April 25, 2007

Transportation : Krusee sho do love him some gas tax and tolling MoPac

  • Remember a while back when Mikey Krusee (R - Politically Dead Man Walking) was all about the gas tax? Turns out not so much. His very own bill has been stuck in Ways and Means since February. Of course, Krusee's attitude is that constituents are bitching all the time and he frankly doesn't really need to listen to them. I'm sure the people of WillCo will be reversing him on that next year.
  • The author is listed as 'Statesman Staff' but it's pure Kelso...

    What a relief for the tourist. It's now easier to find Hutto than ever before because the Texas Department of Transportation on Friday unveiled a Hutto exit sign on Texas 130.

    "Hutto Next 2 Exits," says the green and white sign about a mile north of U.S. 79. Yes, Hutto has grown so big that it needs two exits: one for Upper Hutto and one for Lower Hutto, or Baja Hutto.

    There's no doubt that travelers should be alerted that Hutto is just ahead. "We have Home Depot and a Sonic and lots of nail salons," said Debbie Holland, Hutto's mayor pro tem. She points out that Hutto had just 680 people when she moved there in 1977 and that it has 17,000 now.

    About 25 miles northeast of Austin in Williamson County, Hutto suddenly finds itself dotted with Chili's, AutoZone, Jiffy Lube, Wachovia, Taco Bell, McDonald's, Quiznos, a pawn shop, a karate studio, Dollar General and all that other chain stuff you thought you could avoid if you drove 25 miles northeast of Austin. Ah, for the good old days, when you knew you were in Hutto when you saw Snuffy's Bar & Grill out the car window.

    In case you were wondering, people of WillCo, this is what Krusee has been working on this session

  • On the Moratorium front, EOW and Kuff have been keeping track of the bills and where they stand. At this point, it's almost as if the Lege is playing to run out the clock. In other words, they probably won't get a bill to Perry before the drop dead date. Perry has a set amount of time to do something with legislation sent to him. If the Lege gets the transportation bill to him in time, there will still be enough time before sine die to override the veto. However, that's beginning to appear unlikely due to feet dragging in the Senate.

    Texas needs roads. We need a rational funding mechanism for it that best utilizes public resources. It's time for y'all to get off your asses and do something.

  • There's more from EOW including a great article from the SAEN by Terri Hall that's as reasoned and balanced an argument AGAINST road privatization as I have seen.

    The Texas Department of Transportation promises toll rates of 12 cents to 15 cents a mile, but the reality has been 44 cents up to $1.50 per mile on similar projects that just opened in Austin. When TxDOT has admitted it costs 11 cents to collect the tolls, it can’t possibly cover the operation or maintenance of that road with 12-cent to 15-cent tolls, much less pay the private toll operator its guaranteed 12 percent profit.

    In fact, TxDOT’s mantra is that the private company will charge “market rate,” which essentially means tolls without limit since there will be few, if any, alternatives. Bottom line: Using CDA private toll contracts is the most expensive option for motorists. Yet the governor and his cronies claim they’re doing all this without raising taxes.

    […]

    Since an ounce of prevention equals a pound of cure, let’s revisit the gas tax to prevent this shady widespread shift to private tolling and be done with it.

  • Lastly, are tolls coming to MoPac? According to the Statesman, that's exactly what it being planned one of the two north/south freeways in Austin. Honestly, this is a stop-gap measure to deal with traffic that's been forced onto MoPac because of chronic congestion on 35. Chronic congestion that could be dramatically alleviated with NO TOLLS ON 130. I'm not averse to managed lanes in principle if the money is used to fund expansion of alternatives AND if the money doesn't go to a private contractor. Lest you think me a 'all freeways, all the time' guy, by alternatives I'm including rail.

    The safety issues are my biggest concern.

    But as with so many questions about highway safety, any comparison to what might happen with MoPac's managed lanes is necessarily inexact. The state Transportation Department, to some degree because of experience with the Dallas HOV lanes, would build the Austin lanes differently.

    On those two Dallas highways, the only separation between the HOV lane and the regular lanes is a double stripe painted on the pavement. Signs tell drivers not to cross those solid double stripes, that movement from the HOV lane to the inside regular lane is supposed to occur only every mile or so, when there is an access point indicated by a dashed line.

    On MoPac, the managed lane would be segregated from the regular lanes by a series of closely spaced, flexible plastic pylons. At entry or exit points — and there would be only five, aside from the southern and northern ends — there would be a gap in the pylons of about 1,200 feet, about a quarter-mile, where people could make the lane change.

    The reality in Dallas, according to the 2004 report, is that many people have ignored those signs, weaving in and out of the managed lane in efforts to gain advantage or (in the case of people driving alone who are illegally in the HOV lane) to avoid being caught and ticketed. Most of the accidents, Cooner said, occurred because of that rampant lane changing.

    The fundamental problem is that cars in the HOV lanes at rush hour, by and large, are going 30 to 35 miles per hour faster than cars in the regular lanes, Cooner said. That speed differential makes lane changes more problematic than on a normal freeway, where everyone typically is traveling at the same speed.

    Of course, in the article even TXDoT acknowledges that something has to be done long term to alleviate traffic on MoPac. Daigh, the Austin District Engineer, thinks it's all about making it to Austin's version of Central Expressway. Bob Daigh, you're kinda dumb. If you'll pull the damn tolls off 130 you'll move a LARGE percentage of traffic of 35. That will allow the people clogging MoPac to use it instead. It's really very simple. Pulling 30% of the current traffic on 35 onto 130 will make Austin a much nicer place to live.

    How about a common sense compromise... Between the hours of 6:30-10:00 am and 3:30-7:30 pm you guys wipe away the tolls on 130. The rest of the time, you can toll them to your hearts content.

    Of course, you'd have to abrogate the contract y'all just signed with Cintra. Which is what you should do anyway.

  • Posted by mcblogger at April 25, 2007 02:00 PM

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