toll roads

  • Bidding Pickett farewell, longtime transportation taxpayer ally retires

    Farewell: Pickett’s love for transportation and sticking up for taxpayers will be sorely missed
    By Terri Hall
    December 26, 2018

    Pickett Joe jpg 800x1000 Move Texas ForwardRetiring Texas State Representative Joseph Pickett (D - HD 79) is one in a million. Truly there is no one in the Texas House who undertook transportation as a matter of personal study with the aim of improving every step of the process for both the government agencies in charge of delivering projects and also for the forgotten taxpayer like Joe Pickett. He announced his retirement right before Christmas citing his battle with cancer and the need to fully recover without the rigors of a legislative session. It’s truly a devastating loss for the people of Texas. Here’s why.

    No one knows Texas transportation like Pickett, and there is no one currently in the Texas House who can come close to replacing his depth of knowledge and expertise anytime soon. He’s been in the Texas House since 1995, serving first on the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation then on the Transportation Committee itself, eventually chairing the committee for two sessions.

    Pickett not only served on his local Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) in El Paso as a councilman, but also during most of his tenure in the Texas House. He also served as Chair of the El Paso MPO for several terms. Local MPOs are where the nitty gritty of transportation projects take place. These boards, comprised of local elected officials and transportation agency officials, decide which local projects get priority over others and where gas tax dollars and transportation funds get allocated. Ever since the Rick Perry ‘toll everything so we can generate new revenue and not call it a tax’ began, the MPOs often decide whether or not a road project is tolled. Those are fighting words for many Texans faced with high monthly toll bills that approach the level of a property tax bill for many families in urban areas. Pickett had the savvy and finesse to challenge TxDOT, toll agencies, and MPOs about various toll project decisions and discern whether or not it was truly warranted or just a potential cash cow for an unaccountable agency.
  • BOMBSHELL: Senators find out tolls charged on roads that are paid for

    Sparks fly as senators discover numerous toll roads with no debt on them, prompts call to remove tolls
    By Terri Hall
    September 15, 2016

    It’s not often that the very sleepy subject of transportation offers a fiery discussion, but yesterday’s Senate Transportation Committee meeting did not disappoint. In a rare olive branch extended to grassroots anti-toll advocacy groups, Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom and Texans for Toll-free Highways, Chairman Senator Robert Nichols invited them to address the committee about one of its interim studies - a study on the elimination of toll roads.

    Just the title evokes strong emotions on both sides of the issue, and those emotions were in plain view Wednesday. Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) Executive Director James Bass laid out the numbers of how much it would cost to retire tolls on roads built with state funds. Let me say that again, toll roads that were built with state money. That means gasoline taxes and other state funds were used to build the road, but Texas drivers are being charged again, through tolls, to use it — a double tax scheme.
  • Chair wants tolls to come off, says tolls cause congestion

    Transportation Chair wants tolls to come down, insists tolls cause congestion
    By Terri Hall
    August 31, 2016

    As toll weary Texans anxiously await Governor Greg Abbott’s promise to fix our roads without tolls to come to fruition, House Transportation Committee Chair Joe Pickett is one of the few taking action to make it happen. At yesterday’s House Transportation Committee meeting, Pickett continued his war against toll ‘managed’ lanes on several fronts.

    First, he argued that tolls are actually causing congestion on some roads.

    “Toll projects actually exacerbate congestion. The one in my community does,” proclaimed a determined Pickett. Pickett’s referring to the Cesar Chavez Border Highway toll managed lane project where only 6% of traffic utilizes the lanes, leaving 94% of commuters stuck in congestion.

    Pickett told KVIA News in El Paso last year that, “Things have changed and if you want to lessen congestion, you open up the roads to everyone.”
  • Editorial: 'Tolls are necessary, deal with it'

    Texans reject editorial stating, ‘Tolls are necessary, deal with it’
    By Terri Hall
    February 20, 2017

    It’s tough being a taxpayer. After 14 years of enduring former Texas Governor Rick Perry’s push for toll roads, including the controversial network of transnational tollways under the control of a foreign corporation called the Trans Texas Corridor, Texans are still facing the push for tolls by local governments. Though Texas Governor Greg Abbott did an about-face on tolls campaigning against them and promising to fix Texas roads without raising fees, taxes, tolls or debt, local toll agencies, with the aid of a willing press, are trying to cram toll roads down commuters’ throats despite their opposition. Case in point, the San Antonio Express-News just ran an editorial entitled, ‘Tolls are necessary, deal with it.’
  • GONE: Trump yanks P3s and private toll roads from plan

    Link to article here.

    Trump pulls the plug on private toll roads, centerpiece of infrastructure plan
    By Terri Hall
    Setpember 30, 2017

    It’s big news for taxpayers, but for the special interests who have been pushing public private partnerships (P3s) and toll roads as the way to fund $1 trillion in upgrades to America’s infrastructure not so much. This week, President Donald Trump officially pulled the plug on P3s as the centerpiece to his infrastructure plan.

    The president said simply, “They don’t work.”

    Trump mentioned it in a meeting with members of the House Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday as the president met with lawmakers to discuss tax reform. Citing the failure of the Interstate-69 P3 contract done under Vice President Mike Pence when he was governor of Indiana, the state recently had to sever the contract, take over the project, and issue its own debt to get it finished.
  • Mixed bag legal opinion over co-mingling of funds for toll roads

    Mixed bag legal opinion over co-mingling of funds for toll roads
    Attorney General can’t figure out what a toll road is
    By Terri Hall
    May 19, 2018

    Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a mixed legal opinion regarding whether or not Prop 1 and Prop 7 funds that are prohibited from being used on toll roads could be co-mingled with projects that have toll lanes in them. Rep. Joe Pickett requested the opinion in response to the public backlash when it was discovered the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority was attempting to use Prop 1 and Prop 7 funds on its US 183 toll project.

    To the average voter, when it states: “Revenue transferred to the state highway fund under this subsection may be used only for constructing, maintaining, and acquiring rights-of-way for public roadways other than toll roads,” it’s pretty clear that means any part of a road, including the right of way, cannot be a toll road. But apparently that’s not clear to the Attorney General whose legal opinion chose to punt rather than protect taxpayers from an accounting trick being used by toll bureaucrats to skirt the Texas Constitutional Amendments overwhelmingly approved by Texas voters in 2014 and 2015.
  • Note to Trump: Key states tossed pro-toll incumbents

    Link to article here.

    Trump take heed: Toll roads a factor in Florida, North Carolina, and Texas election

    By Terri Hall
    November 9, 2016
    Selous Foundation for Public Policy Research

    With the historic election of Donald Trump to the American Presidency, it signals a total repudiation of the political establishment by the working class. You could call it the election of the American worker. But analysts would be remiss if they failed to overlook how toll roads played a part in several races in key states.

    One of the most notable races is for governor in North Carolina — must-win state for Trump that went red. Yet, Republican Governor Pat McCrory is in a nail biter photo finish to retain his seat in a state that went Republican last night. The very real threat by Democrat Roy Cooper who claimed victory Wednesday morning, though most still believe the race too close to call, is in part due to McCrory losing support among his base thanks to his approval of the controversial public private partnership (P3) toll project on Interstate-77 in Charlotte.

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