Grassroots groups hail Abbott's non-toll plan for I-35 expansion through Austin

April 30, 2020

Grassroots Coalition praises Abbott’s I-35 Non-toll Expansion
Special interests will try to toll everything else due to tight budget post-coronavirus & oil bust

(April 30, 2020 – Austin, Texas) Today, Texas Conservative Grassroots Coalition leaders from Grassroots America - We the People PAC, Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom (TURF), and Texans for Toll-free Highways are praising Governor Greg Abbott and his Texas Transportation Commission’s vote to fund the first critical segment of the Interstate-35 expansion through downtown Austin without tolls. The Coalition noted the Commission has prioritized existing funding to get this major project underway without adding to the tax burden of working families.
JoAnn Fleming, Executive Director of Grassroots America stated, “During his first gubernatorial campaign and throughout his administration, Governor Abbott consistently promised to fix state transportation woes without raising taxes, fees, debt, or tolls, and that’s precisely why 164 grassroots conservative political opinion leaders – influencers – representing 133 unique groups and districts across Texas– sent a letter of support in favor of Abbott’s non-toll I-35 Expansion, which includes 12 segments on the state’s 100 Most Congested Roads List for 2019. For Governor Abbott, it is simply a matter of ‘Promises Made – Promises Kept.’ With our state leaders facing a dreadfully painful 87th legislative session budget process with unfolding economic hits from the coronavirus shutdown and oil price collapse, we are stepping forward now to have Governor Abbott’s back.”

Stop tolls, criminal penalties during coronavirus


Anti-toll groups ask Abbott to suspend tolls, penalties during crisis

(March 30, 2020 — Austin, Texas) Today, Texans for Toll-free Highways and Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom (TURF) call on Governor Greg Abbott to suspend the collection of tolls during the state of emergency due to the COVID-19 crisis. Abbott has already suspended penalties for late vehicle registrations and drivers license renewals during the COVID-19 state of emergency, and the Texas Supreme Court has blocked residents from being evicted from their homes. In addition, power companies and public utilities have been blocked from shutting off power and water to homes during the crisis. So the anti-toll groups contend the same should be granted to drivers with unpaid toll bills so people don’t have their vehicles impounded and lose their ability to get to work.

The groups are asking the Governor to:
1) Suspend tolls during the state of emergency.
2) Suspend the imposition of fines and criminal penalties for unpaid toll bills (which includes fines, blocking one’s vehicle registration, and impounding vehicles).

Suspending tolls, fines, and criminal penalties will expedite the ability of trucks and essential workers to get goods and people to where they need to be using the fastest possible route. Many healthcare workers cannot work if they have a criminal record. Since an unpaid toll bill is considered a criminal misdemeanor (Section 372.110(b), 372.111, 372.112, see here) in Texas, this imperils healthcare workers’ ability to stay on the job in some health systems.

“This is not the time for state or local toll authorities to impose criminal misdemeanor charges against people with unpaid toll bills. A misdemeanor can prevent healthcare workers from keeping their jobs and possibly other essential workers like truckers and emergency responders. We cannot afford to lose any of our essential workers during a public health crisis,” advocates Terri Hall, Founder/Director of TURF and Texans for Toll-free Highways.

"With the financial stress of many workers losing their jobs and families facing uncertain financial situations, having an unpaid toll bill that piles on penalties and late fees during this state of emergency and public health crisis is unreasonable, especially when work restrictions are in place,” Hall points out.


BIG Fat 'F': Majority of state lawmakers earn failing grade

Most legislators receive failing grade on anti-toll Report Card
 Both bills filed and bills that moved meant bad news for taxpayers, drivers Austin, Texas - Anti-toll watchdog group Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom (TURF) released its Report Card from the 86th Legislature today. In comparison to the prior session in 2017, where 57% of legislators were considered friendly, in 2019, that number fell to just 19% (based on the number of lawmakers who earned 'A's & 'B's). TURF used 18 different transportation, property rights, and good government bills (that impact those first two issues) to calculate each legislator's score, all of which are listed at the end of its Report Card. Every lawmaker was informed of TURF's position on the bill prior to the vote. 

The Texas House went off a cliff in terms of friendly legislators, with 73% earning a failing grade. In the Texas Senate, taxpayers fared much better with 45% of senators earning As & Bs. Just 16 total lawmakers earned an 'A.' Compare that to 56 lawmakers in 2017, and anti-toll voters have cause for concern.

"While none of our anti-toll reform bills ever got a vote either in committee or on the floor this session, the bills that did move were a disaster for taxpayers. The House Transportation Committee, including most every Republican, clearly wanted to raise your taxes on driving with six bills to increase fines & fees whether registration fees, local sales tax, or traffic fines in 'safety corridors,'" points out TURF Founder/Director Terri Hall. 

Krause bill undermines Governor's 'No toll' pledge, renews private toll contracts


Grassroots tell lawmakers to kill FAKE toll reform bill

Call out Krause for undermining Governor’s Pledge for No More Toll Roads

Austin, Texas – State Representative Matt Krause recently filed HB 1951 and dubbed it the “Toll Payer Protection Act.” Grassroots political leaders are calling it a FAKE toll reform bill.  While Krause claims it includes key toll road reforms, taxpayer watchdogs JoAnn Fleming, Executive Director of Grassroots America — We the People; Terri Hall, Founder/Director of Texas TURF and Texans for Toll-free Highways; and Julie McCarty, President of the NE Tarrant Tea Party, say they believe the bill undermines Governor Greg Abbott’s ‘No toll’ pledge and sets Texas taxpayers up to subsidize the road lobby and toll companies.

Krause says HB 1951 does 4 things:
- Requires voter approval for all new toll projects;
- Brings major uniform toll bill reform;
- Sets a timeline for taking tolls off a road after it has been paid off;
- Allows the state to partner with the private sector, on a limited basis, and when it makes financial sense for the state and taxpayer.

On the same day Krause filed his bill, Fleming, who also heads the Texas Conservative Grassroots Coalition, delivered a letter to the Governor, Lt. Governor, Speaker and both the House and Senate Transportation Committees, defining the Coalition’s transportation priorities for the session, asking them to support Governor Abbott’s pledge of ‘No more tolls.’

Funding shortfall due to TxDOT's failure to fund priorities

April 25, 2018

Conservative Grassroots Leaders say,

“Highway-funding shortfall problem is TxDOT’s own making.”

Governor, lawmakers need to demand accountability first

Austin, TX - A Texas-sized highway-funding problem is heating up, and three grassroots groups who lead a statewide coalition of anti-toll road activists who support the “no more toll roads – no more debt” policies of Governor Greg Abbott and Lt. Governor Dan Patrick are fighting well-funded, toll-loving special interests.

Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom (TURF), Texans for Toll-free Highways PAC, and Grassroots America - We the People PAC contend the much-lamented funding shortfall is largely due to the Texas Department of Transportation’s (TxDOT) bloat and mismanagement of funds. While metropolitan areas scramble to re-allocate funds to advance projects without tolls, as Governor Greg Abbott and Lt. Governor Dan Patrick directed last November, the anti-toll groups argue TxDOT intentionally squandered the nearly $5 billion a year in new funding on low priority projects so they could force toll roads on urban commuters.

Trump coalition letter presses Abbott to keep 'No Toll' promise

Link to story on it here.


Coalition's call for 'No new toll taxes' from Trump creates problem for Abbott in Dallas

Grassroots Coalition wants Governor to keep his promise, while they go on offense against Trump plan for tolls

(April 18, 2018 - Austin, Texas) The Texas Conservative Grassroots Coalition's latest project - strong opposition to parts of the Trump infrastructure plan, which calls for toll roads and corporate welfare public/private partnerships - is being led by Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom (TURF), Texans for Toll-free Highways, and Grassroots America - We the People PAC. The Coalition's opposition was voiced in a letter to President Donald J. Trump and expresses widespread displeasure among Texas conservative grassroots leaders with Trump's infrastructure plan.

"While some have called the Trump proposal DOA on Capitol Hill, we take nothing for granted and made the trip to D.C. to deliver it to the White House personally to ensure the President got the message from a BIG, red state with 38 electoral votes - we don't want tolls!" declares Terri Hall, Founder/Director of Texans for Toll-free Highways and Texas TURF.

JoAnn Fleming, Executive Director for Grassroots America - We the People PAC stated, "We are much more confident that Texas - under the leadership of Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick - will make much sounder transportation decisions than the far-flung bureaucracy in Washington, which makes no actual progress in stopping wasteful practices or balancing the federal budget! This is why we support a federal block grant of our federal highway funds back to Texas with a bare minimum of federal strings."

Anti-toll candidates & Proposition win big in primaries


Anti-toll candidates, proposition won in GOP primaries

(Austin, Texas, Wednesday, March 7) It was a good night for anti-toll candidates yesterday as voters headed to the polls for the March 6 primary election. Gov. Greg Abbott led the way winning overwhelmingly with 90% of the vote, United States Senator Ted Cruz right behind him with an impressive 85%, and Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, also winning handily with 76%. Though no one expected the primary challengers to pose a real threat to the state’s three top officials, some others down ballot had real threats and they survived — some convincingly.

With Senator Bob Hall being the most high profile target of the pro-toll cabal, he won the primary with 53% of the vote. Anti-toll State Representative Pat Fallon beat pro-toll incumbent Senator Craig Estes in Senate District 30, garnering 62% of the vote. In Senate District 8, anti-toll Angela Paxton won the open seat replacing anti-toll Sen. Van Taylor (who also overwhelmingly won the primary for congress in District 3). In a highly contested race for congress to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith in District 21, two anti-toll candidates head to a run-off. Texans for Toll-free Highways endorsed Chip Roy, who led the crowded field of 18 candidates with 27% of the vote.

Perhaps the biggest upset of the night for the anti-toll cause was in House District 114 where Lisa Luby Ryan ousted the rabidly pro-toll incumbent Jason Villalba, who has persistently pushed tolls on I-635E. Anti-toll Mayes Middleton unseated pro-toll incumbent Wayne Faircloth in House District 23, with opposition from Abbott aiding in putting Middleton over the top. In House District 106, anti-toll Jared Patterson won the open seat vacated by Fallon.

Other notable anti-toll races were in House District 73, where current State Representative Kyle Biedermann had a fierce challenge from pro-toll Dave Campbell, but Biedermann won with 58% of the vote in a race where over 30,000 ballots were cast (which dwarfs most house races). Other challengers to House Freedom Caucus members, Mike Lang, Matt Schaefer, and Valoree Swanson were also defeated. The Freedom Caucus stands strong against toll roads, and they’re credited with helping the grassroots get 6 out of 7 anti-toll reforms into law last year.

ATFI issues statement following leak of draft Trump White House Infrastructure plan


Alliance for Toll-free Interstates
Statement: Trump Tolls Would Help Wall Street, Hurt Main Street

(Richmond, VA, January 22, 2018) Following the leak of the draft Trump White House infrastructure plan, the Alliance for Toll-Free Interstates issued the following statement, which can be attributed to spokesperson Stephanie Kane:

“The leaked Trump infrastructure plan is a complete reversal of President Trump’s commitment to putting America First. Although then-candidate Trump campaigned against lining the pockets of Wall Street and promised to be the voice for the working class, this plan does the opposite. President Trump is choosing Wall Street over Main Street. It would take money from hardworking Americans and give huge profits to toll road investors – many of which are foreign companies.

Below the belt: Wolff attacks Governor for pulling the plug on tolls

Link to article here.

In a brazen insult to the leaders of his own party, Bexar County Commissioner Kevin Wolff hurled below the belt comments at Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Lt Governor Dan Patrick for keeping their campaign promise to pull the plug on tolls.

Below are the relevant outrageous comments from Wolff, followed by more comments where Wolff portrays himself as a statesman for shoving tolls down constituents throats despite their persistent opposition to the unacountable new taxes, and accuses the governor and lt gov of being political puppets. Railroading unwanted taxes upon voters without their consent isn't statesmanlike, it's being a bully sold out to rent-seeking special interests who want a government-sanctioned monopoly to make Texas commuters their own personal ATM machines. Reducing the tax burden on working families and keeping promises to voters is a whole lot tougher than taking the easy way out by ratcheting up spending, increasing taxes, and handing out the public's money to well-connected cronies and special interests in multi-billion toll road deals.

Apparently, he suffers memory loss in addition to substance abuse. Wolff says here that, “If they want to sit in Austin and decide that toll roads can’t be used, then they better damn well offer us another tool that will accomplish the same thing." Passage of Prop 1 in 2014 and Prop 7 in 2015 was designed to supply additional funding precisely so that policy makers could replace tolls. Wolff knows it. He pushed for passage of both. In fact, the last time Wolff ran for re-election he bragged that he removed tolls from the expansion plans for US 281 (in response to the public opposition after pushing tolls for more than a decade). So his 'blistering' comments aimed at the Governor and Lt Gov. are strictly political, not 'statesmanlike.'

A true statesman, retiered engineer and successful businesman Don Dixon, supplies a well written repsonse below the story.

Highway panel dumps planned I-35 toll lanes
By Bruce Selcraig
Staff Writer
December 15, 2017

A state transportation panel has dropped a plan to eventually add a pair of toll lanes to Interstate 35 from San Antonio to Austin, removing it and every other proposed tollway from its 10-year, $70 billion outline of 15 major road projects.

The stretch of I-35 in Central Texas is annually listed among the most congested in the nation. The 5-0 vote Thursday by the Texas Transportation Commission illustrated how the state’s political system continues to eliminate options to deal with it, observers said.

The decision, made at the behest of Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, received a blistering rebuke Friday from Bexar County Commissioner Kevin Wolff, a fellow Republican.

“Our governor and lieutenant governor are not the sharpest tools in the shed when it comes to transportation,” said Wolff, who chairs the Alamo Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), which allocates billions of dollars in state and federal funds for local highway projects.

“If they want to sit in Austin and decide that toll roads can’t be used, then they better damn well offer us another tool that will accomplish the same thing. I don’t like toll roads … but this just guarantees more gridlock. Doing nothing is not acceptable.”

Grassroots to TxDOT: 'Read our lips - No new toll taxes!'


Read our lips: “No new toll taxes!”

Grassroots Coalition of 67 Organizations Call Out

Transportation Agencies for Breaking Governor’s 

Promise for No More Toll Roads

(November 8, 2017 — Austin, Texas) Today, a Texas Conservative Grassroots Coalition project led by Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom (TURF), Texans for Toll-free Highways, and Grassroots America was hand-delivered to Gov. Greg Abbott and his new Transportation Commission Chair, Bruce Bugg. The Coalition letter insists that the Transportation Commission, TxDOT, and all related mobility authorities make good on Governor Abbott’s promise to build needed roads without new toll taxes. The Coalition project was launched in response to last week’s proposal by TxDOT to the Transportation Commission to approve over a dozen new toll projects in the state’s ten-year plan. Fifteen of the 17 projects are toll projects, including I-35 in Austin and San Antonio, I-635E in Dallas, I-45 in Houston, and Loop 1604 on San Antonio.

JoAnn Fleming, Grassroots America’s Executive Director said of the latest proposal for new toll projects, “Apparently, the state and local transportation bureaucracies didn’t get Gov. Abbott’s memo during his first campaign for Governor and haven’t listened ever since. The Governor has repeatedly underscored his vow to get Texas off the toll road and debt scheme. He’s made it clear he wants the state on a pay-as-you-go plan for road construction, and voters have approved the funding.

Reforms make it to Governor's desk

Contact: Terri Hall, Director,
Texas TURF, & Texans for Toll-free Highways
(210) 275-0640
Anti-toll reforms finally pass Texas legislature 
Reforms changed in conference, but still cripple future toll roads
(Austin, TX - Sunday, May 28, 2017) As the Texas legislature comes to a close tomorrow, a must-pass bill to continue the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), SB 312, cleared its final hurdle yesterday evening. The House passed a strong anti-toll bill May 17, adding several good anti-toll measures pushed by grassroots pro-taxpayer groups for over a decade. But rather than concur with the strong House version, the Senate chose to reject the House version (which signaled trouble ahead), forcing both the House and Senate to appoint a conference committee to work out the differences in the bill.

This is where the chicanery usually happens, and it did.

The House suspended the rules and rushed a vote to concur with the conference committee's changes and the Senate followed before it adjourned Saturday evening as well - pushing passage of a 100-page bill before anyone could read what was in it.

Anti-toll legislation makes its way onto must-pass TxDOT sunset bill

Contact: Terri Hall, Director, Texas TURF, &
Texans for Toll-free Highways
(210) 275-0640
Anti-toll legislation makes its way onto must-pass TxDOT Sunset Bill

Taxpayers finally caught a break in Texas, especially toll-weary commuters. After fighting for common sense toll road reforms for over a decade, the grassroots through Texas TURF and Texans for Toll-free Highways made major strides in killing public private partnership (P3) toll roads and gaining ground on several key anti-toll reforms, like removing tolls from roads that are paid for like Camino Columbia in Laredo.

State agencies come under sunset periodic review. Senate Bill 312 involves the continuation and functions of the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) and gives lawmakers the ability to tack on just about any transportation bill to it — good and bad. It's also must-pass legislation or the highway department goes away. While five anti-toll bills successfully passed the Texas Senate this session, none have been heard in the House. So lawmakers pounced on the opportunity to get stalled bills moving through amendments to SB 312. 

The pro-toll crowd sought to resurrect corporate toll roads by authorizing P3s once again and even granting broader authority to do so. Lawmakers just voted down a P3 bill HB 2861 by Rep. Larry Phillips just days before, forcing taxpayers to mount an offensive to kill such sweetheart deals again. An amendment by Rep. Dade Phelan was most troubling actually requiring taxpayers to guarantee the loans and bonds of the private toll companies and gave authority to enter into multiple contracts every year with no sunset date.

VICTORY: Grassroots KILL private toll bill, secure Abbott's vision for toll-free future

CONTACT: Terri Hall, (210) 275-0640
Defeat of private toll road bill affirms Abbott's pledge to voters 
Promise to fix roads without new tolls or debt gets bipartisan support

(Austin, TX - Friday, May 5, 2017) Texas taxpayers can breathe a sigh of relief tonight as a bipartisan effort to defeat expansion of private toll roads in Texas went down in flames by a vote of 79-51 in the Texas House. Taxpayer champions Rep. Jeff Leach (R - Plano), Rep. Jonathan Stickland (R - Bedford), and Rep. Joe Pickett (D - El Paso) led the floor fight, noting 90% of Democrats and 95% of Republicans oppose new toll roads in Texas, and both party platforms oppose privatized toll roads in particular. Governor Greg Abbott promised to fix Texas roads without new tolls or debt, and the Texas House delivered on that promise today by killing Rep. Larry Phillips HB 2861.

Pickett and Stickland made impassioned speeches opposing the bill. Leach emphasized both party platforms oppose this type of toll project and that the voters just gave the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) $5 billion a year in new funding by passing Proposition 1 and Proposition 7.

Secret deal give private firm control of public roads, even free lanes


Cibolo Council approves secret deal to give private toll firm control of free lanes, too 
Agreement kept from public prior to council vote

(Cibolo, TX - Wednesday, March 1, 2017) In a stunning betrayal of open government, the Cibolo City Council voted 6-0 to approve a 50 year development agreement with Texas Turnpike Corporation (TTC), granting it the exclusive right to build, operate and maintain what's been dubbed the Cibolo Parkway - a tollway linking I-35 to I-10 through mostly rural farmland northeast of San Antonio. The agreement was negotiated behind closed doors and was kept secret from the public until it was approved last night. TTC has never successfully built a single road project, and the company was chased out of east Dallas two years ago by angry landowners when it proposed the Blacklands/Northeast Gateway tollway from Garland to Greenville.

Even worse, the city council gave TTC the rights to develop a project the taxpayers have already paid for, the expansion of FM 1103, the city's primary connection to I-35. By doing so, they've granted a private corporation a virtual monopoly over the existing non-toll competitor to its private toll road. TTC can intentionally slow down the free option to force more cars onto its for-profit toll road by manipulating speed limits, access points, and stop lights. It's a developer's dream and a commuter's worst nightmare.

The city tried to reassure residents there is no non-compete clause, prohibiting or penalizing the city from building any competing free roads. The agreement may still bind the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) and the county from expanding free roads. But who knows since no member of the public could see it before the council voted on it? So while the city touts it's protected taxpayers from a non-compete provision, it handed TTC control of the adjacent competing free lanes of FM 1103, achieving a form of a non-compete out the gate.

The agreement offers no way out for the city, except an eventual buy out opportunity after the road gets built. But those buy out agreements are just as thorny as these complex development contracts. Most private toll road developers require the public entity to pay them for any future loss in toll revenue, often making it more expensive to buy them out than the original cost to build it.

One has to wonder how any elected official could green light approval of a project before a toll feasibility study has been performed, the environmental review complete, or final route selected. It's worse than putting the cart before the horse, it's putting special interests above the public interest. The company insisted on having an irrevocable agreement in place with the city before it invested $10-$12 million for the feasibility study. Nice work if you can get it, but what about the taxpayer?

No formal public hearings were hosted by TxDOT to notify residents of the proposed project, so unless you happen to look at the city council agenda every two weeks, a resident had no way of knowing what just happened, much less have the ability to stop it since the majority of it was done behind closed doors with a private entity.

Throwing landowners under the bus
Cibolo has become a bedroom community of San Antonio, but before homes stacked the landscape, Cibolo's roots were decidedly agricultural with farming and ranching dating back to Texas' days as a republic. The mayor and council weren't afraid to show their intentions when public discussion about this possible private toll road began to surface last year. Their primary interest is in economic development, which is code for flipping farmland into a commercial tax base. The city acted so desperate for new economic development, it signaled to TTC that it would sell out its current residents for the promise of a higher tax base from its new ones.

The southern boundary of the city that was most recently annexed occurred over the objection of many landowners. Now their worst fears have been realized as a private developer who cozied up to the mayor and council got himself an iron clad contract to mow them over and change their way of life. Roads are disruptive to the native landscape and often split farms in half. Many will not be able to continue farming or even have the ability to access the other side of their property without an overpass (built at the developer's expense, which isn't going to happen in most cases). That's the city's intent - to drive out the farmers and welcome in big box stores generating lots of sales tax for it to spend. New residents, more traffic, and, they hope, more riders for the toll road.

Eminent domain for private gain
The city has agreed to use eminent domain to take land from its residents and confer it to a private entity for private gain, not for a legitimate public use. While the road is open to the public (so is a mall or restaurant) if they pay a toll, this arrangement is for a private toll road whose corporation will use the city's police force to become its private toll collector and speed enforcer.

While the politicians argued eminent domain would only be used as a last resort, that's the club TTC's CEO John Crew needs to get landowners to sign over their land in negotiated settlements. We've seen it used prolifically - sign on the dotted line for the amount we're offering or we'll take it with eminent domain and pay you even less.

Numbers don't add up
In town of just 25,000 residents, it's hard to conceive of how any toll road could be profitable. The city must be banking on literally hundreds of thousands of new residents to make the numbers work. Cities with populations over a million and lots of urban congestion have toll roads that can't pay for themselves. It just doesn't add up that this little city will provide enough users to pay back $125 million plus interest, plus profit over 50 years. No elected official has any control over the eventual toll rates that will be charged. So there is no cap or limit. While the consultants tried to say the free market would keep rates in check, roads by their very nature are a monopoly. Just ask the residents in Ft. Worth and Dallas who are paying a private Spanish firm in excess of $20/day in tolls to get to work if they think that's market rate or reasonable.

But numbers and data don't matter. The city council seems to think they're getting something for nothing - even if the toll road goes bankrupt, they get it back at a fire sale price. But the private company knows how to make money even when a toll road goes bankrupt. They put in very little of their own money and borrow the rest. The developer makes their money on the front end so that when it goes south, it's the bond holders who are at risk, not the developer. If the road goes into bankruptcy, the road will remain operational, but control then gets handed to the bond investors in bankruptcy court where a bunch of the debt gets written down and off the books and the investors hire another operator, starting the process all over again. Control does not revert back to the public or the city. Only if the city exercises its buy out option would the residents get it back under public control.  

Taxpayer money in play
The city manager and its lawyers bragged the city had no financial risk in the deal, yet, ironically, the city had to hire extra legal and engineering consultants to review the agreement, which is, of course, at taxpayer expense. There's more to come since next up is negotiating the formal operating agreement. Policing of this private toll road will also be done by city police. While the developer is supposedly responsible for paying to hire the extra personnel, who is responsible for those public employees' pensions, benefits, etc.? I'd bet money it's the taxpayers. Who will collect the tolls and what enforcement does the private company have access to? If it's anything like the SH 130 tollway, TxDOT does the toll collection and state law allows a user's vehicle registration to be blocked for failure to pay tolls, even when it's for a private toll road.

The city, like TxDOT, loves to claim the road and right of way is still technically owned by the city and hence the public, but that's only so the private toll company can use the public's policing and enforcement powers for its for-profit toll enterprises. For tax purposes, these corporations show ownership and depreciate it like an asset.

Then there's the tax money it would take to buy out the private developer at some point in the future. No matter how you slice it, Cibolo residents just got sold out by their elected officials. They've lost control of FM 1103, the ability to determine the toll rates, the route, the exits, the overpasses, the toll collection procedures, and a whole bunch more. Taxpayers will be paying for extra consultants and legal haggling for the foreseeable future. Accountability at the ballot box will now be your only recourse. Sadly, there are no remaining pain-free options.

Anti-toll groups celebrate bankruptcy of SH 130

CONTACT: Terri Hall,
Texans Uniting for Refrom and Freedom
(210) 275-0640
Anti-toll groups celebrate Cintra bankruptcy on SH 130   
(Austin, TX - Wednesday, March 2, 2016) Anti-toll groups Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom (TURF) and Texans for Toll-free Highways (TTH) release the following statement on Cintra's bankruptcy on SH 130 segments 5 & 6:

It's appropriate on Texas Independence Day that Texans get to formally declare independence from its bondage to a tremendously unpopular, anti-liberty public private partnership (P3) contract (known as a Comprehensive Development Agreement  or CDA in Texas) 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 four years too long that former Governor Rick Perry's grand toll road experiment began on this stretch of highway.

TURF called for a boycott of Texas' first foreign-owned toll road when it opened back in 2012. SH 130 has long been the poster child of Rick Perry's failed toll road policies. At one point, the state-operated part of the tollway was so empty a distressed plane landed on it during peak hours. Many citizens expressed relief and a desire to move on and get this phase of Texas highway history behind them. Governor Greg Abbott's new vision and his new leadership at the helm of the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) promises to usher in a new pro-liberty, pro-taxpayer mobility plan that benefits and is accessible to ALL Texans.

The lists of outrageous anti-taxpayer provisions in the contract or as a result of the contract include: 

* Taxpayer-backed loan guarantees and state funds ($438 million federal TIFIA loan and other state funds).
* Non-compete agreement prohibiting the expansion of free routes in the entire counties of Caldwell and Guadalupe for 50 years (see Exhibit 17 here).
* A guaranteed 12% annual profit, courtesy of Texas taxpayers.
* Manipulation of speed limits on free routes in order to force drivers onto Cintra's tollway. This included increasing the speed limit on SH 130 to 85 MPH while simultaneously lowering the speed limit on the adjacent Highway 183 from 65 MPH down to 55 MPH for which TxDOT was paid $100 million concession fee by Cintra for the privilege (see Exhibit 7 here). This required a change in state law to allow the maximum speed limit to rise to the fastest in the country to 85 MPH, a speed forbidden by many trucking companies.
* Provisions that put Texas taxpayers on the hook for any uncollectable tolls, including those unpaid tolls by Mexican drivers.
* Dual designation of I-410, I-10, and Loop 1604 in Bexar County as SH 130 to entrap the motorists using those freeways into using Cintra's tollway once they're out in the middle of a rural area with no way north except the expensive SH 130 toll road.
* Tens of millions in taxpayer subsidies that make all Texas taxpayers pay to reduce the truck toll rates on SH 130 to incentivize truckers to divert from the heavily congested I-35 over to SH 130 (at a cost of $20 million per year).
* Fueled talk of swapping I-35 with SH 130 making I-35 a tollway and SH 130 in order to get more cars off of I-35.
* Cost Texas taxpayers $210,000 in advertising for the foreign-operated tollway, and a good portion of the $19 million in legal fees to negotiate the contract with Cintra as part of the controversial Trans Texas Corridor.

Cronyism and corruption
The SH 130 project, the first and only leg of the Trans Texas Corridor to ever be built, was shrouded in cronyism and corruption from the very start. Dan Shelley, lobbyist for Cintra, landed a job in Perry's office as his legislative liaison in 2003, got his former employer, Cintra, the development rights to the Trans Texas Corridor contract, then went back to work for Cintra after doing the dirty deed.

Texans should celebrate being released from this bad deal and breathe a breath of fresh air now that we're under new leadership with Governor Abbott having campaigned against toll roads and who continues to make a concerted effort to start eliminating toll roads across Texas.

Melissa Cubria, Director of Texas Public Interest Research Group (TexPIRG) and early critic of private toll road deals, echoes TURF’s sentiments, ”It is important to note. All private toll arrangements absent public safeguards - and not a single deal inked in this state contains a meaningful public safeguard - are nothing more than budget gimmicks that enable lawmakers to claim they've balanced the budget without raising taxes.

"In reality, lawmakers saddled Texas taxpayers with billions in debt and they hid it from the normal, open, public budgetary process. In other words, Texas lawmakers have balanced the budget, in part, because they have issued billions of taxpayer backed subsidies for private toll road companies while hiding the costs from taxpayers and increasing costs and risks for taxpayers in the long term.

"It's really hard not to say we told y'all so."

Will SH 130 become free?
TURF and TTH have advocated to have tolls come off the road once it's paid for three legislative sessions. Last year, the concept finally managed to take a step forward with passage of HB 2612 that commissioned a study to remove tolls from state-funded toll projects. House Transportation Committee Chair Joe Pickett strongly pushed removing tolls from the state-operated northern segments of SH 130 in order to immediately get some traffic relief on I-35 through downtown Austin. Today's announcement of Cintra's bankruptcy may just hasten that plan.


TURF releases 2015 Report Card for 84th Legislature


Anti-toll group releases Report Card for 84th legislature
More anti-toll stars than ever

(Austin, TX, September 9, 2015) With voters overwhelmingly embracing a move away from toll roads by electing Greg Abbott as the new Texas Governor, many voters want to know how their elected leaders did in delivering on their promises. Anti-toll and property rights watchdog group Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom (TURF) just released its Report Card from the 84th Legislature today. Over 75 anti-toll bills were filed. Combined with property rights legislation, the total came to 96.

Nine lawmakers achieved the distinction of earning an A+. Those legislators are: Jeff Leach, Matt Rinaldi, Scott Sanford, Matt Shaheen, Jonathan Stickland, and James White in the House, and Bob Hall, Don Huffines, and Lois Kolkhorst in the Senate.

“Having this many anti-toll champions in the legislature is a big improvement over last session when only Rep. Jonathan Stickland achieved the top grade of A+ with just three others achieving ‘A’s. However, there’s lots more work to be done and many lawmakers have a lot of room for improvement. Most anti-toll and property rights bills were watered down or never even got to the floor. That’s got to change in order to protect taxpayers from rampant double and triple taxation,” related Terri Hall, Founder/Director of TURF.

TxDOT tracks drivers to mine data without their consent


TxDOT tracks drivers to mine data without their consent
Bluetooth reader used to stalk motorists' travel patterns 
(San Antonio, TX - Tuesday, June 2) At a recent stakeholders meeting on the I-35 bypass study, it came to light that a consultant hired by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) used a Bluetooth reader to collect the trip origination and destination data involuntarily from innocent travelers. Such data mining by government invades a motorist's privacy and violates one's Constitutional rights.

"Whether it was TxDOT or its consultant doesn't matter, it's all being done with taxpayer dollars and for a government agency. Didn't they learn from the NSA wiretapping scandal how much Americans detest government spying on the private lives of innocent, law-abiding citizens?" notes Terri Hall, Founder and Director of Texans for Toll-free Highways and Texas TURF.

Commissioners approve tolls for northside of San Antonio

Watch what happened on Fox 29 here.
(Note: The reporter mistook the agenda item where citizens' comment known as 'Citizens to be Heard' as the name of our group.


Commissioners approve tolls
for northside of San Antonio

Reaffirm tolls on US 281, I-10 despite
more road money coming to fix non-toll

(San Antonio, TX - Tuesday, January 17, 2015) Today, Bexar County commissioners passed a resolution brought by Kevin Wolff to 'reaffirm' what's been dubbed the $825 million 'Super Toll Plan' for toll lanes on US 281 (from Loop 1604 to the county line) and I-10 (from Loop 1604 to Boerne), and the initial non-toll expansion of Loop 1604 W (though tolls are coming from Bandera Rd. to I-35).

Can TxDOT use gas taxes to support toll roads? Kolkhorst asks AG for opinion on Prop 15

CONTACT: Terri Hall, Founder/Director,Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom,
(210) 275-0640
Kolkhorst asks for Attorney General opinion on use of gas taxes to build, support toll roads
Seeks clarity over Prop 15 controversy from 2001

(Austin, TX, November 14, 2014) With voters overwhelmingly embracing a move away from toll roads with the election of anti-toll Greg Abbott as the new Texas Governor, there remains an open question about whether or not the voters approved the use of the state gasoline tax, and any other money available to the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), for toll roads when they approved Proposition 15 back in 2001. Some state leaders believe the voters approved the use of gas taxes to build toll roads with passage of Prop 15, but the ballot language never mentions a word about gas taxes nor all funds available to TxDOT being used for toll roads - which is a double tax.

“It’s important for lawmakers to know heading into the next session whether or not TxDOT is authorized to subsidize toll projects that can’t pay for themselves with taxpayer money,” points out Texas State Rep. Lois Kolkhorst who Chairs the House Health Committee, and has been a long-time champion for taxpayers on transportation.

Kolkhorst submitted a request for an Attorney General opinion on Prop 15 last week. She authored the legislation to repeal the controversial Trans Texas Corridor, and she’s currently running for the Texas Senate seat, SD 18, vacated by Glenn Hegar who was just elected State Comptroller. Chairwoman Kolkhorst believes the ballot language for Prop 15 was less than forthcoming about the full implications of the amendment to the Texas Constitution in 2001, and she wants to protect taxpayers from double taxation.

Passage of Prop 1 opens door to fix 281 without tolls

Link to this release as an article here.

Contact: Terri Hall, (210) 275-0640

With passage of Prop 1, time to fix US 281 without tolls

(San Antonio, TX - November 5, 2014) It’s been a long battle, more like a ten year war, over converting US 281 in San Antonio into a tollway, but with passage of Proposition 1 shifting $1.7 billion in oil and gas severance taxes immediately into the state highway fund, the ‘we’re out of money’ excuse to toll this freeway just got chucked.

Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff and Sen. Donna Campbell sent a letter to the Texas Transportation Commission in May asking for more non-toll lanes on US 281 should Prop 1 pass. Now Wolff still wants one transit-toll-HOV ‘managed’ lane each direction regardless of having the money to fix it completely without tolls, but Campbell, who represents the corridor, has stated unequivocally that she wants expansion and wants it all to be without tolls.

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