New designation on I-10 hijacks freeway, steers traffic to foreign-owned tollway
By Terri Hall, San Antonio Transportation Policy Examiner
At its last meeting, the Texas Transportation Commission quietly passed a Minute Order authorizing the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to implement a dual designation of I-10 in Seguin to I-410 in San Antonio and eventually to I-35 (53 miles total) as State Highway 130. The Minute Order is a pay-off to Spain-based Cintra whose tollway, which begins at I-10 in Seguin and connects up with the publicly-operated segments of SH 130 tollway that ends at I-35 in Georgetown, will greatly profit from the visibility as it seeks to entice drivers to its two segments of the tollway (segments 5 & 6).
Motorists who unwittingly think they’re going to continue on a freeway from the I-10/SH 130 leg will get a rude awakening when they’re stuck out in Seguin with no way north unless they proceed on Cintra’s privately operated toll road. The public private partnership (P3) contract awarded to Cintra and San Antonio-based Zachry in March of 2007 also gives the private corporations the ability to penalize TxDOT for the expansion of free routes surrounding its tollway through a non-compete clause (see Exhibit 17). Since TxDOT has a share in the toll revenues on SH 130, if it sends more traffic to Cintra’s toll road, which the dual designation with free portions of interstates 10 and 410 are clearly designed to do, it will benefit from the move.
So now our highway department is making decisions, not based on safety or congestion relief, but based solely on increasing revenues to its own coffers and those of a private corporation at taxpayer expense. Highways are a monopoly by their very nature, privately-owned tollways even more so given the non-compete clauses. So TxDOT’s move, announced on a day when it knew all the attention would be on the announcement of its new Executive Director, Phil Wilson, slipped in this controversial, profit-driven, monopolistic designation under the radar.
Well, now it’s officially ‘on the radar.’
SH 130 so empty a plane used it for emergency landing!
SH 130 is the only portion of Trans Texas Corridor TTC-35 that will ever be built. So this tollway has been under a shroud of controversy from day one. TxDOT’s portion of SH 130 (roughly 49 miles called known as segments 1-4) is also presently a net loser for the state. It has required $100 million taxpayer bailout to date, nearly 70% more than originally planned. That’s right, TxDOT PLANNED for a net loss on this road for the entire life of the debt, and they’ve been dipping into gas taxes to subsidize it since its opening. It’s so empty, a distressed plane landed on it during RUSH HOUR. It’s become the poster child of Rick Perry’s failed toll road policy in Texas.
Cintra is manipulating the main north-south route through our state, I-35, for its own personal profiteering -- and our highway department that has a fiduciary duty to the public is complicit in it, especially since TxDOT is in a sea of red ink on its portion of SH 130.
Just when you think things couldn’t get more outrageous... TxDOT’s I-35 Advisory Committee that issued a report to be unveiled at tomorrow’s monthly Commission meeting, proposes converting existing I-35 into the SH 130 tollway and designating existing SH 130 as the new I-35. Such a move would require a change to both federal and state law, but that’s never stopped TxDOT’s raw ambition for sucking as money out of Texas motorists as possible. This is why an UN-elected board of appointees ought NEVER to have the ability to impose taxes. It’s this taxation without representation that precipitated the American Revolution and now the subsequent toll tax revolt in Texas.
Most state lawmakers that have caught wind of this Minute Order and dual designation of I-10 as SH 130 are shocked but not surprised. One quipped, “Will this nonsense at TxDOT ever end? I’ll answer my own question. Not until Rick Perry is no longer the Governor.” Until then, expect an endless, unaccountable runaway toll tax gravy train to continue at Perry’s highway department.