Forbes: Austin light rail poster child of government waste

Link to Forbes article here where you can see the photos of the empty metro stations/trains.


Austin's Commuter Rail Is A Monument To Government Waste

By Scott Beyer


July 29, 2016


Austin, TX–Last Saturday morning, while stumbling upon an Austin rail station, I was able to imagine at micro level what it must be like to visit one of China’s ghost cities. I was in Leander, an Austin suburb that has the northernmost stop on the metro  area’s commuter rail system, when I spotted a multi-acre station plopped across what was essentially a rural area. 


After parking in the empty lot, I got out and walked around, to find a clean, well-landscaped facility that had not one human in sight. The info center was locked, the train platforms were empty, and no trains arrived. There was even a computerized voice humming out service updates over the platform speakers, to an absent audience. In fairness, the station was closed that day until 4pm. But that just begged the question—why would a train station be closed all Saturday morning and afternoon in a major metro  area? Meanwhile, the platform offered an unobstructed view of adjacent US-183, where, in the course of 10 minutes, dozens of cars passed by in each direction.

Nichols parrots Rick Perry's road policy: 'There are no free roads'

Link to article here.

He thinks we're stupid - as if Texans aren't aware that there are no free roads. Every time we buy a tank of gas, we're paying a federal and state gasoline tax to build and maintain our public highway system. Sen. Robert Nichols chairs the Senate Transportation Committee and has blocked any anti-toll reform bills, especially taking the toll off the road once the debt is retired. He's fine with perpetual new taxation in the hands of unelected boards, which is squeezing taxpayers right off our public highways. Yet Nichols claims tax money is hard to come by. Really? Texas voters just gave the highway department $5 billion more in NEW tax revenues every year with passage of Prop 1 (2014) and Prop 7 (2015). Let's not forget that legislators have raided our road taxes for non-road purposes for decades, then come crying to us that we're out of money. We're not short of tax money, we're short on holding lawmakers accountable for the taxes we already pay!

Nichols statement is also misleading - as if the user of the road is the one paying for that toll road. Not so -- 100% of toll projects now coming online are paid for in full or in part with your tax money, yet they're still charging you tolls to drive on them. It's a Texas-sized DOUBLE TAX scheme! Nichols is well aware of this, yet he keeps using Rick Perry's tired ol' talking points that there are no free roads when taxpayers are well aware we're paying plenty of taxes for FREEways.

Sen. Robert Nichols says there's no such thing as a 'free road,' all East Texans should care about toll roads
Thursday, August 11, 2016
By Augusta Robinson
Tyler Telegraph

Although Loop 49 may be the only toll road regularly traveled by some East Texans, Texas Senate District 3 Sen. Robert Nichols said toll roads are something everyone in the region and the state should appreciate.

“I hear people say, 'I’d rather drive on a free road than a toll road,'” Nichols said. “Well there is no such thing as a free road. You’re either using tax money, which is hard to come by, or you’re going to charge somebody for actually using a new road.”

Report reveals private equity toll roads a bad deal for taxpayers

Link to article here.

Public private partnerships are one thing both liberal and conservatives can agree on - they're a BAD deal for taxpayers.

Report Examines Equity In Toll Road Deals
Policy paper from the Center for American Progress addresses misconceptions about the way toll roads are financed.
August 12, 2016

States have increasingly turned to tolling as a solution to heir funding and infrastructure problems. Private tolling companies end up with very little skin of their own in the game when making deals to take over roads, according to a report released Wednesday by the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank. The group reviewed the US Department of Transportation's Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) federal loan program and found that the two dozen toll road projects it financed with taxpayer dollars had an average value of $1.3 billion, but the average equity investment was just $183 million, or 14 percent.

Cintra hands SH 130 to its creditors

Link to article here.

Texas’ first foreign-owned toll road handed to its creditors

By Terri Hall
August 15, 2016
Selous Foundation for Public Policy Research

It was so predictable. The people of Texas revolted against former Governor Rick Perry’s grand network of toll roads, once dubbed the Trans Texas Corridor, and many grassroots groups that sprung up to oppose it predicted its eventual demise. The press, always eager to jump on the ribbon cuttings, seldom show you the angling inside bankruptcy court, yet that’s where State Highway 130 Concession Company ended up. As part of its Chapter 11 bankruptcy, Spain-based Cintra and San Antonio-based Zachry ceded the delinquent toll project to its creditors Friday.

The southern 41-mile stretch of SH 130, a bypass designed to avoid Austin traffic from Mustang Ridge to Seguin, opened with much fanfare in November of 2012, including an appearance by Perry who hailed this first public private partnership (or P3) as highway nirvana and ‘visionary.’ But crony capitalism is as old as dirt and taxpayers didn’t see it as anything other than graft.

Panama Canal expansion spells trouble for Texas roads

Link to article here.

Tsunami of goods from Panama Canal expansion to strain Texas roads
How much more will we be asked to shell out to handle the influx of Chinese goods coming through Texas and the United States? The global corporations always find a way to make the taxpayer foot the bill for them, so taxpayers beware.
By Terri Hall
Selous Foundation for Public Policy Research
August 2, 2016
Panama Canal opening 6 2016
Crowds gather as the first ship enters the newly expanded Panama Canal June 26. It's unsurprising that the first cargo ship came from China.

After 10 years, $5.4 billion dollars, 40,000 workers and lots of delays, snags, and snafus, the Panama Canal expansion finally opened on June 26. But amidst all the hoopla, impacts to Texas cannot be understated. Not only will these new mega ships that offload triple the cargo onto mega trucks strain our infrastructure and clog our highways, the expansion also triples the threats to national security.

Officials admit that since there is nearly triple the capacity of the old canal, it also means transnational criminal networks have triple the space to try and smuggle people and goods into the United States. Between the refugee crisis, open borders, and rampant illegal immigration, the Panama Canal expansion is like heaping gasoline on a fire. Criminals can successfully increase their smuggling operations simply by the sheer net increase in the volume of goods and people hitting customs and border crossings.

Alamo city sales tax shift called 'theft' and 'fraud'

Link to article here.
Transit tax shift could spark lawsuit
By Kenric Ward
June 30, 2016

San Antonio is using an “advanced transportation” tax to pave costly sidewalks and bike paths, and the diversion of funds from road projects is inviting a lawsuit from a taxpayer coalition.

“This is déjà vu all over again. It may be time to go back to court,” said Jeff Judson, a local businessman and senior fellow with the conservative Heartland Institute.

When voters approved an Advanced Transportation District in 2004, they added a quarter-cent to the local sales tax to fund transit, traffic safety and highway projects in Bexar County. The tax generates $60 million annually.

Big government keeps criminalizing you for driving

Link to article here.

Expansion of anti-motorist laws criminalize you for daily living
By Terri Hall
June 14, 2016

In America, we’re way past the tipping point of being able to go about your daily life without breaking some little known, arcane law passed in the dark of night. Libertarian think tanks could bury us with the data that demonstrates the many ways government has criminalized ordinary, law abiding citizens for simply living their lives. But one of the latest and most comprehensive assaults by big government is criminalizing motorists for just about every action taken while driving your car.

Last week, the exposed how many states have passed and/or greatly expanded ‘move over’ laws that require motorists to change lanes or dramatically decrease their speed when certain vehicles are on the shoulder. It ranges from emergency vehicles to cable tv trucks. The question becomes, how can a motorist tell what kind of car or truck is on the side of the road in time to actually comply? Flashing lights help, but not all classifications of vehicles that fall under move over laws have flashing lights.

Biedermann trounces Miller, but Miller on war path to trample property rights

Link to article here. (Click on the link at this site to view the video of Miller gettin' cozy with a lobbyist)

Despite defeat, Miller executes more damage to property rights
By Terri Hall
June 1, 2016

After an onslaught of threats that remain unresolved, residents of the Texas Hill Country just got a little retribution. From issues with land development and water to toll roads and property rights, Texas House District 73 yearned for new leadership. After an ugly, heated run-off election last week, it got it. Incumbent State Representative Doug Miller, an establishment Republican and staunch supporter of liberal Republican Speaker Joe Straus, was ousted by newcomer conservative businessman Kyle Biedermann of Fredericksburg. With Miller set to appear as an ‘expert witness’ on behalf of the developer of the controversial Johnson Ranch housing development, a very public showdown between neighboring landowners and this lame duck representative is taking shape.

Will Austin show Uber the door?

Link to article here.

Austin to decide whether or not to give Uber the boot
By Terri Hall
May 4, 2016

It’s a surprising ballot proposition in a state that boasts it’s the bastion of freedom. Austin voters will head to the polls this Saturday, May 7, to decide whether or not ridesharing companies like Uber will stay or go. A ‘Yes’ vote on Prop 1 will welcome Uber to stay. A ‘No’ vote will give them the boot.

The liberals that dominate the Austin city council have been downright hostile to ridesharing companies. So hostile it’s required a ballot initiative to decide whether this growing Texas city actually supports free market capitalism or government intrusion in the free market world of transportation.

Villalba dogs anti-toll senators over LBJ East

Link to editorial here.

Just when you think you've seen it all, something else happens that still manages to shock you. Well, this mean-spirirted editorial by State Rep. Jason Villalba and Dallas Councilman Adam McGough takes toll road politics to a whole new level. Read this outrageous hit piece that actually claims the survival of the Dallas area as a 'world class city' depends on a toll lane on I-635 East. Our response is below it.

Support our anti-toll Good Guys! Send in a Letter to the Editor in support of Sen. Bob Hall and Sen. Don Huffines for their efforts to secure a non-toll LBJ East.

EDITORIAL: Villalba and McGough: Stop stalling the LBJ 635 East Project
By Jason Villalba and Adam McGough
Dallas Morning News
April 4, 2016

When running for political office in North Texas, whether for State Senate, the Texas House or the Dallas City Council, one quickly learns there is a single issue that unifies all citizens, political parties, business leaders, chambers of commerce, rotary clubs and community groups. To a person, all agree there is a current and growing need for more robust and efficient transportation infrastructure in Dallas County and all of North Texas.

Texas agency gives green light to failed toll developer for dump of foreign toxic waste

Link to article here.

Texas agency approves dump for foreign, toxic waste in Laredo
By Terri Hall
April 14, 2016

In a move that threatens the health, safety, and sovereignty of South Texans, the state’s environmental policemen, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), granted preliminary approval for a toxic waste dump to failed toll road developer Carlos ‘C.Y.’ Benavides III, whose last deal in South Texas, the Camino Columbia toll road in Laredo, went bankrupt. According to the San Antonio Express-News, the facility known as the Pescadito Environmental Resource Center is designed to accept waste across an 800-mile perimeter. Yet the region has excess landfill capacity — 138-year capacity according to the South Texas Council of Governments — making this landfill clearly binational aimed at accepting toxic, foreign waste from deep inside Mexico.

Benavides’ last big venture, the 21.8-mile Camino Columbia toll road, connected Laredo, Texas, with the Mexican state of Nuevo Leon. It quickly failed to live up to traffic expectations and the $90 million private toll road landed in bankruptcy court where the state paid $12 million for it. However, Texas taxpayers, national banks, and other companies still lost $75 million in unpaid project debt.

Lawmakers call for deeper scrutiny of RMAs

Link to article here.

Three billion reasons to shut down toll authorities
By Terri Hall
April 2, 2016

It’s been a rough week for Texas’ Regional Mobility Authorities (RMAs). They’ve come under scrutiny in recent years as duplicative, wasteful, and even corrupt governmental entities that exercise a lot of power, control billions in tax money all with very little oversight and financial accounting. So much so that Lt. Governor Dan Patrick created an interim charge to investigate the state funds that flow to RMAs and asks the Senate Transportation Committee to recommend additional oversight procedures to ensure RMA expenditures are a valid and accountable use of state funds. Ouch!

Study to eliminate Texas toll roads

Link to article here.

Texas lawmakers ponder eliminating some toll roads
By Terri Hall
April 1, 2016

In a complete about face from the Rick Perry years of toll roads and public private partnerships (P3s), a marked shift away from tolling is taking place in Texas and was on display this week at the Texas capitol. No less than four transportation hearings took place over two days, and each addressed toll roads in some way. The one that made the headlines, however, was the hearing held by the House Transportation Committee on the elimination of toll roads.

The road lobby donned Cheshire cat grins once they heard the ‘number’ - the amount of money it would take to completely remove tolls from the toll systems built with any state money. The number is staggering - a whopping $21 billion in principle or $38 billion with interest. If the bonds were paid off as of September 1, 2017, Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) Executive Director James Bass estimated it would take $30 billion.

Texas AG joins landowners in Red River lawsuit against feds

Link to article here.

Texas Attorney General intervenes in Red River land dispute
By Terri Hall
March 22, 2016

It’s a nightmare most ranchers and property owners hope they never experience. But it’s happening to property owners along a 117-mile stretch of the Red River at the Texas border where the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is seeking to seize 90,000 acres of  private property. The Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Center for the American Future filed a lawsuit, Aderholt, et. al. v. Bureau of Land Management, challenging the move on behalf of seven Texas families and three counties, and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton quickly had the state of Texas join the suit as an intervening party. The General Land Office followed suit. Governor Greg Abbott has also expressed his support for the impacted landowners and vehemently defends the existing boundary lines of Texas’ northern border.

Cintra's SH 130 toll road goes bankrupt

Link to article here.

Texas’ first public-private toll road goes bankrupt
By Terri Hall
March 2, 2016

It's appropriate that on Texas Independence Day, March 2, Texans got to formally declare independence from its bondage to a tremendously unpopular, anti-liberty public private partnership (P3) contract as a result of Cintra's bankruptcy on SH 130 (segments 5 & 6, the southern 41 miles of the 86-mile tollway). It's been just over three years since former Governor Rick Perry's grand toll road experiment began on this stretch of highway.

Straus, Wolff try to rewrite toll road history in San Antonio

Link to article here.

Straus, Wolff attempt to rewrite history on toll roads at election time
By Terri Hall
February 16, 2016

It’s always interesting to watch politicians try to re-write history when election time rolls around. A case in point is State Representative Joe Straus, Speaker of the Texas House, and Bexar County Commissioner Kevin Wolff. Both have supported tolls in the past and they’ve put up persistent roadblocks to removing tolls from San Antonio road projects, but now they’re taking credit for expanding US 281 without tolls. Of course, this was after a total rebellion from the grassroots and residents in the corridor for over a decade. We heard repeatedly why we had to ‘accept’ tolls, why it was a ‘done deal,’ and why these powerful men ‘could do nothing about it.’

It wasn’t until Governor Greg Abbott campaigned against toll roads and advanced the largest infusion of new road funding in Texas history during his inaugural first year in office that either Straus or Wolff actually made a major effort to expand area highways without tolls — and that was largely due to the fact that grassroots anti-toll groups like Texans for Toll-free Highways advocated and won protections for taxpayers in the legislation prohibiting the new funding from being used on toll projects. That’s when the dominos started to fall.

HOV lane conversion on 281 in Alamo city will shrink capacity

Link to article here.

Bexar County Commissioner Kevin Wolff makes erroneous statements in this News 4 story. The Alamo Area MPO’s own consultant said HOV lanes have done nothing to increase carpooling or alleviate congestion. Ginger Goodin of the Texas Transportation Institute testified before the MPO last month that HOV-bus lanes are designed to change behavior and get people to switch modes of transportation.

Then there’s Wolff's claim that the 281 project will add 6 new lanes. The only new lanes they’re building are FRONTAGE ROADS, not general purpose highway lanes. There are NO NEW highway main lanes whatsoever in this project, and, in fact, the HOV lanes will convert two of the six existing general purpose lanes (open to all cars) into an HOV-bus restricted lane, actually shrinking existing capacity and leaving only 4 non-HOV lanes when today there are six.

The public has a right to know how congested this corridor will continue to be when they’re promising one thing and delivering another.

Millions set aside for highway improvements
By Emily Baucum
February 9, 2016

SAN ANTONIO - Bexar County leaders set aside millions of dollars Tuesday to help revamp two major highways: Loop 1604 out west, and Highway 281 on the far north side.

It's all part of a nearly billion-dollar plan to improve roads in growing parts of town.

The plan no longer includes toll roads but it does include something else we've never seen in this area: carpool lanes.

Austin, Houston Mayors call for shift away from cars to transit

Link to article here.

Two liberal Mayors, Steve Adler of Austin and Sylvester Turner of Houston, are pushing a shift in transportaiotn philosophy away from road building to one constricting auto capacity for single occupancy drivers in order to force them into a carpool, bus, or rail car. It's New Urbanism's clarion call -- declaring a war on cars and seeks to put drivers on a road diet to force a change in behavior to what liberal elites think is a better option. Never mind that over 95% of Texas commuters prefer to drive their own vehicle and commute alone in their cars every day. To these social engineers, they know better and they'll use their power to turn your freeways upside down, and keep them snarled in congestion to try and force change.

Governor Greg Abbott doesn't share their philosophy and he appoints the Texas Transportation Commissioners that control what happens to the state highway system. With two competing philosophies being advanced by powerful politicians, a clash of the titans is likely to ensue.  

Turner calls for change in transportation philosophy
By Mike Morris
Houston Chronicle
February 8, 2016 Updated: February 9, 2016 9:32am

It is time Texas stopped funding transportation for the huge share of residents who commute alone in their cars each day, Mayor Sylvester Turner told state officials, arguing that widening highways leads only to more gridlock.

Instead, the new mayor called for state funding to shift away from the automobile and toward alternatives, including commuter rail, high-occupancy vehicle lanes, park and rides, and local transit, as the Houston region faces projections of staggering growth in the coming decades.

Congress defunds civil asset forfeiture program

Link to article here.

Funds yanked: Congress puts the brakes on civil asset forfeiture
By Terri Hall
February 1, 2016

Many conservatives are upset with the omnibus spending bill Congress passed at the end of the year, but one provision they should praise is congress rescinding funding for the Justice Department’s civil asset forfeiture program. Most Americans have no idea what civil asset forfeiture is until law enforcement seizes your vehicle and everything in it during a routine traffic stop even though you have committed no crime.

The program was initially launched to help local law enforcement agencies fight drug trafficking and other organized crime by seizing assets they suspect may be involved in those crimes. But now it’s morphed into a system where you don’t even have to be charged with a crime to have your property seized by police, and few innocent parties ever get their money or property back.

Congress advances NAFTA superhighways in FAST Act

Link to article here.

Congress quietly moves NAFTA superhighway corridors forward in FAST Act
By Terri Hall
February 1, 2016
Selous Foundation for Public Policy Research

Such NAFTA international trade has all but destroyed the American manufacturing base, it threatens U.S. jobs and has contributed to stagnant wages since its inception in 1992. So the funding and expansion of the NAFTA trade corridors coupled with the porous southern border create another source of angst for American voters as they weigh the current presidential contenders.

CANAMEX map AMC 2014 thTucked into the 1,300-page federal highway bill, ‘Fixing America’s Surface Transportation’ Act, or FAST Act, that passed at the end of 2015, Congress quietly advanced several corridors of the NAFTA superhighway system, like Interstate-11. The interstate will connect Phoenix to Las Vegas and will ultimately run from Nogales, Arizona to northeast Washington State, establishing key trade corridors from Mexico to Canada.

The FAST Act is the first long-term highway bill to pass in over a decade, but it failed to enact any major reforms, failed to shore-up the funding shortfall in the federal highway program, and keeps most federal programs, like the NAFTA superhighways, euphemistically called high priority corridors, on auto-pilot for the next 5 years quietly eluding public scrutiny, while advancing the establishment’s global trade agenda.