Wolff threatens to oust Adkisson as Chair of MPO


In a not so veiled threat, the freshman commissioner on the Bexar County Commissioners Court, Kevin Wolff, whose father is pro-toll County Judge Nelson Wolff, is publicly attacking the senior Commissioner on the Court, Tommy Adkisson, for what Wolff calls "severely lacking" and "myopic" leadership of the MPO, and threatened to remove him as Chair if he doesn't move on from the toll road issue.

“If he doesn't start figuring out that this job is much larger than the narrow, myopic place he's taken it to, I think you'll find a board that says, ‘You know what, we've got to make a change,'” Wolff said.

Apparently Wolff hasn't read the MPO's long-range plan that has no less than 22 toll projects. That sure seems to warrant some focus since the vast majority of those toll roads are in Wolff's precinct and amount to a NEW TAX on his constituents without a vote of the people. Since the majority of the angry taxpayers who filled the Alzafar Shrine Temple at Monday's MPO meeting to testify against toll roads are Wolff's constituents, it also seems wise for Wolff to take heed. Those same attendees heaped praise on Adkisson and are now cursing Wolff, yet he boldly attacks Adkisson in this article.


To clarify, I told this reporter that TxDOT and the RMA are setting themselves up for a third round of litigation by refusing to put a non-toll option on the table, which is legally a different statement than what he placed in the article where he made it sound like it's a "kill tolls or I'm suing" ultimatum.

Tolling IS THE ELEPHANT in the room and has been the MAJOR focus of the MPO since Rick Perry took office. To brush it aside and to brush aside the voices of hundreds of people opposed to tolling who took time out of their busy lives to attend and/or to testify at the MPO ought not be ignored and seems like denying the obvious. Adkisson's point at the outset of Monday's meeting is exactly right....we CAN'T move on as a community until we move past this constant impasse over tolling existing highways. As long as 22 projects are in the MPO's plan, it WILL BE an issue.

By contrast, the other transportation issues at the MPO do NOT involve levying new taxes. The MPO's own public involvement policy is that people should have a say over the transportation decisions that affect their lives. The people overwhelmingly opposed tolling these freeways. The MPO violated it's own policy Monday night. Why doesn't the Express-News print that in the paper?

Web Posted: 10/27/2009
Adkisson shifts focus after losing toll vote

By Josh Baugh - Express-News

Terri Hall knows no defeat.

Monday night's toll road vote by the Metropolitan Planning Organization, she said, wasn't a loss in her crusade against toll plans in Bexar County.

That the proposal to strip toll plans from segments of U.S. 281 and Loop 1604 was shot down by a 13-5 vote wasn't a surprise to Hall. The MPO board held a “roll call” vote, Hall said, and now there's an official record of how each MPO member — 11 of whom are elected officials — stands on toll roads.

Read the rest of the story here.

Throw the bums out! San Antonio MPO votes to toll AGAIN...

More details to come, but here's the list of the MPO members who voted to toll your EXISTING FREEWAYS despite 800 people packing the room and one hundred testifying AGAINST tolls. In total there was five and a half hours of testimony against tolling our existing freeways, 13 MPO Board members still voted in favor. Only 7 people testified in favor of tolls, and they were the Greater Chamber of Commerce, the North Chamber of Commerce and those who work for the highway lobby. It was over 90% AGAINST tolls. This should sound the alarm quite clearly that our elected officials no longer represent us. It's taxation without representation!

Let's issue pink slips to the elected officials and FAST!

Senator Jeff Wentworth

Commissioner Kevin Wolff

Commissioner Chico Rodriguez

Councilman John Clamp

Councilman Ray Lopez

Councilman (of Selma) William Weeper

Plus City appointees:

Mary Briseno (Via)

Rick Pych (Via)

Majed Al-Ghafrey

Mike Frisbie

(2) TxDOT votes

Joe Aceves (county employee)
______________________________________________________________________________

GOOD GUYS WHO VOTED AGAINST:

State Representative David Leibowitz

Commissioner Tommy Adkisson

Mayor of Leon Valley Chris Riley

Councilwoman Jennifer Ramos

Councilman Reed Williams

Divide & Conquer: the 281 nightmare continues

First decode the jargon:

ARMA = Alamo Regional Mobility Authority (ARMA), a misleading name for tolling authority, whenever you hear "mobility" it's code for tolling

MPO = Metropolitan Planning Organization is the local transportation planning board

NEPA = National Environmental Policy Act, federal law that guides environmental review for highway projects

___________________________________________________________________

The RMA can't seem to tell the truth. At yesterday's MPO meeting, Executive Director, Terry Brechtel, couldn't even tell the Board how many toll lanes the agency is planning to build on 281. She's either incompetent or intentionally hiding the truth. I believe it's the later.

The point of the discussion was to get to the bottom of what happened to the $100 million in gas taxes dedicated to fix 281 (some became available in since 2003, the rest by 2006, documents showed it was still there through 2007) and how to move forward with an immediate solution. For the scoop on how a non-toll plan for overpasses and expansion on 281 was promised in public hearings in 2001 and funded with gas taxes since 2003, go to: www.281OverpassesNow.com.



Every project needs environmental clearance and funding. Sufficient funding, despite TxDOT's best attempts at hiding and spending every cent available to fix 281, is still available. But yesterday, Clay Smith of TxDOT NEVER answered Rep. David Leibowitz' direct question asking where the $100 million in gas taxes went. Brechtel also tried to claim the cost difference between the 20-lane toll road and 10-lane freeway plan was a mere $20 million.



TxDOT nor the RMA ever has to answer for its defiance, not as long as we have Rick Perry as governor and a sheepish legislature that's too afraid to fix the big bad wolf. Guys like Commissioner Tommy Adkisson (new Chair of the MPO) and Rep. Leibowitz are in short supply in Austin. However, Bexar County Commissioners appoint the RMA Board and have floated the idea of dissolving it. Let's insist they do.

The other hurdle in getting 281 fixed becomes the environmental clearance. The clearance for the toll road was pulled October 1, 2008. TxDOT royally botched the 281 toll road environmental study that was found to be rigged and fraudulent for which one employee was fired, two others "re-assigned," and caused TxDOT to be banned from doing the new study (totally unprecedented).

The clearance was pulled for the toll road only. Federal law, NEPA, provides for a different course of action to advance in place of the toll road, particularly one that's different in size, scope, and impacts. The original non-toll plan for 281 fits the bill, and yesterday we laid out how to get environmental clearance expedited for 281. It was abundantly obvious that TxDOT and the RMA continue to dismiss ANY other solution other than converting our existing FREEway into a tollway. Every non-toll scenario is shot down.

Brechtel and sidekick Leroy Alloway blatantly misled the public in Sunday's Express-News article stating that the footprint for the freeway plan and the toll road are identical when the RMA's own web site (see inset photos) and even past Express-News reports show otherwise. The original freeway fix is 10 lanes and the toll road is up to 20 lanes wide. We don't need a mega toll road to fix 281, we need overpasses and access roads.



The toll road has detrimental impacts that the non-toll plan does not. There are significant negative economic impacts such as $2,000-$3,000 a year in new toll taxes and a higher cost of goods, indirect effects such as traffic diverting to neighborhood streets, environmental impacts due to continuous frontage roads that induce overdevelopment of the aquifer and a larger footprint creating greater impervious cover.

In addition, the criteria to determine what level of study is needed states controversy as a reason to do a full environmental impact statement. The toll roads are extremely controversial. The FHWA already required the RMA to do a full impact statement for the <a href="http://satollparty.com/post/?p=630">Bandera toll road</a> for that reason.

Public meetings this week:
"Open House" means silence opposition
 The RMA is hosting two public hearings this week, one tonight on the 281/1604 interchange at Harvest Fellowship off 1604 (just west of 281) at 5:30 PM, and a 281 Scoping Meeting Thursday at St. Mark's Church off Thousand Oaks at 5:30 PM. The Open House techniques being utilized by the RMA for its public hearings do not comport with federal law, NEPA.

An open house format does not allow the public a chance to hear a formal presentation all at one time, with identical project information. The public has to read handouts, look at posters and project drawings spread around the room, and ask one-on-one questions of people from ARMA and the consulting firms in order to gain any understanding of the project. There is no official record of the questions and answers from the comments/concerns expressed in such one-on-ones. For a public hearing, there is a comment and response report where you can read the agency's official response, but not with an open house.

TxDOT in recent years has begun to use the open house so that those opposed to a project don't get to express their opposition during an open comment period at the end of a meeting where the audience hears these concerns and sometimes applauds and may cause some people to change their minds about a project. The open house format is a divide and conquer technique designed to silence those who may oppose the agency's preferred alternative, which is always toll roads.

At the RMA's open house for the 281 superstreet, attendees were not even made aware that in order to have their comments appear on the official record, they had to go submit them to the stenographer. We had many folks tell us they didn't even know a stenographer was present.

The open house format is not a proper format for public hearings and it must be stopped or it can and will be challenged.

Here's what you can do...

1. Head straight to the stenographer to get your comments on the official record.
2. Express your concerns with the Open House format where dissemination of info is not uniform and citizens cannot benefit from hearing other attendees thoughts about potential impacts.
3. Specifically for the interchange meeting, ask to see the document you're supposed to be commenting on. (they're holding a public meeting for comments on a document we believe is not even completed yet, which is cart before the horse and another violation)

New MPO Chair: “I will leverage heaven and earth” to fix 281 & 1604


Link to article here.

07/28/2009

MPO boss' power remains intact

By Josh Baugh - Express-News

Bexar County Commissioner Tommy Adkisson, a toll-road opponent and environmentalist, took over as chairman of the Metropolitan Planning Organization on Monday and dodged an attempt to dilute his agenda-setting authority.

Adkisson was in line for the chairmanship two years ago but lost the position to then-City Councilwoman Sheila McNeil. The MPO vote that installed McNeil broke the organization's long-standing tradition of rotating the leadership role between city and county leaders.

Because of his toll-road opposition, Adkisson lost the chairmanship in 2007, when one MPO board member said the organization didn't want its image tarnished by electing a toll critic to be its leader.

The MPO oversees about $200 million in federal transportation funding and must approve most transportation projects within the county.


On Monday, Adkisson said he would “leverage heaven and earth” to fix congestion at U.S. 281 and Loop 1604 on the city's North Side and prioritize mass transit. He fell short of saying he would quash toll roads during his term but said he doesn't think they work well.

“All the toll-road arrangements I'm seeing around the country are losing money and traffic,” he said. “And if you can imagine when you have an economy like this, and you have extrapolated into the future a revenue stream that depends on people supporting it, I think you have to be very careful.”

Though Adkisson and Councilman John Clamp were unanimously elected chairman and vice chairman, the board split on a vote on whether to take up the issue of agenda-setting authority. In the MPO's three decades of existence, the board chairman always has set the agenda for the organization's monthly meetings. It became an issue during McNeil's term because she removed an item that state Rep. David Leibowitz, D-San Antonio, had placed on the agenda, declaring that as chairwoman she had absolute authority to do so.

County Commissioner Kevin Wolff recommended Monday that the board vote to give the agenda-setting power to the MPO's executive committee, composed of the board chairman and board members representing the city, the county, the Texas Department of Transportation and VIA Metropolitan Transit.

Leibowitz floated a motion to vote only on the nominations and leave the agenda-setting discussion for another day. Initially, the board vote was a tie, but Councilwoman Jennifer Ramos later changed her vote, tipping the count in favor of Leibowitz's plan.

Whether the policy change will be placed on an agenda remains to be seen. Adkisson, who currently has sole authority over the agenda, said he has no problem letting the full board take up the issue. At the same time, he sees no reason to change things.

“This MPO has been around since the early '70s, and it's never had an executive committee,” he said. “(Agenda-setting) has been within the sole province of the chairman. So it's really fixing something that isn't broken.”

Terri Hall, founder of Texans United for Reform and Freedom, said she and her supporters were gravely concerned with giving the power to a committee with a large contingent of non-elected members. She also said Monday's meeting would have violated the Texas Open Meetings Act if the board had voted to begin the process of shifting the power away from Adkisson because the issue wasn't properly announced on the MPO agenda.

Wolff, who says toll roads are a tool to ease congestion, disagreed. He said proper notice was given. More importantly, he said, the authority should be spread over an entire committee regardless of who happens to be chairman. Wolff said he would continue to push for the policy amendment.

But Hall said toll-road advocates are “trying to change the rules in the middle of the game.” Still, she was thrilled with Adkisson's victory.

“This is a breath of fresh air for everybody in San Antonio,” she said.

Waco gets hits with proposed tolls on I-35

Link to article here. Now Waco gets hit with proposed toll lanes on EXISTING INTERSTATE I-35! Read the comments we submitted after this article...

Local residents comment on proposed toll lanes
Monday, January 14, 2008
By David Doerr
Tribune-Herald staff writer

Area residents have one more day to get in the last word on a proposal to add two toll lanes to Interstate 35 through Waco.

After receiving 14 submissions, the Waco Metropolitan Planning Organization is accepting written comments on the staff recommendation it made in December to build the toll lanes along the 13-mile stretch between South Loop 340 and Elm Mott. All written comments received by 5 p.m. Tuesday will be submitted verbatim to the MPO’s policy board, which will make the decision on the toll lanes later this month.

Last month, Waco MPO director Chis Evilia announced that cuts in state and federal transportation funding were forcing local road planners to look at toll roads as a possible option to finance highway expansion projects.




Evilia said the MPO was forced to ax 13 of its 23 highway expansion proposals in McLennan County after Texas Department of Transportation officials announced last fall that there would be no money available to add capacity to the state’s road system after this year.

TxDOT officials have blamed the funding crisis on rising construction costs, federal cutbacks, state diversions of gas tax revenues and new restrictions on private investment in toll road projects.

Evilia has said that while state and federal transportation funding is in turmoil, one of the only ways to pay for road construction is through publicly managed toll projects. He expects out-of-towners driving through Waco to be the motorists who most often use the additional lanes and pay the tolls.

The MPO staff estimates that tolls would provide up to 40 percent of the funding to expand the highway to eight lanes. TxDOT officials say state coffers could pay the remaining 60 percent.

Tolls also could generate an additional $5.7 million to $10.9 million that could be used for other projects in McLennan County, according to MPO planning documents.

Evilia said the Waco City Council has requested a briefing on the toll road proposal and the overall highway funding problems during its meeting Jan. 22. He said he hopes the meeting starts a discussion about the local financing of highway projects, such as the expansions of Ritchie Road and Panther Way.

Comments can be hand-delivered to the Waco Metropolitan Planning Organization office at the Dr. Mae Jackson City of Waco Development Center, 401 Franklin Ave. They also can be sent via e-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

__________________________________

TURF Comments:

Tolling an existing interstate highway is a DOUBLE TAX. No matter how the pavement gets re-arranged when "new lanes" are paved down the middle, the taxpayers will be paying twice for the same stretch of road. The controversy surrounding the tolling of existing interstates has recently gone all the way to the halls of the U.S. Congress. In a recent appropriations bill, tolling existing interstates was prohibited in a one year moratorium.

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison said this:“The purpose of having an interstate system is so that we could have seamless and free transportation into every State of our Union." She also said: "...we are one step closer to protecting Texas taxpayers from paying twice for a highway. I will continue working with my colleagues to push for a permanent prohibition of tolling existing federal highways.”

Congressman Ciro Rodriguez said this: “Using toll roads to double-tax Texans is just plain wrong...The citizens of Texas have spoken and they do not want the federal highways they have already paid for to be converted into toll roads."

Inside and outside Pennsylvania, citizens are up in arms that an interstate highway built with funds from ALL 50 states will be tolled, thereby double taxing not only Pennsylvanians, but ALL interstate traffic without voter approval by the taxpayers.

“I hate paying tolls,” said Anthony Foote. “It eats up my profit. If this goes through, you’ll have a lot of truckers avoiding Pennsylvania — including me.”

Pennsylvania officials plan to build up to 10 toll areas along the 311-mile stretch of Interstate 80 in the next three years to help pay for road, bridge and mass transit projects and subsidies.

The move has sparked a political war between the bipartisan coalition of state legislators who approved the plan and two Republican congressmen who say it is a “shell game,” taking revenue from rural Pennsylvania to bail out the state’s urban areas.

--- The Bulletin, October 9, 2007
_______________________________
"It seems that Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell is pushing a scheme to impose tolls on the Pennsylvania section of Interstate 80.

I'm pretty steamed, too. If Pennsylvanians want to charge tolls on the roads they built with their own money, such as the Pennsylvania Turnpike, that's none of my business.

But I-80 was built with my tax dollars under a program begun by the esteemed Republican president Dwight Eisenhower. Now this Democrat wants to use the road as a cash cow.

Like Rendell, Corzine also flirted with the idea of putting tolls on our sec tions of I-80 and I-78, but Jersey drivers made it plain to Corzine that this was political suicide. So Corzine has to content himself for now with making a buck off our existing toll roads." -- Paul Munshine, New Jersey Star-Ledger, August 16, 2007

No one argues that I-35 is the primary north-south artery in the state of Texas and that it needs new capacity. However, let's examine the the proposed funding. If only 40% of the project is toll viable and the state of Texas needs to subsidize the rest of it with public money, the project is not a self-sustaining toll road thereby making toll lanes on I-35 a TRIPLE TAX (one tax paid for what's there today, then more public money to subsidize the project, and a third tax, toll tax to drive on it). This is horrific public policy!

Then, TxDOT has made known that NO NEW projects will be let in 2008 and likely 2009. So makes the Waco MPO believe that the money being promised in matching funds will ever come to fruition? The Waco MPO and City Council ought to carefully consider the source of the promises that have been made to them by TxDOT. This is the agency who enticed the Capitol Area MPO (CAMPO in Austin) into casting a politically controversial vote in FAVOR of toll projects only to yank the funding a few months later (Austin American Statesman, Dec. 17, 2007). TxDOT cannot be trusted.

The Texas Transportation Institute study shows we DO NOT Need a single toll road in the State of Texas to meet our future transportation needs. All that's needed is a simple indexing of the gas tax. TxDOT didn't like those conclusions, so it tries to dismiss the report as "flawed." Also, a State Audit report last year showed that nearly HALF of TxDOT's supposed "funding gap" figures (the amount of money for road project that the gas tax can't cover) are pure fiction. The Governor even admitted in a news article in September of 2006 that the "funding gap" was based on a wish list, not needs (Austin American Statesman, August 20, 2006).

We have been hearing a steady cry for accountability and sanity to be injected back into transportation policy, not just in Texas, but the country. Taxpayers and voters see the staggering rise in fuel prices with no end in sight and can't fathom how a new tax on driving can be squeezed out of the family budget. The cost of transportation is going up at a faster rate than people's ability to pay it. TxDOT's own studies have shown toll road aren't even financially viable at $3 a gallon for gas. We are at that price today, so public servants ought to take a step back and ask themselves why are they promoting a financially unsustainable approach to transportation.

When the cost of transportation increases, it HURTS the economy. Even those who don't take the toll road will still pay for it through the higher cost of goods, not just in Waco but throughout the state since most Texas goods and service providers use I-35. The decision you will make effects motorists and taxpayers far beyond Waco. The vast majority of citizens are not even aware of the proposed toll lanes on I-35. There have been NO TxDOT public hearings or any reliable means for seeking public comment prior to the MPO's vote.

There has been no small uprising over tolls on existing corridors all over this state. Show courage and do what's right by the taxpayers and say "NO" to tolls on I-35 and elsewhere. Every project with such sweeping costs and consequences ought not to be approved without a vote of the people.

- Terri Hall
Founder/ Director
Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom
A non-profit grassroots group defending Texas taxpayers from unaccountable new toll taxation and the Trans Texas Corridor

Supertoll plan approved by Alamo MPO

Link to article here.

Supertolls Plan Advances at MPO
By Jim Forsyth
WOAI Radio
April 29, 2014

The Alamo Area Metropolitan Planning Organization has approved a long-term 'Transportation Improvement Program' which includes proposals for toll lanes and so called 'managed lanes' on Loop 1604, as well as on Highway 281 and Interstate 10 outside 1604, 1200 WOAI news reports.

The $1.7 billion provides funding for bicycles, pedestrians, establishes bus and carpool lanes, and encourages alternatives to the single person in a vehicle model of commuting in metro San Antonio.

Toll rates for 281 approved by MPO Board

Link to article here. See the TURF assessment of what happened at the MPO here.

ARROGANCE: “Nobody wants to pay tolls,” tolling authority board member Reynaldo Diaz said. “It's just a fact of life, it's going to happen.” That's the attitude of UN-elected appointees of the tolling authority (Alamo RMA). You're gettin' these toll roads rammed down your throats whether you want them or not....we're the elitists and we know best. Public vote? Bahumbug...we aren't going to trifle with a little thing like democracy! Of course, he doesn't tell you the overpasses have been paid for since 2003 and we don't need toll roads to fix 281, period! This is a money grab!

The article misstates how many pro-tollers showed up. The reporter was sitting in the front, I was standing in the back. When the tollers stood up, only the first 5 or 6 rows stood. A good chunk of the last several rows were filled with city and county employees as well as TxDOT staff. I only counted about 40 people in favor. Also, at least 40 of our supporters were stuck outside and not allowed in due to the room reaching capacity.

This is not representative government. Critics outnumbered proponents (who will profit from the roads) 3 to 1, yet they Board still voted in favor. What does that tell you? As long as 9 appointees whose jobs depend on them voting for the establishment, we'll NEVER have representation!We've been in front of this MPO for more than 2 years and no matter how many people turn out to oppose tolls, these bought and paid for board members continue to ram toll roads through! Let the people vote!
See the voting record of the MPO Board members after the first story.

First toll lanes on 281 set for December 2010
Patrick Driscoll
Express-News
12/04/2007

Just one day after getting more public funds to help pay for a planned U.S. 281 tollway, a local agency Tuesday set a schedule to open the first toll lanes in December 2010.

Those 4 miles will run from Loop 1604 past Stone Oak Boulevard, according to the timetable approved by the Alamo Regional Mobility Authority board.


 

Another 4 miles, to Comal County, would open in June 2012, six years ahead of a calendar used in a finance study that had all 8 miles opening in stages from 2011 to 2018.

“The timeline schedule that we set on this is just screaming,” authority Chairman Bill Thornton said.

The tollway could open even sooner if the contractor works fast, collecting $10,000 for each day shaved off of each of the project's two segments.

But if the contractor's late, daily penalties would be $10,000 for the first 4 miles and $20,000 for the rest.

Motorists will ride free the first two months and pay just half-price the third month when each section opens. Full fees in 2012 will be 17 cents per mile for cars and will rise annually with consumer inflation.

The existing highway lanes will be replaced with non-toll access roads.

“Nobody wants to pay tolls,” board member Reynaldo Diaz said. “It's just a fact of life, it's going to happen.”

On Monday, the Metropolitan Planning Organization, an intergovernmental board that signs off on area tollway and highway projects, voted 12-4 to approve U.S. 281 toll rates.

The MPO board also shifted $43 million in public funds from other toll projects to help pay for U.S. 281 toll lanes. A total of $112 million in public money will subsidize the $476 million cost to ramp the system up.

__________________________

December 04, 2007
Board sets U.S. 281 toll rates
Express-News
It took toll roads to turn a quiet planning board into a red-hot public forum, and it took a vote Monday on setting toll rates to pack in a record crowd.

How they voted

 FOR

 

 
Windcrest Mayor Jack Leonhardt
 

Selma City Councilman Bill Weeper
 

County Commissioner Sergio "Chico" Rodriguez
 

County Infrastructure Director Joe Aceves
 

San Antonio City Councilwoman Sheila McNeil
 

San Antonio City Councilwoman Diane Cibrian
 

San Antonio Aviation Director Mark Webb
 

San Antonio Deputy City Manager Jelynne Burley
 

Texas Department of Transportation engineer David Casteel
 

Texas Department of Transportation engineer Clay Smith
 

VIA Metropolitan Transit board member Ruby Perez
 

VIA Metropolitan Transit board member Hank Brummett
 

 AGAINST

 

 
State Rep. Carlos Uresti
 

State Rep. David Leibowitz
 

County Commissioner Tommy Adkisson
 

County Commissioner Lyle Larson
 

 ABSTAINED

 

 
AACOG Director Gloria Arriaga
 

 ABSENT

 

 
San Antonio City Councilman Philip Cortez
 

San Antonio City Councilman Justin Rodriguez

SAMPO BOUGHT & SOLD…SEE WHO VOTED TO RAISE YOUR TAXES!

NON-COMPETE WILL PROHIBIT EXPANSION OF SURROUNDING FREE ROUTES!
These sorry excuses for elected representatives voted to limit ANY new roads or expansion of existing roads surrounding the the 281 tollway which undoubtedly includes, Stone Oak Pkwy, Bulverde Rd., Red Land Rd., and Blanco Rd. (up to a 4 mile area around the tollway by law, yep that counterfeit moratorium Perry rammed through allows it)!

MPO BOUGHT AND PAID FOR

Who voted to increase your taxes
Sheila McNeil,
Councilwoman, Dist. 2, called northsiders "those people" who can afford the tolls while taking thousands in campaign contributions from pro-toll interests like Zachry and Red McCombs
Diane Cibrian,
Councilwoman, Dist. 8, campaigned on lowering taxes but just voted FOR the largest tax increase in TX history!
Jack Leonhardt,
Windcrest Mayor, said he received 5,000 emails FOR and only a few hundred against (we confirmed that over 1,200 emails AGAINST were sent using our email alias)...so he lied!
Chico Rodriguez,
Bexar County Commissioner who has an opponent in the primary in March
William Weeper,
Claimed he received more emails in favor of tolls and was compelled to "do what the people want" and vote FOR a TAX INCREASE!
Joe Aceves,
county employee who did what pro-toll Judge Wolff told him to do even though 2 of the 3 commissioners on the MPO voted AGAINST and the county has twice passed a resolution AGAINST tolling existing freeways (which are smoke & mirrors and worthless apparently)

Two TxDOT votes (David Casteel & Clay Smith, one of the TxDOT employees seen walking into the Oct. 19 Valero meeting where the highway lobby strategized on how to win approval of the toll roads at today's mtg)
Two Via Votes (Ruby Perez, who's also chummy with Sheila McNeil, and Hank Brummet, who previously voted WITH us when he was on the MPO years ago...guess that proposed Park & Ride at Marshall Rd. was enough to co-opt them into voting FOR more highways against their own stated mission of mass transit)
Two City employees (one, Mark Webb, is the boss of a Via Board member Ruby Perez, and Jelynne Burley is the other)

The few heroic GOOD GUYS
Commissioner Tommy Adkisson (wait till you see his impassioned speech when we get it on YouTube, a true advocate of mass transit and simple solutions like contraflow lanes, etc.)
Rep. David Leibowitz (he's a fabulous litigator and got the RMA to admit to a non-compete and to tolling existing roads)
Senator Carlos Uresti (poked holes in the RMA's numbers, logic, determined their plan doesn't achieve congestion relief AT ALL for those who cannot afford tolls)

One Lone Wolf in Sheep's Clothing?
Lyle Larson, Bexar County Commissioner, who will soon be resigning from office to run for Congress, is on a collision course with the bizarre.

After years of SAYING he's against and also voting against tolls, today on KTSA 550 radio only hours before the MPO meeting, Larson threw cold water onto the MPO vote discouraging turnout by saying no matter how the MPO votes, TxDOT can still toll the roads if the RMA doesn't, which may be true, but that doesn't mean we give up the fight. Essentially, he said we're going to get toll roads no matter what the people want. Way to talk it down! Sounds like County Judge Nelson Wolff! Then, he came out and defended Sheila McNeil whose comments caused a firestorm of controversy for attacking LARSON'S OWN PRECINCT in a targeted tax grab. He did the same thing at today's MPO meeting going even farther by kissing up to the former dictator (change the bylaws on a whim to remain Chair of the MPO even after I'm out of office) and MPO Chair turned Greater Chamber President Richard Perez! Larson bragged he was a lone wolf (fond of firing off letters that have netted no real results in actually stopping the toll roads), and "wasn't a team player" content to be the steady lone vote against something rather than garner the votes to lead and to make things happen.


THANK YOU FOR THE CALLS, EMAILS, AND COMING TO THE MEETING
YOUR SUPPORT STILL MOUNTED A HISTORIC, FORMIDABLE FIGHT

Many of your fellow citizens have spent countless hours handing out fliers, driving around mobile billboards, making phone calls, and helping turn out the show of force at today's meeting. We all owe them a debt of gratitude! It did make a difference, the highway lobby had to work their fingers to the bone to get these toll rates passed. They've never had to mount such a defense before, we're making progress and many of the pro-tollers, especially McNeil, took a MAJOR beating in today's meeting.

In an astonishing marathon 5 hour meeting, more than 200 people filled the room IN THE MIDDLE OF THE WORKDAY! That's BY FAR the most we've ever been able to muster during the workday! CONGRATULATIONS! The vast majority of those in attendance were against tolls. When the highway lobby was asked to stand in favor of tolls by the new SAMCO President Terrell McCombs, I didn't even count 40 of them. Many of the seat warmers that always seem to gravitate to the right side of the room are TxDOT staffers and City and County employees (all sitting there on the public's dime, of course). We had at least 150 people there, plus approximately 40 more outside who were initially turned away since the room hit capacity. There was standing room only in the back and around the edges of the room, but they eventually let our folks inside as people started to leave.

DOG & PONY SHOW
It was nearly 2 full ours before a single ordinary citizen was given the chance to speak. Of course, Chairwoman "Those People" McNeil, allowed the RMA to go up there and make some long-winded pointless "presentation" that was nothing more than tolling authority Chair and ex-Mayor Bill Thornton spinning all the reasons why a $475 million toll road is the best and ONLY option compared to the $170 million FREEway fix (when adjusted for inflation from 2004 dollars). They showed their fancy "simulation" of the proposed project which shows a completely inaccurate corridor with gobs of grassy, empty buffer between the toll lanes and the access roads. It also showed free flowing traffic on the frontage roads with no traffic stopped at the stop lights (it shows the sparse vehicles hitting all green lights).

Then TxDOT did it's jig just to try and outlast the public at the meeting on their lunch hours. The highway lobby and their puppet politicians orchestrated quite a dog & pony show, including a scripted exchange between Councilwoman Diane Cibrian (who is officially a DOUBLE tax toller even though she ran on lowering your taxes), RMA Director Terry Brechtel and her sidekick Pat Irwin (the engineer who brought you the 28/410 debacle). Cibrian took offense to the SA Toll Party doing automated calls in her district to alert them to her campaign promise and today's MPO vote to toll existing freeways. The call urged folks to call her to ask her vote NO on toll taxes. So rather than do what she told her district she would do, lower taxes, she equivocated and called tolls a "user fee" and tried to get Brechtel and Irwin to say they weren't tolling existing right of way or roadway already paid for. They threw in a totally preposterous contention that a 20 lane toll road is better for the aquifer than the current 4-6 freeway (ever heard of impervious cover, Councilwoman?)!

A ZINGER!
That is until Rep. David Leibowitz, a litigator by profession, finally pinned down Terry Brechtel and got her to admit they're tolling EXISTING right of way/roads ALREADY PAID FOR BY THE TAXPAYER!

CITIZEN CONCERNS:
STILL MORE SECRET THAN KNOWN
A bus load of folks came in from Sheila McNeil's district to tell her they didn't want toll roads for ANYONE, northside or not. A very articulate college student chided the MPO for voting on the completely wrong issue....the price of gas will have far more to do with shaping future transportation than ANY road. What they're building will likely be obsolete by the time it's finished, because the energy crisis will force a change in vehicular travel unless our failed leadership acts to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. The Federal Highway Administration stats show vehicle miles travel in Texas is slowing and remaining flat, not increasing as the MPO and TxDOT aggressive traffic demand models project.

So I essentially said this: if all of their financial "assumptions" are based on a constantly changing set of variables that is more akin to trying to shoot at a moving target than accurately assessing the amount of growth on the northside, and the price of gas could impact those assumptions/projections very quickly with a steady rise in the price of oil. We have yet to see ANY reports that show the impact of high gas prices on toll viability.

It's absolutely UNBELIEVABLE that these officials carrying the water for the highway lobby voted for financial terms when they didn't even know what they were!

Senator Carlos Uresti, Rep. David Leibowitz, and Commissioner Tommy Adkisson grilled the RMA (who wouldn't answer a direct question for 6 of the 7 hour meeting) and Uresti poked so many holes in Terry Brechtel numbers you drive a truck through them! Those who witnessed the do-anything-but-answer-a-question-and-let-the-cat-out-of-the-bag dance by the RMA were incredulous at how corrupt and dishonest our government officials are from top to bottom. The highway lobby is in complete control of that MPO Board and our government. They've figured out how to exploit government power for their private interests. We live in a "corporatocracy."

Rep Nathan Macias, on the House Transportation Committee, addressed the Board and expressed his frustration that the MPO decisions to toll Bexar County adversely affect EVERY county he represents yet Dist. 73 HAS NO REPRESENTATION ON THE MPO! He's found 95% of the folks in Comal, Kendall, Gillespie, and Bandera counties OPPOSE TOLLS! Macias is a TRUE WARRIOR for our cause in the Texas Legislature. He mentioned his distaste for the propaganda TxDOT spews instead of having a meaningful dialogue and working toward genuine solutions.

NEVER, EVER GIVE UP! LET THE PEOPLE VOTE!

TURF & Toll Party Testimony prior to MPO vote to approve 281 toll rates

NOTE: Unedited version
Testimony limited to 9 minutes, then 3 minutes

MPO Statement
281 Financial Terms & Texas Mobility Funds Vote
December 3, 2007

This board is about to cast one of the most controversial in its history.

Let’s evaluate the leadership of this Board. I have had a flood of email, blog comments, and phone calls expressing shock and outrage at the biased, divisive, and inflammatory comments made by Councilwoman McNeil about the northside and about those who cannot afford toll roads.

First, her comments were completely inaccurate, in fact, only the top 1% of income earners make $300,000 a year. Ms. McNeil tried to back away saying she meant average home value, but that’s also inaccurate. The average home value is only $159,000, and, in fact, you can hardly give away a home in Stone Oak right now. She repeated these comments TWICE, and referred to those who have worked long hours and sacrificed much to live up North, as “THOSE PEOPLE.” Ms. McNeil said exactly what she meant to say and no amount of spin can change it.

Second, her comments were extremely divisive in nature, pitting one side of town against another when we’re all in this together. These are the public’s highways and we all depend on them to live and work. What was most astonishing about her comments was the ease with which she told her own constituents that if they can’t afford the tolls (with the average income in her district at $14,000 a year, it seems few if any can afford tolls) they can be relegated to second-class citizens and take the congested access roads! Knowing I-35 is already in the toll plans, she defended her plan to vote to toll the northside, but indicated she wouldn’t be as eager in her own backyard. That isn’t leadership; it’s outright hypocrisy.

We ask that Ms. McNeil resign as Chair immediately and not preside over this vote since she’s clearly biased the Board and has used flagrantly false data to skew the debate in a discriminatory manner. I’ve received dozens of letters like these since her comments were made public:


“The MPO Chair has breached her duty to the citizens of San Antonio. She should resign. Neither my income nor my home value approaches $300K and even if they did, that is not justification for confiscating an existing right-of-way. Does the MPO Chair think that 281 is used only by the ‘rich’? Disband this atrocious body.”

“The MPO Chair has been exposed for what she really is. Put an end to this divisiveness. She should resign.”

“The video of Sheila McNeil's presentation to her 'constituents' was an eye-opener…Ms. McNeil should not be on the MPO given her clear bias in favor of toll roads. She should be as embarrassed in making those comments as was in watching her make them. I was never motivated one way or the other about the 281 tolls, but incidents like this make it hard not to get involved.”

“I am extremely disturbed by (these comments)…(they) are not only totally inappropriate, they are completely inaccurate. I am a Mexican-American blue-collar worker who lives on the Northside. I acquired my home and my income level through hard work (10 to 12 hour days). Nobody has given me ANYTHING. EVERYTHING that I have, I have worked (my ___ off) to acquire. I do not appreciate your assertion that because I have what I do and live where I do, I should, therefore, be required to pay tolls on the roads that I use… Please resign your position on the MPO.”

You get the idea…Ms. McNeil needs to resign from the Board. A KSAT 12 poll last Friday showed 86% of respondents think McNeil should NOT preside over the toll road vote today.

Next, it’s DOUBLE TAXATION to toll an existing road:

“We have lived in the north central part of San Antonio area for 10 years. In that time TxDot promised to improve traffic conditions on 281N by building overpasses. The money was projected, the promises were made, taxes were collected, and nothing.

Meanwhile, the city and county has approved thousands and thousands of homes to be developed up and down the 281 corridor. Still no traffic relief. No overpasses. Nothing.

For the last few years the new idea is tolling 281. Why? Where are the overpasses? IF they had been built when promised we would know definitively if they improved traffic (which in all theory they would.) However, (TxDOT says) the monies for overpasses have been spent elsewhere.

We do not need toll roads. We need what has been promised, funded and denied.”

Hwy 281 needs overpasses, not a toll road. The ORIGINAL gas tax funded plan promoted in public hearings in 2001 included overpasses AND expanding the highway to 6 lanes, AND adding access roads to get to existing businesses. This plan as evidenced in the MPO’s and TxDOT’s own documents was supposed to be let in 2003, and TxDOT FAILED to install the promised fix, which has NOTHING to do with a lawsuit filed in late 2005.

The pricetag for the gas tax plan, $100 million in 2004 dollars. TxDOT has confirmed repeatedly in several news stories that it has $100 million in gas taxes for 281. They had the money and failed to fix the road. So the blame for the situation on US 281 rests solely at TxDOT’s feet. As Ms. McNeil so nicely stated, they have targeted where they think the money is, on the northside, and they want to extort money from commuters and make them buy back the road they’ve already bought and paid for.

That brings us to today. Let’s adjust the cost of the original gas tax plan using the construction index to today’s dollars, it’s up to $170 million. TxDOT is NOT making an apples to apples comparison when it compares the gas tax plan cost to today’s estimated toll road costs. The toll road is up to 20 lanes, the original plan called for only 10. They’re not the same plans; therefore, the cost of the gas tax plan cannot be compared to toll road costs as if they were the same plan. Given the Texas Mobility Funds available, there is NO EXCUSE to spend $475 million to toll 281 when a $170 million gas tax plan would do the job. With FHWA stats showing the growth has slowed in this corridor, this plan is indeed more than sufficient to fix the road and keep it a FREEway, though TxDOT will always claim otherwise, either though the gas tax plan is their own plan based on aggressive MPO growth patterns in the first place. The only thing that changed was TxDOT’s leadership who is shoving toll roads down our throats and asking you politicians to follow them into your own political ruin.

Given the information in an Express-News article on the Park & Ride controversy at 281 and Marshall Rd. just yesterday, portions of this toll road will traverse over the most sensitive area of the Edwards Aquifer Recharge zone and yet TxDOT after one lawsuit and more than a year later has FAILED to do an Environmental Impact Study and claims there is “no significant impact” in building a 14-20 lane toll road over the aquifer. Clearly, the facts say differently as Carlos Guerra’s column addressed yesterday.

NEXT, CONFLICTS OF INTEREST:
This Board ought NOT to give equal weight to what started as a stealth email campaign by the highway lobby. It was hatched in a backroom at Valero, October 19, and meant to give the appearance of legitimate public opinion in favor of tolls when supporters should have come clean and stated where they work and that they have a financial interest in toll roads when corresponding. When a person has something to gain financially, they need to DISCLOSE IT when trying to influence the vote. A public official or RMA board member has to recuse him or herself from any votes or even the debate they have financial ties to what’s being discussed.

The emails you received in favor of tolls have to be considered on this basis. In contrast, what does count is the LEGAL RECORD at the 281 & 1604 NEPA public hearings with over 90% of the OFFICIAL public comment being opposed. There was no official, nor announced process for this MPO to collect public comments for this vote.

But in response to the SAMCO and Chamber-led email campaign, you received nearly 1,200 emails opposed to tolls. Over 35 businesses including dozens of CPAs and Independent consultants wrote in opposition to tolls as well as active duty & retired military and public school teachers.

Then, I personally witnessed Sheila McNeil and 2 TxDOT employees, one that sits on this board, Clay Smith, enter that closed door meeting at Valero where the stated purpose (in this SAMCO memo: READ EXACT WORDS) was to win approval of the terms and funding for 281/1604 toll projects on December 3. Since Vic Boyer who is also an ex-officio member of this board, was also there, this starts sounding an awful lot like collusion to me.

SECRECY/FINANCIAL TERMS:
Despite a sham letter from David Casteel to a few of our elected officials, the meaningful financial guts of the 281 toll rates are still secret. It’s tantamount to malfeasance to vote on this without knowing whether or not there is a non-compete agreement, what the impact of gas prices are on toll viability since other studies have shown toll roads are NOT viable once gas hits $3 a gallon, and what other factors can potentially affect toll rates if the assumptions used change! Essentially, you’re being asked to make a FINAL decision to approve a “draft” document without reviewing a single Traffic and Revenue Study and without knowing CRITICAL financial terms and impacts.

What’s most egregious is the study that has been done says that given the toll term assumptions made, “US 281 has a negative net present market value” and a “tax subsidy” would be required to complete the project. They repeatedly say these toll rates are based on the assumptions made but what happens if those assumptions don’t become reality and we have an oil embargo, or development slows or traffic continues to stay flat and fails to grow at the rate both TxDOT and MPO demand models show?

Here is a chart of the FHWA TX stats that shows traffic (VMT) has NOT GROWN and remained FLAT since the steady of rise in the price of gasoline began in 2005. (SHOW SLIDES)

The Government Accountability Office points out that benefit-cost analysis can be a valuable tool for helping decision makers. Local and state officials here have been denied this tool having never even conducted one, they’ve only taken the benefit-cost ratio as gospel with no documentation of it whatsoever.

Richard Perez’s op ed yesterday notes that “…costs for roadway construction projects have risen 72 percent in the last five years.” Instead of cutting back, Perez says “We can’t wait.” At some point, the cost of a project exceeds the benefits. We don’t know the full costs and benefits of any of these projects and whether the benefits exceed the costs.

When the toll road only goes the same distance that should have built in 2003 and you’re being asked to scramble today in order to extend the RMA project to the county line using a hefty tax subsidy that roughly equals the cost of the ORIGINAL gas tax plan, it’s clear tolling this freeway is a tax grab. There’s a viable, more affordable, less invasive and most importantly QUICKER option, so there is NO ACCEPTABLE EXCUSE to do this toll project when your own study says it’s a net LOSER! The highway lobbyists in this room are the ONLY reason to proceed because that’s who will make money off this boondoggle!

At this point, there’s more that you as decision-makers don’t know than you do know. You don’t know whether there’s a BIG FAT GOTCHA in these plans, but judging by everything else TxDOT touches, you can bet there is one. You ought to know by now the devil is in the details, and you don’t have the details upon which to make an informed public policy decision.

TxDOT and the RMA will say and do ANYTHING to get toll roads. Remember The State Auditor and the Texas Transportation Institute both found TxDOT’s figures are bloated and the Auditor specifically stated their figures “cannot be relied upon to make public policy decisions.” Commissioner Larson called them snake oil salesmen for a reason. You cannot trust what they say or believe any assurances they give you. If this is truly the best option, when why the secrecy? Why can’t they be open about it with the public and even MPO Board members and legislators who have oversight over TxDOT?

Leroy Alloway of the RMA alluded that there is a non-compete agreement and he tried to assure opponents that it wouldn’t prevent TxDOT or the City from expanding the roads, only the RMA. But the City is rabidly pro-toll and TxDOT has a policy that all new capacity will be tolled, too! This will guarantee congestion on our neighborhood streets, this is an OUTRAGE, and you can’t let it happen on your watch!

Among our politicians on the federal level –

Senator Hutchison and Senator Cornyn are opposed to the state tolling existing federal highways. The entire South Texas congressional delegation opposes the state plan.

Hutchison who passed a moratorium on tolling existing interstates said:
“My bill will protect drivers from paying tolls on roads that were already paid for by taxpayers.”

“Tolling existing freeways — the lifeblood of moving goods and services — is bad public policy, and states like Pennsylvania and Texas would incur irrevocable economic damage,” said Rep. John Peterson, R-Pa.

Then, Congressman Ciro Rodriguez who was instrumental in getting the moratorium passed said:
“Using toll roads to double-tax Texans is just plain wrong. I am very pleased that the final Transportation conference agreement contains an anti-tolling provision for federal highways in Texas. The citizens of Texas have spoken and they do not want the federal highways they have already paid for to be converted into toll roads. Working with Senator Hutchison, we put progress over politics for the benefit of Texas.”

We urge the Board to do just that, put special interest politics aside for the benefit of ALL Texans. Do not make the Texas taxpayers pay tolls for what’s already paid for. Give us the gas tax plan NOW!

We notified the public what is happening here today by doing over 200,000 automated calls over the weekend. We will also notify them how each of your voted tomorrow.

Will those who were able to take off work to be here to stand against the toll tax increases today, please stand to be recognized by the Board? This concludes my remarks…
__________________________________________

Texas Mobility Funds discussion

At the May 2006 TX Bond Review Board Meeting, the record states TMF funds DO NOT NEED TO BE TIED TO TOLL ROADS, they can be used to build FREEWAYS. Prop 15 that the voters passed explicitly states they can used for FREEways. It is merely a TxDOT policy, NOT LAW, that is strong-arming this Board into applying them strictly to leveraged toll projects.

Use these funds to fix the most critical areas of 281 and 1604 NOW! This MPO designated these highways as high priority yet refuses to fund them other than as toll roads, which is the same method TxDOT uses. So how is this Board or the RMA “locally controlled”?

This $325 million total available TMF funds combined with the $100 million in gas taxes for 281 could build all of the needed improvements to 281, the interchange at 1604, and the most critical overpasses on Loop 1604 giving us the most critical fixes without endebting generations with risky bond debt at a time when gas prices continue to rise and put toll road viability at risk.

We all know the Legislature MUST address transportation funding next session. Sen. John Carona, Senate Transportation Committee Chairman, is already calling for indexing the gas tax and stopping the hemorrhaging of those gas tax revenues by ending the diversions through Constitutional Amendment to bypass Governor Perry. And we can all be thankful Mike Krusee, the single biggest impediment to getting meaningful funding addressed, spared us the time and expense of booting him from office by resigning first. If only the other tollers would do the same. If not, we’ll work hard to remove them.

Given that previous toll viability studies for 281 show 20 cents of every dollar collected in tolls goes to administration, it’s the very same problem we have now with the gas tax….diversions, not all of the money collected goes to transportation. So building more toll roads means we’re not actually fixing anything, we’re playing a more expensive ponzi scheme than we have now.

Then, the Sunset Review, a top to bottom review of TxDOT’s books, will also reveal the waste, fraud, and abuse of this agency run amok and allow Legislators to accurately determine the true transportation needs we need to fund, not bloated wish lists that are totally unrealistic at a time when concrete and asphalt prices will force changes to our government’s road building and toll road frenzy and force a change to driving habits now that even the International Energy Agency says cheap and easy access to oil has disappeared. We need GENUINE and REALISTIC transportation options, not more of the same, which is MORE DEBT and the biggest, most expensive toll road the highway lobby can dream up to enrich their own pocketbooks at the expense of the taxpaying public.

Toll roads cost anywhere from 10 to 40 times more money per mile than we pay now in gas taxes. Increasing the cost of transportation only HURTS the economy by sucking more money out of taxpayers pockets to travel to where they need to go, AND extracts more money from businesses who then have to charge their customers more which makes us all have to pay more for everything whether or not we take the toll road.

Why? To enrich a single industry, road contractors and their financiers? It’s downright criminal to crush our economy, and levy the largest tax increase in TX history to benefit the special few. We need to retain our seamless, efficient, freeway system EVERYONE CAN USE, not chop up our highways into a two-tiered system of expressways for the wealthy, and congested access roads for everyone else.

Use these TMF funds to fix 281 and 1604 as FREEWAYS NOW!

A representative list of businesses (whether the owner or some of its employees) who wrote in opposition to tolls:

Bill Reiffert & Assoc., Inc., Structural Engineers
Macina, Bose, Copeland and Associates, Inc.
TXCO Resources Inc. formerly: The Exploration Company
TEXAS INDUSTRIAL RUBBER & GASKET COMPANY
Food Safety Concepts International
Brandt Engineering Co.
Santex Ltd.
Kersey and Associates
Kirk Kothmann, DVM
Potters Wheel Productions
Edgar Chew & Associates
A-Bear Air Conditioning L.L.C.
Ince Distributing, Inc.
Findling, Milam & Pyle
Barrett & Sons, Inc.
Training, Rehabilitation & Development Institute
Corporate Express Business Interiors
Trinity University professor and employees
Groomer Seafoods
Methodist Healthcare
Scientific Aerospace Research Consulting (SARC), LLC an SDVO SBC (Service-Disabled, Veteran-Owned, Small Business Concern)
Pratt & Whitney, Serviceable Military Assets (SMA)
dNovus RDI
USA Cycling
T3 Technologies
SWTEC, Inc.
FCE Benefits
COMCO Systems
Traugott, Inc. Painting & Decorating
CONSTRUCTION MANAGEMENT SPECIALTIES, INC
Macina, Bose, Copeland and Associates, Inc.
CDF Properties, Real Estate Investments

Dozens of CPAs, active duty & retired military, public school teachers, and Independent consultants like pre-paid legal, Arbonne, Desktop Graphic Systems Consulting, etc. wrote in opposition to tolls as well.

Councilman: “It’s a taxation plan, not a congestion plan”

See Councilman Jeff Mills of Sunset Valley on YouTube here, telling the Board these toll roads are about raising revenue, not solving congestion.

Last night in Austin, the Capitol Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) Board voted to convert 4 more FREEways into tollways (and build one new toll road) using $910 million in YOUR gas taxes. The public was against it 4 to 1! We no longer have representative government and Councilman Mills' speech on this above YouTube link proves this is about taxation, not congestion relief.

Article in Austin American Statesman here.

Sparks fly at MPO as McNeil strips agenda item repudiating TxDOT's ad campaign

Link to YouTube video of the knock em out drag em out between David Leibowitz, Carlos Uresti, Tommy Adkisson and pro-toll, pro-TxDOT McNeil. Uresti finishes her off in this YouTube edition.

For those who believed the City Councilmembers when they claimed who was the next Chair of the MPO didn't have anything to do with tolls, today's MPO meeting blows a gaping hole through that notion. MPO Chair and City Councilwoman Sheila McNeil stripped an item from today's agenda AFTER the 72 hour open meetings minimum requirement! Representative David Leibowitz requested a vote to repudiate TxDOT's ad campaign and lobbying of Congress, and she wrote him a letter denying a vote but said she'd place it on the agenda and the Board oculd vote on whether or not to vote on it at the October meeting. Then she pulled a fast one at the last minute and pulled the item altogether!

State Senator Carlos Uresti came to Leibowitz' defense and caught McNeil in her contradictions as to the reason she stripped the item. Commissioner Tommy Adkisson also defended Leibowitz' right to place an item on the agenda. McNeil claimed unilateral authority to set the meeting agenda. She did her usual, "we can get together to talk about it" for anyone who disagrees with her or TxDOT in an attempt to silence all dissension.

San Antonio board completes hostile takeover of Hill Country

MPO board approves expansion plan
By Vianna Davila
San Antonio Express-News
September 30, 2013

After months of discussion and negotiation, the San Antonio Bexar County Metropolitan Planning Organization on Monday voted to expand its membership to include five cities and counties, plus two local transportation groups.

The vote now brings the 19-member board to 21. Boerne, New Braunfels, Seguin, and Comal and Guadalupe counties will each get one seat.

VIA Metropolitan Transit technically loses one of its two seats but will retain representation — the Advanced Transportation District, which oversees collection of a quarter-cent transportation sales tax, will now get a board spot. The ATD and the VIA board membership are the same.

The Alamo Regional Mobility Authority, another local transportation organization with the power to toll road projects, will also get a seat for the first time.

Read more here.

North Texas bureaucrats drive transportation-toll regime

Link to article here.

Road tripping down memory lane: Financial constraints drive transportation plan in new direction
By Monique Oaks, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Published: Thursday, December 13, 2012 12:39 AM CST

The North Central Texas Council of Governments went on tour this week to inform and gather feedback from local residents on transportation plan recommendations they will forward to the Regional Transportation Council.

Monday evening at the Allen City Hall marked the first of three public meetings where NCTCOG representatives discussed proposed modifications to funded projects maintained in the Transportation Improvement Program; updates to the congestion management process; and changes regarding managed and high-occupancy vehicle lane policies.

Summer Antics at Bexar County MPO

MPO HALL OF SHAME:

-- While you were spending time with your family this summer, the MPO voted to raise your taxes, through tolls, for road improvements already paid for with your tax money


2012-09-03-MPO-antics

Failed again When the board took action to amend its short-range (TIP) and long-range plans (MTP) at its August 27 meeting, it not only failed to abide by its own bylaws in so doing, it once again failed to properly notice the public about its proposal to toll US 281 and Loop 1604 in Bexar County...

MPO votes to toll 281, 1604 in violation of its own bylaws

Monday, Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom (TURF) scored a small victory for open government, since the San Antonio-Bexar County Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) agenda included more specificity about its proposed action for toll projects on US 281 and Loop 1604 as required by the Texas Open Meetings Act. TURF sent a demand letter threatening to sue the MPO on July 20, for its violation of the Texas Open Meetings Act at the June 25 policy board meeting due an extremely vague agenda that merely read: “Action on additional federal and state funding opportunities.”

But the victory didn’t last long.

When the board took action to amend its short-range (TIP) and long-range plans (MTP) at its August 27 meeting, it not only failed to abide by its own bylaws in so doing, it once again failed to properly notice the public about its proposal to toll US 281 and Loop 1604 in Bexar County. The MPO's bylaws require a two-step process, which includes a 30-day public comment period, and an even greater level of disclosure on its agenda before any action can take place.

Wolff tries to justify tolls

Kevin Wolff's editorial is very misleading. He says he worked to get a non-toll financing plan for 281 & 1604, yet at the MPO on June 25 he called for the vote to specifically include toll lanes on both. Loop 1604, which is not in his precinct, got 4 added non-toll freeway lanes for roughly 10 miles in the deal (along with 4 toll lanes). But 281 got NO new freeway lanes and it actually converts two existing FREE main lanes into tolled HOV-bus lanes. So it shrinks existing freeway capacity. Wolff's plan also addresses just 3 miles of the 7.8 mile project.

Wolff counts the new frontage roads to the outside as the new non-toll capacity, when the resolution he passed in March specifies NEW non-toll main lanes were part of the deal. Either he didn't mean it, or he compromised, leaving taxpayers holding the bag.

At the end of the editorial, Wolff makes it sound as if adding toll lanes are being considered out into the future, when the plan he just adopted includes the tolled-HOV bus lanes now. In that same sentence, he states the tolled HOV-bus lanes would be ADDED to the existing freeway, when in fact, these are not NEW lanes. It converts two existing main lanes into the tolled HOV-bus lanes. (Review the plan here)

Wolff's justification for turning to tolls is basically because the legislature isn't doing it's job to fund roads (won't end diversions of the gas tax and won't raise the gas tax), so he'll agree to raise local taxes instead of fighting for fiscal responsibility and working to get the taxes we already pay back to Bexar County. Austin will be certain to continue to withhold funds if they can starve local government into raising local taxes while state lawmakers continue to steal and misuse our money.

But even this isn't true. The ATD sales tax revenues and Texas Mobility Funds are sources of tax revenue (not backed by tolls). So the reconfiguration of 281 to implement the two tolled-HOV bus lanes will be 100% paid for -- there is NO reason why ANY Texan should pay a toll to use these lanes. To do so is a DOUBLE TAX! It's a complete misrepresentation of the truth to imply there's not enough money to fix 281 & keep it a freeway, so we had to turn to tolls.

Watch Wolff call for the vote to include toll lanes on 281 & 1604 where he said if you don't like it, 'you can fry me for it later' here.

See the Wolff Toll Plan adopted at the MPO June 25 here.
________________________________________________

MPO plan brings roads faster

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Transportation Policy Board of the San Antonio Metropolitan Planning Organization, or MPO, had to make some important decisions about area road planning last month.

We decided our community can no longer wait for the Legislature to halt the diversion of transportation dollars for other uses and to index the gasoline tax. For this reason, among others, the decisions we made were to push forward with plans for the long-awaited expansions of U.S. 281 and Loop 1604.

The current plans were born in March, when the Texas Department of Transportation announced that it had $2 billion in additional federal and state funding to parcel out among the state's transportation districts. I scrambled to put together a nontolled financing plan that would dedicate our area's portion to U.S. 281 and Loop 1604 and match it with other local, state and federal dollars that we have secured or will secure in the near future.

MoPac to heist tax money to build toll lanes

Link to article here.

Construction of toll lanes on Mopac could get big savings
By Juan Castillo
Austin American Statesman
Monday, June 11, 2012

A project to build two express toll lanes on MoPac Boulevard (Loop 1) got a little closer to a six-month, $130 million jump-start on Monday night when the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization board agreed to allocate that money to the toll agency behind the project.

The Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority will use the funding to build a toll lane on each side of MoPac from Lady Bird Lake to Parmer Lane. Earlier this year, officials estimated that the 11-mile project would cost about $200 million in construction expenses.

The funding agreement still needs to be approved by the Texas Transportation Commission to take effect.

Under the agreement approved Monday, CAMPO will allocate the mobility authority the $130 million for construction of the express lanes. In exchange, the mobility authority will repay the money by establishing a regional infrastructure fund, into which it will pay $230 million over 25 years. CAMPO would use that money for other area road projects.

Under traditional financing methods, officials estimated the total cost for the toll lanes would be $544 million.

The terms approved Monday differed from a previous proposal when the toll agency suggested paying the money back over 22 years at 3 percent interest.

Some CAMPO board members later suggested that the interest rate was too low and that the payoff too slow. At the time, Mike Heiligenstein, the mobility authority's executive director, said the agency welcomed discussion of changes.

CAMPO Executive Director Maureen McCoy said the basic terms of the agreement were negotiated in advance of Monday's meeting. CAMPO's website cited benefits from the agreement, including lowering the cost of development to allow for flexibility in toll rates and keeping project revenues local rather than making payments to out-of-state bondholders and lenders.

"This agreement we've negotiated keeps all funding local and allows the region to avoid $314 million in cost over the life of the project; those are savings that directly benefit Austin commuters," Austin Council Member Sheryl Cole said in a statement.

Anti-toll activists vow legal action against MPO

Anti Toll Activists Vow Lawsuits, Attorney General Ruling on Toll, HOV Plan
Says 'not surprised' that it took SAPD three days to decide not to file criminal charges against MPO members
By Jim Forsyth
WOAI Radio
Thursday, July 5, 2012

Hall last Thursday filed a complaint against the MPO following a meeting on Monday she felt illegally listed approval of a major toll project on its agenda.  She says she was notified on Tuesday, three business days later, that the issue would not be pursued.

"Sadly, we never expected the SAPD or the District Attorney to take on the lawless MPO and the powerful road lobby in this town," Hall said.

Hall said the MPO placed approval of a nearly half billion dollar northside highway project, which includes new toll lanes on Loop 1604 and the county's first ever High Occupancy Vehicle lanes on US 281, on the agenda simply as 'discussion of new state and federal funding opportunities.'

"The courts, including the Texas Supreme Court, have repeatedly ruled in favor of the public's right to know, and the Texas Attorney General has also issued opinions that do not let governmental entities off the hook from the Open Meeting Act when they post vague agendas that allow them to hide what they're really doing," Hall said.

Hall's group, Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom, has also released a video showing members of the MPO expressing shock at seeing the High Occupancy Vehicle lane proposal for the first time ever, with some demanding more time to discuss it.  The video also includes top county officials, like County Judge Nelson Wolff and Via Chairman Henry Munoz, back slapping with members of the Texas Transportation Commission, and ends with Wolff's infamous comment that "if somebody chooses to not carpool, chooses to ride by themselves, chooses to waste their gas, then dammit, they ought to pay."

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FF4y4eN1sjI

The High Occupancy Vehicle plan, which was just floated by Commissioners Court last month and approved by the Advanced Transpiration District board the Friday before the MPO approved it on Monday, essentially requires motorists to use their sales tax money to pay for new lanes on US 281 that they will not be allowed to use.  Several studies have indicated that the existence of lanes only for busses and carpoolers do nothing to convince motorists to carpool or take the bus, and often actually make highway congestion worse.  Some places, especially in California, have decided to take social engineering a step further, and have opened HOV lanes to hybrid and electric vehicles.

  "As usual, the citizens are left with the responsibility of holding the MPO and other officials accountable, which we will do," Hall said.

Read more: http://radio.woai.com/cc-common/mainheadlines3.html?feed=119078&article=10247092#ixzz21HtkBtw5

MPO votes to toll anyway

Board reneges on promise, votes to toll anyway

June 26, 2012
By Terri Hall
Examiner.com

It's apparent that the fix was in before a single citizen ever walked into the Bexar County San Antonio Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) meeting Monday. The tumult and chaos surrounding transportation decision-makers in Bexar County has hit a feverish pitch and it’s getting plain ugly for taxpayers.

After several hours of debate, Bexar County Commissioner Kevin Wolff gave the board his blessing to adopt a plan that includes toll lanes along 36 miles of Loop 1604 and 7.8 miles of the US 281 corridor, parts of which were completely new and were never discussed, presented, or properly posted for the public prior to today's meeting.

Four elected officials, Commissioner Chico Rodriguez and Councilmen Cris Medina, Rey Saldana, and Carlton Soules, were notable no-shows for such a critical vote that allows the unelected Advanced Transportation District (ATD) Board (one in the same with the Via Transit Board) to control who will operate the toll lanes, who can use them for free (buses and ‘registered carpools’ only), and, hence, who will have the power to collect and spend the tolls.

They put specific conditions on the deal, making a very public swipe at the Alamo Regional Mobility Authority (ARMA) by requiring TxDOT, not ARMA to build the toll lanes. Why? The ATD Board telegraphed at its meeting Friday that it plans to use toll revenues to fund a myriad of mass transit projects. The war against cars is alive and well in San Antonio. This fight has always been about who gets the pot of ‘toll gold’ at the end of the rainbow. First TxDOT, then Spanish toll operator Cintra, then ARMA (which just got absorbed by Bexar County who also wants the pot of toll revenues), now the ATD Board.

Though Wolff negotiated and authored a resolution specifically to add new non-toll main lane capacity to US 281 from Loop 1604 to Stone Oak and Loop 1604W from Bandera to Wiseman, it's pretty clear that Wolff never intended to fix 281 non-toll nor to hold TxDOT accountable for what it's proposing (its vague, misleading diagram is a joke). They've never been made to explain, in plain English, where every existing lane is and what the corridor will look like with the proposed improvements, much less to explain why they can fix Loop 1604 for $25 million/mile compared to $37 million/mile on US 281.

If Wolff and the MPO had insisted this basic information be presented prior to any vote, then the Board would have seen without a shadow of a doubt that TxDOT's plan does not ADD a single new lane of added non-toll capacity and, in fact, converts an existing free main lane into a transit-toll lane. Stone Oak isn’t clamoring for bus lanes or toll lanes, it’s demanding the non-toll fix that’s been funded and promised to congestion-weary commuters since 2001.

Now you see it, now you don’t
TxDOT claims the free lanes will remain in place, when, in fact, they count the frontage roads as 'what's there now,' not the freeway main lanes. Therefore, the plan adopted today expressly defies the MPO’s March 26 resolution to add non-toll capacity to 281 -- and Wolff not only allowed it, he encouraged it, despite telling TxDOT just over a week ago (at a June 15 MPO special meeting), in rather heated tones, that he’s made it clear he wants added non-toll capacity -- all non-toll, no toll elements. He even threatened that he wouldn't take a vote on it until they changed the proposal to be consistent with the resolution.

My, what a difference 10 days makes.

Overwhelming public opposition
The public testimony emailed in to the board opposed the plan, 130-3, and the three in favor were area Chamber of Commerce organizations and industry shills. The fact that the elected officials for the US 281 corridor, Wolff and Senator Jeff Wentworth, voted to adopt a proposal steals $58 million in non-toll funds for US 281 to build a Via direct connect to a Park-N-Ride only three percent of the population will ever use (that amount of money would build roughly 6 overpasses on US 281), the fact that this plan will steal another $20 million in non-toll funds from US 281 and hand it to Loop 1604 for a free overpass and non-toll expansion over there, and the fact that the plan beyond Stone Oak would convert every existing free main lane into a toll lane (again trying to count frontage lanes as the free lanes), is beyond comprehension.

North of Stone Oak could be fixed non-toll using the remaining $88 million in Texas Mobility Funds (TMF) already allocated to US 281. Now, that's not possible since the plan adopted Monday steals nearly every penny of the remaining TMF money, and gives it to Via and Loop 1604.

The fact that the ONLY dissenting vote was by a Democrat, State Rep. Joe Farias, who cited DOUBLE TAXATION as his reason for voting against (and the fact that this was in no way properly posted under the Open Meetings Act), is an indictment of the establishment Republican Party today. The GOP is NOT for the public's right to know, for transparency, for accountability, for limited government, or for the taxpayer. It's of, by, and for the special interests.

We don’t buy it
Advocates of the plan say, but ‘we took $500 million in planned toll lanes and made them non-toll,’ when what they did in reality was renege on a promise made March 26 to add non-toll capacity only.

In truth, the toll plan for US 281 should never have been adopted by the MPO in July 2004 in the first place. The gas taxes to fix US 281 without tolls were already there and disappeared in 2008, well after the MPO vote to convert it to a tollway in July 2004. With the arrival of $246 million in new money ($146 million from TxDOT’s recent $2 billion windfall, $100 million in ATD), plenty to fix a measly 3 miles on US 281 without ANY tolls, it's inexcusable that NOT one new non-toll main lane will be added to 281 under this plan, yet a 10-mile stretch of four new non-toll lanes are being added to Loop 1604 with an 8-10 year delay in toll lanes being added. The excuse that we have to toll US 281 because 'we're out of money' or can't get clearance doesn’t hold muster anymore. Anyone with a pulse can see this whole scheme is fraud.

The elected officials who voted to toll US 281 & Loop 1604:
State Senator Jeff Wentworth (in a run-off against anti-toll Dr. Donna Campbell July 31)
Bexar County Commissioner Tommy Adkisson
Bexar County Commissioner Kevin Wolff
Leon Valley Mayor Chris Riley
Selma Councilman William Weeper
San Antonio City Councilman Ray Lopez
(plus 8 unelected appointees, including two votes from TxDOT and two votes from Via)

The commuters along US 281 and Loop 1604 won't ever forget who voted to do this to them, because they'll be forced to pay a DOUBLE TAX in PERPETUITY. However, none of this is yet set in stone until the MPO’s short and long-range plans are officially amended -- there is still time to redeem the March 26 resolution. What board members do after today's fiasco, will make all the difference....

____________________________________________________________________

Plan with tolls on expanded 1604, 281 approved
By Vianna Davila
Monday, June 25, 2012

The region's transportation planning organization approved a proposal to expand Loop 1604 and U.S. 281 with a mix of nontoll and toll lanes Monday, but only after Bexar County Commissioner Tommy Adkisson threatened to approve just a part of the proposition and table the rest.

Texas Department of Transportation officials said such a move could have jeopardized millions in state dollars for the projects.

Adkisson, who is chairman of the Metropolitan Planning Organization, made a motion to approve using $146.8 million in state money to expand Loop 1604 with nontoll lanes, rather than vote on a $368.8 million plan that included the state money and local leveraging dollars, plus some toll lanes.

Officials now commonly refer to those as managed lanes: free for buses and carpools but not for drivers in single-occupancy vehicles.

Other MPO board members said they expected to vote on the entire plan Monday, and not just the state dollars for Loop 1604.

But after a tense two hours of discussion, including several volleys between Adkisson and TxDOT San Antonio District Engineer Mario Medina, the chairman eventually chose to support the broader plan, following an amendment to his original motion made by County Commissioner Kevin Wolff.

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