agenda for Texas drivers & taxpayers

Current transportation policy in Texas is committing Texas to a future we do not want.

  • More clogged roadways
  • More tolls for drivers
  • More diversions of tax dollars to projects that increase rather than reduce congestion
  • More public debt and interest payments
  • Higher fuel and maintenance costs for drivers dealing with congestion and poorly maintained roads
  • More erosion of private property rights to condemn land for economic development and non-transportation revenue purposes
  • A growing state bureaucracy to manage all of the “innovative” strategies to create new streams of revenue.
The people of Texas reject this future and ask our state lawmakers to restore sanity and sound planning so that citizens can spend time in commerce and with their families, rather than in traffic. This is a fundamental issue and a core responsibility of government that arguably affects all Texans more than any other state government function, including education.

Solutions:

  • Return to pay-as-you-go road financing. Stop building roads with debt.
  • Ensure adequate tax revenues are available for Texans to control their own transportation destiny rather than being subject to the whims of the federal government, interest rates, and private toll road companies. Redirect transportation- related taxes to roads by ending diversions of the gasoline tax, dedicating vehicle sales taxes and registration fees to adding and maintaining road capacity.
  • Ban ‘public private partnerships’ that hand public roads to private corporations.
  • Prohibit tolling existing free lanes, and/or the conversion of public right of way into toll roads, and stop paying for toll projects with taxpayer dollars. Require that all toll projects be self-financed and prohibit taxpayer bailouts of losses in toll revenues and failed toll projects. Ban ‘non-compete’ agreements which prevent the state from building new capacity.
  • Repeal ‘system financing’ which allows toll revenues from one corridor to be used to prop-up or finance another.
  • Prohibit the leasing out of public right-of-way to a private company when the land was condemned for a ‘public use.’
  • Prohibit taxing authority by unelected boards.

Download a PDF version...

Standing meetings

TURF General Meeting
Thursday November 30, 2017
(combined Nov-Dec meeting)
- 6:00 PM (Order dinner and social time)
- 6:30 PM (meeting begins)
Chester's Burgers at 16609 San Pedro Ave.
(between 410 and 1604 - Thousand Oaks/Mecca exit off US 281)

Upcoming Meetings...
Thursday, January 18, 2018

Meetings are generally the 4th Thursday of the month and held at Chester's unless noted otherwise.



Alamo RMA Meeting (Tolling Authority)
Last Wednesday of the month...
Starts @ 5pm
- Bexar County Courthouse
100 Dolorosa Street, Suite 1.20
San Antonio


MPO Meeting (Transportation Policy Board)
4th Monday of the month...
Starts @ 1:30 PM
- at Via Metro Center
1021 San Pedro
San Antonio

 

Funny But Sad

Toll Road Dummies hit YouTube

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Documentary filmmaker of the Truth Be Tolled film series, William Molina, had fun making this "Toll Road Dummies" satire demonstrating the insanity of supporting Rick Perry's toll road policies, including tolling existing highways and charging Texans a DOUBLE TAX to use roads we've already built and paid for.

281 DUMMIES from Storm Pictures on Vimeo.








Isn't this the truth...

About Us

TEXANS UNITING FOR REFORM & FREEDOM (TURF)
Defending citizens’ concerns about toll roads & eminent domain abuse

What is TURF?
Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom (TURF) is a non-profit organization whose mission is to educate the public on our government’s new shift to tolling using controversial financing methods called public-private partnerships (called Comprehensive Development Agreements or CDAs in Texas), the tolling of existing corridors, and the eminent domain abuse inherent in these plans (confiscating private land to give to a private company for commercial gain). TURF also educated the public about the Trans Texas Corridor (TTC), the first of the planned NAFTA Superhighways, and eventually helped pass a complete repeal of the TTC from state statute in 2011. TURF also helped secure a moratorium & sunset of controversial public private partnership road contracts in 2007 and was also the first grassroots group to oppose the use of stimulus money for toll roads in 2009, which garnered national coverage by the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, New York Times and Fox News.

TURF is a grassroots group of Texans asking for reforms through accountability and good public policy as well as promoting non-toll, sensible transportation solutions. TURF remains committed to ending eminent domain abuse and works tirelessly to secure a pro-freedom, pro-taxpayer, fiscally solvent, freely-accessible public road policy for all Texans.


TRANS TEXAS CORRIDOR

A 4,000 mile network of toll roads taking 580,000 acres of private land in TX alone to provide new trade corridors to transport foreign goods into the United States. It's part of the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) which is the primary step in the economic integration of North America. Both the Democrat and Republican Party platforms as well as over 30 Texas counties formally opposed the Trans Texas Corridor, "because there are issues of confiscation of private land, State and National sovereignty and other similar concerns." In 2011, TURF helped secure a repeal of the Trans Texas Corridor from state statute, but aspects of the NAFTA superhighway plan remain a threat through public private partnerships and federal legislation. The Texas Department of Transportation gave the plan a new name - 'Innovative Connectivity Plan,' which will implement virtually the same plan piece-by-piece in smaller road segments using the original road names (like I-69 or Loop 9).

Our concerns with toll roads…


TRADITIONAL TOLL ROADS vs. FREEWAY TOLL ROADS

We have no objection to traditional toll roads, where they are BRAND NEW ROADS (totally new right of way, not in an existing highway corridor), where the people get to vote on the project, and where the money and control stay local.  

In contrast, freeway tolls:

•   Permanently take current and future public expressways away from drivers.
•   Double tax drivers since they are funded with gas tax dollars.
•   Create more congestion on frontage roads with stop lights and other parallel roads through the use of controversial non-compete agreements (see Texas Monthly’s December 2007 article His Way or the Highway).
•   Fail to provide important viability studies that investors demand with traditional toll roads.
•   Cost much more for construction, right of way, utility relocation, maintenance and service than non-tolled roads.
•   Create corporate welfare as privately owned corporations profit off publicly owned assets.
•   Add bureaucracy: Regional Mobility Authority.
•   Allow non-elected people (toll authority board members) to set the tax rate (toll tax) for our public highways without limits.
•   Create unfair & punitive taxation as one portion of a region pays a toll to drive an expressway while others drive their expressways free. A recent Statesman article (February 12, 2007) reveals toll rates as high as $1.50 per mile on an Austin tollway.
•   Produce a second inefficient, unaccountable tax on top of the gas tax with no protection from further raiding of gas taxes or toll revenues to fund things other than transportation. The November 2006 Texas Transportation Institute report commissioned by the Governor’s Business Council clearly states that we do not need tolls across Texas in order to meet transportation needs (http://www.texasgbc.org/Reports3.htm).
•   Will never be removed, as the sloppy revenue slush fund gets spent on other political pet projects (not good government).
•   Give road project location decisions to the private sector to be based on profitability rather than need and environmental considerations.

UNACCOUNTABLE BUREAUCRACY AND DOUBLE TAXATION

The Texas Comptroller, Carole Strayhorn, 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: http://www.window.state.tx.us/specialrpt/ctrma05/

FORCING DRIVERS TO PAY

Non-compete agreements and other means to force drivers onto the freeway tolls are also at issue. TxDOT's internal presentation shows a TxDOT plan to force drivers onto tolled public expressways by limiting or avoiding frontage roads: see it here (slide #10). (See Texas Monthly’s December 2007 article His Way or the Highway).

IRRESPONSIBLE GOVERNMENT

Freeway Tolls on Hwy 91 in Orange County, Calif., was torpedoed by a lack of vision for the future. Investors paid $130 million for the right to build and operate four express toll lanes for an existing highway. In 1995, the lanes opened. Drivers paid tolls electronically and tolls went up during high-traffic hours. The non-compete portion of the contract, however, prevented the state from modifying the alternative lanes or adding new interchanges. By 2003, the alternative frontage roads needed $1.6 billion in improvements. So Orange County paid $207.5 million to buy back the express lanes. (See Texas Monthly’s December 2007 article His Way or the Highway).


Therefore, we are strongly opposed to:

1. Tolling our existing FREEways. It amounts to DOUBLE TAXATION. There is no justification for charging the taxpayers to use a FREEway they have already paid for.

2. The Transportation Commission's toll only mandate passed on Dec. 18, 2003. It deprives local communities of exercising other funding options, like bonds, ATD sales tax (unique to San Antonio), and traditional gas tax revenues.

3. Plans to privatize our limited public infrastructure handing our highways over to foreign corporations for 50 year monopolies using secret contracts that violate Open Government, create unbridled and excessive taxation due to administration costs and built-in profit, and overall work against the public good.

4. These excessively larger, more expensive toll plans where free lanes are permanently congested (due to non-compete agreeements) and some even downgraded to frontage road lanes leaving us with less efficient long distance travel and longer idle time at traffic signals for the majority of users.

5. Turning neighborhood streets into highways as drivers seek alternative routes to toll corridors rather than provide efficient travel for all taxpayers on highways. (Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison introduced into the congressional record in May 2005 statistics on what happened to neighboring streets with a tollway nearby in Ohio. Traffic tripled and likelihood of accidents increased 17 times!)

We feel unelected bureaucrats (TxDOT) are DICTATING this to us without a vote of the PEOPLE! This toll mandate defies common sense, good government, transparent government, and good fiscal policy. We, the taxpayers, ask for an immediate, independent audit of the entire Texas Department of Transportation and EVERY toll plan.

It's time to restore responsive, ethical, and fiscally responsible government of the PEOPLE, by the PEOPLE, for the PEOPLE!

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or if you prefer:
Donate by mail:
Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom
PO Box 29254
San Antonio, Texas 78229-0254

Please note: Contributions to TURF, a 501(c)(4) organization, are not tax deductible.  However, businesses impacted by mobility/transportation issues may be entitled to a business deduction.

Contact:
Pat Dossey, Treasurer
(210) 842-8018 or contact by email