June 21, 2007

Tolls : The moratorium that wasn't

And now we know just how much of a moratorium was in 792. EOW has the deets on the meeting last week at which TXDoT approved 87 toll projects...

At a special meeting in Austin, the commission authorized the Texas Department of Transportation to work with local toll entities such as regional tollway authorities, regional mobility authorities and counties to begin moving forward on 87 projects that are currently years away from being fully funded. View map of project locations.

“These are projects that local officials have said are needed to reduce congestion but are waiting in line for funding. We want to help our local partners build the projects as quickly and efficiently as possible,” Williamson said.

To accelerate improvements, the projects are being proposed by TxDOT for development, construction and operation as toll projects.

In case you were wondering, elements of TTC 35 (which Corridor Watch assured us would be in the 'moratorium') are among the 87 approved projects.

To add fuel to the anti-toll fire, HCTRA is raising tolls on all Houston area tollways. The one that will have the biggest increase (DOUBLING during rush hour) is the Westpark Tollway...

Some drivers wondered whether commissioners have forgotten the working people.

"There are people who have budgeted a certain amount for tolls and need to use the tollway to get to work by a certain time in the morning," said Carol Ann Shipp in an e-mail to the Chronicle. These are not affluent professionals for whom the doubling of tolls is negligible. These are hardworking middle class workers who must count every penny."

County Commissioner Steve Radack said those who cannot afford the rush hour fees should use alternate roads.

"Let them go down Richmond Road,'' he said. ``Or they can use Westpark,'' the surface road running nearby the tollway.

Oh, Commissioner (Marie Antoinette) Radack! Not only have you earned yourself an opponent when you're up for re-election, you've guaranteed they'll win. It's rare that you get a chance to see a politician cut his own throat, so when it happens we sometimes miss it. I'm so glad I saw this one! It's almost like watching Krusee go down with the ship on 1892!

In another part of the state, the NTRTC decided to save themselves and awarded the 121 Tollway to the North Texas Tollway Authority instead of Cintra. Of course, TXDoT's Dick Williamson reserves the right to overturn that and award it to Cintra who came in the lower of the two in the bidding. Why on earth would Williamson shortchange North Texas taxpayers? Simple... he's dumb enough to think that the Cintra deal is better because they've assured him they'll eat the losses if the traffic projections fail to materialize.

Is this the same kind of 'assurance' Kolkhorst got from 39% that TTC 35 would be in the moratorium before she flipped on Amendment 13? Or, is Williamson really so stupid that he thinks Cintra's shareholders are dumb enough to come into this with their collective noses open?

I'm betting it's the latter.

Why? Simple. Those contracts have inflated traffic estimates. Should the traffic fail to materialize, THE PRIVATE CONTRACTOR CAN PUT THE LOSS TO THE STATE AND BE REIMBURSED. Should the traffic materialize and the road still lose money, the private contractor would be forced to eat the loss. Dick Williamson, the eternal optimist, actually thinks the traffic will materialize. Problem is, it won't. It never will and taxpayers will end up paying the tab for Dick Williamson's stupidity.

Yes, Dick, you're an idiot. You and your patron, 39%. You boys both drive a hard bargain... it's hard as hell to get private enterprise interested in an investment where they are guaranteed not to lose a dime and instead stand to make billions. With folks like y'all in government, it's no wonder our pensions are underfunded and we can barely keep our schools open.

Posted by mcblogger at June 21, 2007 02:00 PM

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