December 02, 2008

Way to go, CAMPO!

It takes HUEVOS, ginormous brass huevos, to break a promise to constituents. Which is exactly what you did yesterday.

Transportation officials decided to create a financial marriage between two toll roads Monday, a move that could allow the U.S. 290 East tollway project to break ground sometime next year.

The Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization board voted 15-3 to create a tollway system made up of the existing, and profitable, 183-A toll road in Cedar Park and U.S. 290 East, which based on projections will not have sufficient revenue to persuade investors to lend more than a half billion dollars to build it. The existing tollway, which opened in March 2007 and is making a profit of about $5 million a year, will in effect act as a co-signer for the new project.

The U.S. 290 East project would cost $623.5 million, the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority says. It involves expanding 6.2 miles of the existing four-lane, divided highway between U.S. 183 in Northeast Austin and Parmer Lane just west of Manor. It would have six toll lanes and six free-to-drive frontage road lanes alongside.

Some CAMPO members objected to the financial partnership Monday, saying it violates the intent of policies adopted in October 2007, when the board approved the U.S. 290 East project and four other potential toll roads. At that time, the board agreed that excess toll revenue from the five roads would be spent first in the general area of each road rather than being used for improvements far afield.

We've just had an election and several of the people sitting on CAMPO are zombies. Why hold this vote with them on there? Why not wait until the new folks are on board?

Of course, if you're going to do that why not just wait for the Feds... it's not like they won't be dumping a massive amount of funding into infrastructure in the next 6 months. Which means, we may not need to toll at all? Isn't it worth sitting things out for a bit?

Granted, it's easy for y'all to vote to toll a road you rarely drive on.

The funny comes from Mike The Moron...

That will still be the case, according to the mobility authority, which operates 183-A and will build and operate U.S. 290 East. Given 183-A's profitable status, they say, no money would need to go from U.S. 290 East to 183-A.

In fact, mobility authority Executive Director Mike Heiligenstein said no money is likely to go either direction. The authority says that preliminary traffic and revenue studies show that U.S. 290 East will be able to meet its debt payments and operating costs without any transfer of money from 183-A.

However, investors normally require that toll road revenues be well beyond projected costs. A summary of the traffic analysis released Monday shows that, based on charging 20 cents a mile for U.S. 290 East, the road would make about a 30 percent profit — which Heiligenstein said was not high enough for the mobility authority to borrow the full amount needed to build U.S. 290 East without riding on the back of 183-A.

Actually, Mike, none of the investors bought the traffic projections and JPM's projections, if the information I've received is correct, do not show enough traffic on the road to even cover the debt service. That's the real story which means you're either trying to willfully deceive or you're so far out of the loop that you really think it has something to do with running a 30% profit.

Which means, if the projections are accurate, that some of Bob Lemon's constituents will be paying for a road in East Austin.

Now, tell me how that's different from the gas tax? How is it better?

Posted by mcblogger at December 2, 2008 11:34 AM

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