Tuesday, November 25, 2014

East HWY 183 into a six-lane Toll Road


This is the official website outlining the plan:
http://www.bergstromexpressway.com/

KXAN Report


East HWY 183 into a six-lane Toll Road

AUSTIN (KXAN) —  The Bergstrom Expressway is one step closer to breaking ground. The project would turn eight miles of U.S. Highway 183 from U.S. Highway 290 to State Highway 71 into a six-lane toll road with a free frontage road. Thursday night, new designs will be shown during an open house as a result of public feedback.

The project, which is a collaboration between the Texas Department of Transportation, and the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority, would create a highway similar to the Manor Expressway — otherwise known as 290 East. The cost is estimated at $680 million, which would come from investors and be paid back through tolls over a 30-year period.

Right now, the project is in the final stages of its environmental study, and if all goes well, they plan to break ground in August of next year. The first four miles would be completed in 2018 and the second half by 2020. Because of public feedback during the design phase, planners have added flyover connectors to SH 71, a bicycle path along the frontage road, and intersection improvements. Thursday night is another opportunity for the public to tell designers what this road should entail.
“We go above and beyond and ask for input on the aesthetics, look and the feel,” said Rick L’Amie, Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority communications director. “That’s not something we are required to do, but it’s important to get citizen input so we create a facility that people will like and use.”

At the Thursday meeting, longtime resident Jean Allen welcomes the expressway because she has a plan, “When its a crowded situation, a time situation, I’ll take the toll. If it’s off hours and time is not important I’ll drive for free.”

Once complete, the toll road would eliminate eight miles of stop-and-go lights, and the agencies view the roadway as a good alternative to cut around Interstate 35. But with SH 130 just to the east — and that being considered the cut around for the city — some question if the area needs another toll road. The executive director of the Mobility Authority said “yes,” because this corridor is closer, offers a more direct route, and when — or if — construction on I-35 to expand the roadway, this could be commuters’ best alternative.

“What happens when all of a sudden you have 71 to 290, nonstop, 70-mph option, you are going to induce a lot of demand off of 35 and the neighborhood streets that are there,” said Mike Heiligenstein, Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority executive director.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

the TTC with 9 lives

The AP is reporting that TXDOT has once again "killed" the TTC. Back in January they renamed it "Innovative Connectivity in Texas|Vision 2009".

Transportation Commissioner Bill Meadows said, "The reason that's being given for the no-build option is that people don't want it. They said 'Hell no.' "

The Ap reports this:

Planning for the corridor has nevertheless quietly continued. A consortium led by Cintra of Madrid, Spain, and Zachry Construction of San Antonio had prepared a master plan, and a detailed environmental study of the TTC-35 corridor was under way.

Meadows said that was all ending.

"Formally, absolutely, TTC-35 is dead. We are canceling the contract with Zachry," he said.

Information from: http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/ap/business/6654879.html

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Toll road billing continues to take its toll on drivers

In an article today on News 8 Austin, writer Bob Robuck says they've received dozens of emails complaining about toll road billing , poor customer service and varying other problems. So many in fact, that they had the BREAK DOWN the complaints into "recurring themes".



Isn't this a job that should be done by the toll road administrators? I think so. Let another business like AT&T or Sprint try to get away with poor customers service and high fees - oh, wait, they have competition within their industry

Robuck writes, "The complaints most prevalent include: accusations of inaccurate billing, exorbitant administrative fees, inaccurate record keeping and promises made by customer service that were not fulfilled.

To be fair, these claims have yet to be substantiated."


Fair enough - but TxDOT has delayed giving News 8 any records. Several weeks ago News 8 "made an open records request for the total amount currently owed by toll road users, broken down into actual tolls and administrative fees."

News 8 has been told that Turnpike Authority Director Mark Tomlinson is too busy to talk with them and News 8 "wouldn't settle for talking to one of TxDOT's media representatives because, by their own admission, one of them had already given us inaccurate information."

In my opinion this is an obvious case of trying to cover up what this billing agency really likes to do. Force people into giving up thier bank account numbers (getting a TXtag) by charging excessive fees and "offering" to wave them if they get the tags. If people choose not to get the tags, then stick them with fees high enough to force them off the tool roads.




CONTACT NEWS 8 AUSTIN:

"We still want to hear from you if you have issues with Central Texas toll roads. E-mail us at yournews@news8austin.com, call (512) 531-8888 or write to us at News 8 Austin, 1708 Colorado St., Austin, TX 78701."


Full article:

http://www.news8austin.com/content/your_news/default.asp?ArID=234443





Monday, October 15, 2007

Study: Austin drivers to pay-by-mile using GPS tracking system

Here it is... the ultimate toll road. GPS logs your miles and bills you a use tax each month. Brilliant! But wait it gets better. You'll actually be tracked everywhere you go, not just if you choose to take a toll road! Wonderful!

Several states.... are studying whether to scrap the gas tax and replace it with pay-by-the-mile user fees, effectively turning the road network into another public utility.

Oregon is finishing a fascinating yearlong study with 280 volunteers who equipped their cars with Global Positioning System tracking devices.

Every time they filled up at two specially equipped stations, per-mile user fees were added -- and the gas tax deducted -- right on the receipt.

A similar $16.5 million study of 2,700 drivers in Austin, Baltimore, Boise, San Diego, eastern Iowa and North Carolina's Research Triangle is set to begin next year.

Motorists will continue to pay gas taxes, but researchers at the University of Iowa will gauge driver responses to a monthly invoice -- not much different than a cellphone bill -- detailing actual miles driven and what they might have paid in per-mile fees.

READ FULL ARTICLE



Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Texas $8.5 billion budget surplus... but no money for roads?

No money for roads?

Texas collected $1.5 billion more than projected


Texas Legislature needs to budget this money to the most important needs just like every citizen and business must do. We all have limited funds and we make due by prioritizing and cutting waste in our spending.

Transportation is at the top of the list when it comes to running a productive modern society.

TxDOT and our elected REPs are flat out lying when they say there's no money.

They refuse to cut expenses in unecessary areas and re-direct money meant for roads so they can in turn say there is no money for roads.

THERE"S A SURPLUS FOLKS.... BUDGET ACCORDING TO IMPORTANCE.

State surplus grows by $1.5 billion Austin American-Statesman
State has extra $1.5 billion leftover from last year's budget Houston Chronicle
Texas collected $1.5 billion more than projected KVUE





Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Austin Phase 2 Toll Roads Approved

We all saw this coming years ago. Last night CAMPO voted YES to shift $910 million of our tax dollars (meant for for freeways) to build toll roads.

Voters, take note and support these folks -
Who didn't vote for these toll roads?
Nineteen members are on CAMPO's Transportation Policy Board. Each road was voted on separately. Austin City Councilwoman Jennifer Kim, Hays County Judge Liz Sumter, Sunset Valley Council Member Jeff Mills and Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin, were the only four members of the board to vote against every toll road proposal.

CAMPO: Let the Contracting Begin

Plan's approval creates 5 toll roads

After Meeting Their Opposition CAMPO Approves More Toll Roads





Friday, September 21, 2007

Texas Group Files Lawsuit to End Government Toll Road Lobbying

Lawsuit seeks to prohibit Texas Department of Transportation from lobbying on behalf of toll roads.

Terri HallA grassroots anti-toll road activist group yesterday filed suit to block the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) from lobbying on behalf of toll roads. Texans United for Reform and Freedom (TURF) petitioned the Travis County District Court for a temporary restraining order that would prohibit the transportation agency from expending public funds on its "Keep Texas Moving" advertising blitz.

"Unlike purely educational public relations efforts such as the 'Don't Mess With Texas' campaign, the Keep Texas Moving campaign is a one-sided attempt to advocate one political point of view on a highly controversial matter," TURF founder Terri Hall wrote in her filing. "Absolutely no non-toll related solutions to the transportation needs of Texas are presented in the Keep Texas Moving campaign... As such, the Keep Texas Moving campaign and the lobbying campaign constitute state agency-sponsored political advocacy that is prohibited by sections 556.001 et seq. of the Texas Government Code."

Texas law allows government agencies to provide information to the public and to respond to requests for information and analysis, but it states that agencies, "may not use appropriated money to attempt to influence the passage or defeat of a legislative measure." All state employees must sign a document stating that they have read and understood this provision of law.

The state attorney general's office, representing TxDOT, postponed a hearing on the case until Monday. The state argues that because visiting Judge Bill Bender resides within the path of the proposed Trans Texas Corridor toll road, he should not be allowed to hear the case. Hall's team of lawyers are prepared to fight any of the state's procedural tactics.

"We knew they'd try this and we'll combat it so that this case is heard and TxDOT is forced to comply with the law," Hall said. "Between TxDOT's PR campaign, report to Congress asking that all limitations on tolling be lifted including buying back existing interstates, and Chairman Ric Williamson's recent trip to D.C. lobbying for the same, it's clear they've not only crossed the line into illegal lobbying, but they leaped over it."

Other related sources:


A Texas group opposed to toll roads goes to court (590 KLBJ)

Anti-Toll Road Activist Sues State Over Ad Campaign (KXAN)

Toll road foe sues over TxDOT ad campaign (MySA.com)

TxDOT threatened with injunction (more details here)









Thursday, September 20, 2007

Reporter banned from secret meeting on selling US assets

WND banned from secret meeting on selling U.S. assets
'We don't feel news site is appropriate for a business conference'

Posted: September 19, 2007
1:00 a.m. Eastern

© 2007 WorldNetDaily.com

EuroMoney PLC, the UK-based company that arranges dozens of financial conferences around the world each year, has refused to allow WND staff reporter Jerome Corsi to attend next week's "North American PPP (Public-Private Partnership) & Infrastructure Finance Conference" in New York, even though WND offered to pay the $1,999 conference fee required to attend.

"When government officials want to go behind closed doors with investment bankers and lawyers to discuss selling our public infrastructure to foreign investment leaders, investigative reporters need to be there to tell the public what is really going on," Corsi said.

"Why is it that all these PPP and SPP (Security and Prosperity Partnership)
meetings are behind closed doors," Corsi asked, "and government officials and their supporters think that's normal? But when investigative reporters want to attend and report on what is being said, we are the ones who get accused of being the conspiracy theorists?

"By refusing to allow WND to attend as a paying customer," Corsi argues, "EuroMoney is telling the American public that they intend to conduct a secret meeting designed to teach government officials how to sell out U.S. public infrastructure to foriegn investment concerns.

(Story continues here)

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Austin: Nation's most congested mid-sized city

Saw this on the news tonight.

It takes us (on average) 31% longer to get to our destination in Austin during peak hours.



To compare, LA (the worst congested) takes 77% longer.




AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF
Wednesday, September 19, 2007

That Greater Austin is "the most congested medium-sized city in America" has become something of a mantra among local transportation officials, a handy fact used to justify or oppose toll roads, promote green measures or, this week, attack a proposed bus fare increase.

The Texas Transportation Institute, in its biannual Urban Mobility Report released today, once again puts the Austin metro area in that dubious position, giving it a congestion index of 1.31. That figure, which means a rush-hour trip takes 31 percent more time than the same journey at off-peak hours, puts Austin and its suburbs atop 30 metro areas designated as medium-sized.

However, the criteria used for that grouping lists the Austin-area population as 855,000, just less than 60 percent of the 1.45 million people that U.S. Census bureau says lived in the Austin metropolitan area in 2005, the year studied in the report. Most other similarly sized American cities in the report are credited with 70 percent to 80 percent of their total metro population.

The reason for the discrepancy is that the institute bases its calculations on data from "urbanized areas," rather than using entire metropolitan areas. If a satellite town, such as Georgetown or San Marcos, has slivers of rural areas separating them from the central city and close-in suburbs, then they fall out of the urbanized area.

The relatively stingy population estimate has the effect of putting Austin below the 1 million population threshold for a "large" city (thus the "medium-sized city" designation) and of driving up Austin's congestion index.

"I'm not sure how much lower the number would come down"if more of the Austin metro area was included in the calculations, said study co-author Tim Lomax, a research engineer at the Texas A&M University-based institute.

Austin traffic, according to the report, has worsened steadily through the years. In 1982, Austin's congestion index was 1.07, causing about a minute and a half of delay on what would be a 20-minute trip outside of rush hour. By 1992, that number had increased only slightly to 1.12.

But in 2000, after the high-tech boom of the late 1990s, the index had reached 1.24 in Austin, five extra minutes for that 20-minute trip. The estimated delay on that 20-minute jaunt now would be just over six minutes.

And in those 23 years, according to the report, the percentage of the Austin-area road system experiencing congestion during rush hours has grown from 21 percent to 55 percent. The hours of such congestion, it says, have grown from three hours in 1982 to 7.2 hours now.

Austin's congestion, by the calculations of the report, is the 15th worst among the 85 cities studied (which includes the largest metro areas such as New York and Los Angeles). Among Texas cities, it's worse than San Antonio's 1.23 index and not much better than Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston, which have travel time indexes of 1.35 and 1.36, respectively.

And because the data in the 2007 study dates to 2005, that means the 61.5 miles of four- and six-lane tollways that came online around Central Texas in the past year do not figure into the ratings. Austin's index could improve when the next report comes out in 2009.

"Something to look forward to," Lomax said. "The key would be how much traffic is on those new lane-miles."

Traffic has been heavier than expected on all four tollways added, but is still light on the longest of those roads, Texas 130.

The institute has been studying urban traffic and issuing the mobility report since 1982. Lomax and his associate, David Schrank, do not literally time people's commutes, but use traffic counts along with specific highway and public transit data.

Congestion, Lomax and Schrank say in the report, is a problem in all American cities and is getting worse.

"The solution to this problem is really to consider all the solutions," the report says. "One lesson from more than 20 years of mobility studies is that congestion relief is not just a matter of highway and transit agencies building big projects."

The authors recommend a combination of such expensive construction and additional strategies — telecommuting, flexible working hours, clearing accident scenes faster, strategic construction to eliminate "choke points" in the highway system — to create "a balanced and diversified approach to reduce congestion."

However, the authors say, "realistic expectations are also part of the solution. Large urban areas will be congested. Some locations near key activity centers in smaller urban areas will be congested. But congestion does not have to be an all-day event."

bwear@statesman.com, 445-3698



Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Austin Mojo - Tolls in the News: 183-A Tollway design generating rash of violations

In response to Lindsy's issue on the previous post... you're not alone.

Austin Mojo - Tolls in the News: 183-A Tollway design generating rash of violations

This report from July says this stretch of toll road has an amazing 30% violation rate.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Have a TX Toll Tag? Then you "voted" to convert Freeways to Tollways

A lot of "Take On Traffic" hats showed up early at tonights CAMPO meeting (contractors, private interests, chamber of commerce, not the working men and women who will pay). Among the arguments was the following:

"Supporters of the tollway plan pointed out that about 270,000 probable voters in this area have already cast something of a ballot for the four existing tollways that opened in the past 10 months by signing up for electronic toll tags."

How about that? You bought a TxTAG and you just voted to turn Existing Freeways into Tollways.

But all is fine, there'll still be free frontage roads!

"Most of the new tollways will overlay existing roads (though there would be free frontage roads alongside with at least as many free lanes as currently exist)." Frontage roads with intersections and stop lights do not equal free highways.






Hundreds of anti-toll speakers locked out of last nights meeting.
Read a report and view photos

FOX 7 News Report (video)



















WHAT!! TxDOT pushing Congress to sell back existing interstate highways - turn into Tolls


I'm amazed at the creativity. Too bad they don't put it to good use to serve the public.

AUSTIN — The Texas Department of Transportation is pushing Congress to pass a federal law allowing the state to "buy back" parts of existing interstate highways and turn them into toll roads.
The 24-page plan, outlined in a "Forward Momentum" report that escaped widespread attention when published in February, drew prompt objections Thursday from state lawmakers and activists fighting the spread of privately run toll roads.
The report not only advocates turning stretches of interstate highways into toll roads, but it also suggests tax breaks for private company "investment" in such enterprises.
It seeks changes in federal law to allow the use of equity capital as a source of transportation funding. Along with that, it calls for altering the tax code to "exempt partnership distributions or corporate dividends related to ownership of (a) toll road from income taxation."

Read the whole smelly article......
The "Forward Momentum" document can be read on TxDOTs website. These people are listed at the end of the document as contacts:
Contacts
Cindy Mueller, Manager, Federal Legislative Aff airs
Government & Business Enterprises Division
202-434-0230
202-628-1943 fax
CMueller@dot.state.tx.us

Patrick Mullane, Federal Representative
Government & Business Enterprises Division
202-434-0209
202-628-1943 fax
PMullan@dot.state.tx.us

Chris Lipp incott, Federal Representative
Government & Business Enterprises Division
512-463-9957
512-463-9389 fax
CLippin@dot.state.tx.us

Coby Chase, Director
Government & Business Enterprises Division
512-463-6086
512-463-9389 fax
CChase@dot.state.tx.us

State officials trained to promote toll road plans on radio


State officials trained to promote toll road plans on radio.
The $20,000 contract with ViaNovo is part of the agency's Keep Texas Moving campaign, a public relations effort touting its implementation of Perry's transportation policy.

I'm so tired of seeing my tax dollars wasted.

Here's a glimpse into the minds of government crooks:

Coby Chase, director of the department's (Keep Texas Moving campaign) government and public affairs division, wrote in a July e-mail that plans call for the state officials to start out on satellite radio, in part because "the listening audience is paying for radio so they might be more apt to pay a toll." He wrote that the agency likely will buy advertising time on the satellite networks.

Isn't it nice to see your tax dollars being spent to try to convince you it's OK to take more of your money? Training and buying air time not to educate you, but to mis-inform you with partial truths.

But Rep. Mike Krusee, House Transportation Committee chairman, said the campaign is a response to lawmakers' demands for the agency to improve its communication with the public.

"I think TxDOT's doing exactly what the Legislature asked them to do, demanded that they do, and legislators who now cry foul are being hypocritical," said Krusee, R-Round Rock. "They were the ones that beat TxDOT over the head in public hearings for not explaining this."

Mr. Krusee, TxDOT we (lawmakers and the public) did not demand TxDOT spend our money on advertising or on training employees how to speak to us. We demanded honest answers and open government. The reason we didn't get it isn't because TxDOT did not know how to communicate. It is because the agency is corrupt, dishonest and they know it. They purposely try to prevent information flow to the public in fear that they will be exposed and relieved of their duty.

The final public CAMPO meeting to discuss "Phase2" tolls will be held at the state capital tonight from 6pm-9pm. Here are some details including free parking.



Sunday, August 5, 2007

Area highway plan may require more tolls

They aren't calling it "Phase 2" any more, but the plan probably isn't changing much. The only good thing since the plan was conceived in 2004 is that HW71/I-35 and 183/I-35 will likely not turn into toll roads. They were already under construction in 2004 when CAMPO designed the plan.

Read more....

CAMPO Road plan meetings

(All run from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.)

•Aug. 21, Covington Middle School, 3700 Convict Hill Road, Austin.

•Aug. 23, Kyle City Council chambers, 100 W. Center St., Kyle.

•Aug. 29, East Communities YMCA, 5315 U.S. 183, Austin.

•Aug. 30, Allen R. Baca Center, 301 W. Bagdad Ave., Round Rock.




Thursday, August 2, 2007

Sen. Watson says "Phase II Toll Plan is truly dead"

Sen. Watson sent an e-mail today saying Phase2 tolls (conversion of existing highways into toll ways) "are no longer on the table" and "truly dead." I've attached the e-mail in whole and unedited except for some bold statements which are interesting.

He also mentions the "decision tree" which I've attached here as an image.

Kudos to Watson for communicating directly.

I hope Phase2 is truly dead. This was the BIGGEST RIPOFF scheme to date!


Senator Kirk Watson wrote:
From: "Senator Kirk Watson"
Subject: A New Plan For Roads
Date: Thu, 2 Aug 2007 11:25:58 -0500

Good morning.

As you may have seen, the Texas Department of Transportation has proposed new highway projects for Central Texas. But I think the proposal is most notable for what it does not include: TXDOT no longer proposes tolling sections of highways that have been built and opened without tolls.

In other words, the proposed toll road conversions that were a fundamental part of the Phase II Toll Plan are no longer on the table, and the Phase II Toll Plan is truly dead.

What's left are highway improvements that are important to this region, including work on:
-- State Highway 71 past Austin-Bergstrom International Airport to SH 130;
-- The heavily congested merge of SH 71 and U.S. 290 in Southwest Travis County;
-- The completion of U.S. 183 from 290 to 71.

You can find more information on these projects at http://www.campotexas.org/.

The estimated cost of these projects is approximately $2.24 billion. However, due to the financing problems that we all know too well, we are at least $500 million short of building them.

The Board of the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization will spend the next two months collecting public input and studying options for constructing these projects, serving our region, and filling the half-billion dollar hole we're facing.

One option, for example, might be to put in High-Occupancy Vehicle lanes on some of the road segments and continue them onto some of the already-constructed portions. Another might be to use some sort of fee mechanism to make sure that essential road capacity isn't wasted as it has been in other areas.

Again, these are options for the public and the CAMPO board to consider. But as I've said repeatedly, I think at least one option should be taken off the table: the conversion of existing and open highways into full toll roads.

I believe the process will be far more transparent and accountable than it has been in the past, due in no small part to the policy framework -- the "Decision Tree" we have created -- that will guide our work. I have attached a copy of the Decision Tree that was the product of work by CAMPO's Mobility Financing Task Force and input from a number of you.

These roads belong to us, and I think the Decision Tree will help us ensure that they remain effective -- and public -- assets. But just as the public must continue to control its infrastructure, we cannot shrink from our responsibility to ensure that it truly serves the region, meeting the needs we have now and those that are coming.

Thank you for your interest and your assistance in this vital mission. Our region and our future are better because of it.

Kirk Watson



Decision Tree

[CLICK TO ENLARGE]






Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Pay more on existing Tolls to Fund more Toll Roads

It's the new buze.... toll roads use is higher than predicted. Therefore we are not paying enough to use them. Increased toll rates will help keep people off the roads who can't afford it so that congestion remains low. Higher toll rates will also fund more toll roads.

Just check out the the media barrage we are seeing on a daily basis.

For this mess, you can thank your politicians for mis-managing your current tax dollars and refusing to address the problems before they grew this large.

Toll Road traffic exceeding projections

Motorists can - and should - pay more


A desire to keep the rates low could torpedo toll road goals

TxDOT - Gas Tax doesn't meet road expenses


NTTA on road to more tolls


Driving 45 is a numbers game

Confusion is king in Austin road names. Click above to read.

Friday, July 20, 2007

State of TX monitors movement of toll road workers

In this article today titled "State Claims Toll Tags Easy to Use, Hard to Abuse", a spokesman for the State of Texas (Gabi Garcia) says although they do not charge Toll Fees to contractors who maintain and operate Toll Roads, "the movement of those contractors is monitored to guard against abuse or fraud."

I just found that interesting.






Thursday, July 19, 2007

TxDOT Audit Urges More Toll Roads and Higher Fees

Houston Chronicle-
Audit urges more tolls for Texas drivers
The state's best chance for keeping up with demand for new and improved roads is to build more toll roads with higher fees, according to an external audit of the Texas Department of Transportation.

Among other recommendations, the audit by Dye Management Group and Deloitte Consulting suggests the state replace the existing gasoline tax with a fee based on miles traveled per vehicle.


Dallas Morning News-
TxDOT could bump tolls to improve roads
Texas needs more toll roads, and drivers should pay more to use them, an external audit of the Texas Department of Transportation suggested Wednesday.


A fee for miles driven to replace the gas tax, wow... They blame part of the funding shortage on vehicles getting better gas mileage. So, lets tax per mile instead of tying it to a product. That's nice except that means you would have to convert all roads to toll or charge an extrordinary amount on existing toll roads to make up the difference.

If there's no gas tax, would the profits from tolls be used to build MORE TOLLS or would it be used to offset the lost revenue meant to build new free roads and maintain them.

I see this as more propaganda for crooks to justify their theft.







Monday, July 9, 2007

Highway shortfall is worsening

This stuff makes my blood boil so much that I have to pause before I make a post. There's a budget surplus, politicians won't index the gas tax and on top of that, let's pull more money from the Highway Fund. Oops, not enough money, looks like we'll need to build toll roads in your town. In this case I'll let the article speak for itself.



Thursday, July 5, 2007

183-A Tollway design generating rash of violations

183-A's toll-tag-only section has more than 30 percent violation rate.

More than 30 percent of people who drive on the 183-A tollway's anomalous toll-tag-only section are doing so illegally, an abnormally high violation rate that has the road's operator pondering alternatives to the confusing setup.

The Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority has asked Vollmer Associates, its traffic and revenue consultant, to analyze what might result from several scenarios, including continuing under the current arrangement. The authority expects to have that information within a few months and could consider making changes in the fall.

Tracking 183-A tolls

In June, the first month when all cars on 183-A were subject to tolls (albeit at a reduced rate for toll tag users), the road averaged 55,850 toll transactions a day. However, more than 11,000 of those times — about 20 percent — the driver did not pay for the privilege, many at the toll-tag-only toll gantries near Lakeline Boulevard.

Toll point Daily toll transactions Violations Violation % Tag Use


Lakeline (northbound)* 16,246 6,216 38.3 61.7
Lakeline (southbound)* 10,260 2,148 20.9 79.1
Brushy Creek (northbound)** 3,623 187 5.2 76.5
Brushy Creek (southbound)** 2,701 151 5.6 79.7
Park Street (both directions)** 23,016 2,515 10.9 73.2

* Toll-tag-only plaza with no cash booths

** Cash booths and toll tag readers

Source: Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority, unaudited toll statistics

MORE.....





Friday, June 29, 2007

State chooses NTTA for SH 121

The approval still leaves an opening for Cintra if deadlines are not met..

"The commission’s decision allows the NTTA 60 days to reach a project agreement with the Regional Transportation Council (RTC) and 45 days to close on that agreement. If the deadlines are missed, the contract would be awarded to Cintra, the private Spanish company that had been tentatively given the project in February"...........

Well it looks like the pressure TxDOT has been under this year has had some affect.

"Williamson said “baseless” accusations and “unattributed quotes” about the character of TxDOT staff have made him wary of encouraging the department to get re-involved in the process."

“Every time something doesn’t work, it is always TxDOT’s fault,” Williamson said. “I am having a hard time keeping district engineers…because they are getting beat up by public officials.”

It wasn't quit the outcome the NTTA wanted......

“They could have canceled the Cintra procurement and awarded the project outright to us,” Wageman said. “I think we have to be very focused on getting this thing done in the time frame allowed us. “

“By the end of the day today, or certainly by Monday, we will work up a schedule with the RTC so that we can drive this thing to a successful conclusion,” Wageman said.


Whole Article......

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Free toll rides on 183-A only today

Surely this isn't out of the goodness of their heart due to the flood. If it were, they would wave the tolls for the whole stretch of 183. I imagine with the flood evacuation, many folks are traveling WITHOUT TxTags. The CASH-ONLY portion of the toll road is being used by an unusually high number of non-paying drivers who normally would never use these roads.

Maybe Cedar Park Police refused to pull them all over and issue tickets for not paying.

AAS Reports:

Steve Pustelnyk, a spokesman for the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority, said the agency decided to waive tolls for Wednesday on the 183-A toll road to ease evacuation from the South San Gabriel River flooding.

The road runs from RR 620/Texas 45 North, near Lakeline Mall, to just south of the South San Gabriel River, but tolls are charged only on the southerly 4.5 miles in Cedar Park and Austin.

The Texas Department of Transportation, while it continues to charge tolls today on the bulk of the three other Central Texas tollways it operates, was waiving tolls at the Texas 130/U.S. 79 interchange near Hutto.

According to the agency, FM 685 in that vicinity, the free alternative to the Texas 130 tollway, had some flooding. So, until further notice, the agency said people would be able to enter and leave Texas 130 at U.S. 79 without paying the 50 cent toll at that location.




State may defy local leaders on 121 toll plan

Dallas Morning News Report:

Money, politics could push panel to override choice of NTTA

The Texas Transportation Commission has made a habit of honoring local leaders' decisions.

But when commissioners meet Thursday to consider North Texas leaders' plans for the politically charged State Highway 121 toll road, nobody expects a rubber stamp.

The Regional Transportation Council voted 27-10 last week to endorse the North Texas Tollway Authority for the multibillion-dollar project. If ratified by the commission, the local vote would torpedo an earlier deal the state reached with the Spanish company Cintra.

Commissioners have never overruled a decision by the regional council, but with so much money and politics at stake, Highway 121 could set a precedent.

Read More.....



Thursday, June 21, 2007

NAFTA superhighway heads north from Texas

Two articles worth a look with supporting documentation linked in.


NAFTA superhighway extends north
Plan under way in Texas will extend to Oklahoma, Colorado


NAFTA superhighway heads north






Nichols discusses legislative session with group

The Palestine (TX) Herald had a piece today reporting on Sen. Robert Nichols speaking to the Republican Women of Anderson County. The following is a excerpt from the report that deals with his position on toll roads. Click the header to read the whole thing.


“I am pro-toll roads, especially in urban areas, but selling those roads to foreign companies is not something I believe the people of the state of Texas want,” he said. “I am proud of the legislation we passed basically providing for a moratorium on private equity toll roads. The companion House and Senate bill protects 99 percent of Texas roads or gives local entities first right of refusal. In a great part of the state the bill shut down the Trans-Texas Corridor plans.”

Regarding issues of eminent domain, Nichols said he filed a bill which would have prohibited the taking of private property for recreational purposes. The bill received a hearing but it never made it to the senate floor for a vote.



Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Houston - As Westpark tolls rise, so do tempers

Drivers up in arms after officials double the fee at peak hours to ease congestion

Harris County Commissioners Court's decision Tuesday to fight congestion on the three-year-old Westpark Tollway by forcing some drivers off the road with higher rush-hour fees drew the ire of cash-strapped commuters.

And a dismissive response from Commissioner Steve Radack — "Let them go down Richmond Road" — made the new $2.50 tolls even less palatable for some.

Commuter Vic Stewart, in an e-mail, said of the Commissioners Court, "And 'Let them eat cake!' They'll certainly have time."

Commissioners Court voted unanimously to hike fees to $2.50 from 6-9 a.m. and 4-7 p.m., hoping fewer drivers will use the tollway.

The court, also in a unanimous vote, raised fees by 25 cents on all county toll roads. The increases will go into effect in September.

With the toll roads already known among some area residents as "Lexus Lanes," the new prices left some drivers wondering whether the court has forgotten about working people.

More....




Monday, June 18, 2007

NTTA gets OK for 121 toll project

Today, The Dallas Morning News reports that the local Regional Transportation Council endorsed the North Texas Tollway Authority over Perry/TxDOT favored Cintra.

"The 27-10 vote Monday by the Regional Transportation Council sets the stage for a showdown in Austin at the Texas Transportation Commission, which is expected to make a final decision June 28. While the commission has previously said it will place great emphasis on the council’s vote, it is not bound to do so, TxDOT spokesman Randall Dillard said."

"
Council members appear to have been convinced that endorsing a local entity, with a long history of building and operating toll roads in North Texas, was preferable to awarding the contract to a private company based in Spain that builds toll roads across the world, but which has limited experienced in Texas."

“What it really boils down to is whether the dollars that are made here stay here in Texas, or if they are going to fly off [as corporate profits] to Delaware, or wherever they go,” said Dallas City Council member Bill Blaydes."



Friday, June 15, 2007

Commission authorizes more than 80 toll road projects across Texas

This from articles in the Statesman and Texarckana Gazette today:

"State lawmakers recently passed a two-year moratorium on some private toll road contracts. The law still allows local and state planners to move on the new toll projects....

“The message we got was toll roads are OK, but we don’t want privately owned roads,” said Ric Williamson, chairman of the Texas Transportation Commission, which approved the projects."

Government left unchecked will only get bigger. The bigger and more powerful it becomes, the more self-serving it becomes.

Those in positions of power, rather elected or APPOINTED, begin to make decisions based on their own greed. Instead of serving the public, they contrive schemes to profit from public funds.

They change laws to benefit their own agenda, they create committees and agencies staffed with individuals who will do their bidding. They hide behind these committees to protect their true intentions from the mostly unknowing public. NEWS FLASH: The Governors office signs a "compromise bill" BEHIND THE SCENES: his committees continue with the mission as he intended.

Absent a dictatorship, government grows slowly while the sleeping masses allow it to be fed term after term.

There is no difference in party. All politicians are subject to the temptation of power and money. They must be rotated out of office frequently to keep them honest. Career politicians make a living off of manipulating law for personal gain.


It's time for a rotation.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

TxDOT to install cameras on I35 from Austin to San Antonio

The Texas Department of Transportation has awarded a contract to install cameras on Interstate 35 from Loop 1604 to Ben White Blvd. in Austin, officials said. It spans 79 miles in all and is the first joint project connecting two metropolitan areas, TXDOT officials said.

Soon you will be able to log on to your computer or turn on your television and check traffic from San Antonio to Austin.

More...


Monday, June 11, 2007

Perry signs SB792

Monday, June 11, 2007
Associated Press

AUSTIN -- A compromise Texas transportation bill has been signed into law Monday by Governor Rick Perry.

More...

CapMetro could fall into red in next 3 years

Friday, June 8, 2007

NYC Mayor wants to charge FEE to enter Freeway - Idea backed by FEDS


This is the first I've heard of this, but this appears to be a perfect example of tolling an existing freeway. Only in NewYork! (we hope).

It is extremely important that we know where our candidates stand on this issue before we vote.

NEW YORK (AP) -- Traffic congestion and devastating pollution are among the "inconvenient truths" of our age and could be eased by imposing pay-to-drive fees on Manhattan motorists, Mayor Michael Bloomberg told a legislative panel Friday.

Under Bloomberg's proposal, cars entering Manhattan south of 86th Street would be charged $8 per day, and trucks $21. Under a three-year pilot program, the fees would be collected only during the worst traffic hours, from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Two major roadways flanking the east and west sides of Manhattan, FDR Drive and the West Side Highway, would be exempt.

Some lawmakers in the city's outer boroughs and bedroom communities do not support the so-called "congestion pricing," saying it would punish many drivers.

"This is a tax on middle-class people," said state Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, a Westchester Democrat who chairs one of the committees that held the joint hearing. "This will stop the Chevrolets from coming in, not the BMWs."

The city would become the first in the nation to adopt a congestion pricing plan of this magnitude. The proposal is similar to a system that London has used since 2003, and government officials there say it has significantly reduced congestion.


Feds back Bloomberg's traffic fee plan


This was expected.


DON'T DRIVE, HE SAID.....


Thursday, June 7, 2007

S. Fla. a step closer to converting I-95's carpool lanes into 'Lexus' lanes

"We're very pleased," said Alice Bravo, who is overseeing the Florida Department of Transportation's $200 million plan to convert I-95's carpool lanes into express toll lanes between Fort Lauderdale and Miami.

If the region doesn't get federal funds, officials are still committed to the project. But the timeframe would be delayed, Bravo said.

Are all these DOT people related? They all talk the same.

The U.S. Department of Transportation announced Thursday that the region is among nine semifinalists competing for $1.1 billion in federal funds to help cities fight gridlock.

It's a Federal Funding LOTO, eerr BRIBE!

South Florida is competing against New York, Atlanta, Dallas, Denver, Minneapolis-St. Paul, San Diego, San Francisco and Seattle. Up to five cities will split the money, said U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters. The winners will be announced in August.

Read it all....

Monday, June 4, 2007

Hays County Court not intimidated by TxDOT deadline

Hays County established a Citizen's Transportation Committee following the failure of a $172 million road bond package at the May 12 polls. TxDOT would have repaid up to $133 million in the "pass through financing" deal.

Now the state wants to know where commissioners stand on the funds earmarked for the Hays County roads. TxDOT Austin District Engineer Bob Daigh asked the court in a May 23 letter to inform his office within 30 days of the county’s decision to terminate or carry through with the pass-through agreement.

But Hays County Judge Liz Sumter said she’s not scared of playing chicken with TxDOT’s deadline.

“I think TxDOT has demonstrated that it’s not necessarily firm in what it says from day to day,” Sumter said. “I don’t feel pressed to make a decision in 30 days…"

Read the whole thing....

Friday, June 1, 2007

TxDot, Mopac1 team meets with citizens this week about Managed Lanes.


[click image above to see large view of some proposals]

TxDot and the Mopac1 planning team met with over 200 citizens Tues 6/29/07 to discuss Mopac managed lane proposals. John Kelly, the MoPac1 project manager, published this memo outlining the proposal.

On page 2 of his memo, he addresses safety concerns regarding reducing lane width to 11 feet:

"What some folks might not realize is that several sections of Loop 1 and other highways in cities across Texas have 11-foot wide lanes that safely carry traffic today. Even so, the recommended design for Loop 1 includes a number of elements to enhance the safety of the traveling public, including improved traffic control devices (What?), limited access points and extra-wide shoulders (where possible)."

Here Mr. Kelly defends the charge that Managed Lanes are Tolls on roads we've already paid for:

"Some people have expressed concern that charging a fee to use a managed lane on MoPac is akin to charging a toll to use an existing public highway. There is an important distinction here: tolls are charged to all users of a road as a direct method of funding the road and the tolls remain the same regardless of the time of day. For the Loop 1 project, fees would be used as a tool to keep the managed lanes free of congestion and functioning at optimum capacity."

Sorry, it's still a fee, toll, double-tax or whatever you want to call it on existing public right of way. Also, I understand the concept of using the fees to keep congestion down, but where exactly will the money go? He already says that tolls are charged to fund roads and he uses this as a distinction from managed lane fees. So, where exactly will the money go?

They will lay down more pavement to widen the lanes. But they will stay within "TxDOT's existing right of way".

"Another criticism I’ve heard is that this project simply involves re-striping the existing pavement. This criticism ironically stems from the project team’s successful effort to keep the recommended improvements within TxDOT’s existing right of way, so as not to intrude upon adjacent residents and other landowners. While the right of way width will remain unchanged, the roadway and several bridges will indeed be widened. In fact, the approach we have recommended involves widening the existing roadway and bridges the entire project length, laying down new pavement, making significant drainage system improvements, and adding nearly seven miles of noise barriers."

They have a website where you can see lots of propaganda and drawings of the proposal. Go to Mopac1.org to see what's there. I couldn't find anything about how this thing would be funded or how the income from fees would be handled. Also haven't found anything about HOW MUCH the fees would actually be.




Thursday, May 31, 2007

State transportation department chief to retire in August

Michael Behrens, who as executive director of the Texas Department of Transportation since 2001 has led the agency through a period of radical change, is retiring at the end of August.


Wednesday, May 30, 2007

TX Anti-Toll Groups Dissagree; TxDot and NASCO Host Annual Meeting between U.S./Mex./Can.


I am sad to see the unity between anti-toll groups eroding. While Texas Anti-Toll groups are split on whether SB792 is a compromise or a moratorium, their foes are moving on with business as usual.

We Texans are caught up in a plan to connect North America. The TTC is just were it starts (after all, we are the largest state and our former Gov. is now President). NASCO is but one example of the private interests that are influencing how Texas transportation policy is being made.

It is extremely important that Anti-Toll/TTC groups unit if there is to be any chance of slowing down this snowball that has been building for over a decade.



Beginning today,
TxDot and
NASCO (North America’s SuperCorridor Coalition) are hosting it's 3rd annual three-day conference in Fort Worth, TX. According to the NASCO program flyer, next year the conference will be in Guanajuato, Mexico, June 4-6, 2008.

More than 350 transportation, logistics and economic development specialists from the United States, Canada and Mexico are attending the meeting.

The nonprofit coalition, whose members include public- and private-sector organizations, wants to develop an integrated transportation system linking the three countries.

It is reported that NASCO has received $2.5 million in earmarks from the U.S. Department of Transportation to plan the NAFTA Super Highway. Their own website reveals how they have been actively involved in shaping our federal transportation legislation.

"Federal Legislation Overview

For over ten years, NASCO has been developing a strong coalition of cities, counties, states, Canadian provinces, and private sector companies to lobby for federal funding and promote a "SuperCorridor" to address the transportation, trade and security needs of the three NAFTA nations.

We have succeeded in bringing hundreds of millions of dollars to the NASCO I-35 Corridor, resulting in High Priority Corridor status for I-35 in 1995 under the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA). In addition, we successfully lobbied for the creation of two new categories under the Transportation Act of the 21st Century (TEA-21) – the National Corridor Planning & Development Program and the Coordinated Border Infrastructure Program.

The NASCO "SuperCorridor Caucus" was formed on Capitol Hill to promote corridor development and to help secure NASCO legislative initiatives in both the authorization and appropriation processes.

We continue to be recognized as the strongest International Trade Corridor Coalition on Capitol Hill, and we are the only Corridor Coalition with true international representation from the three NAFTA nations."

Additionally, on their website:
North America's SuperCorridor Coalition, Inc. supports the Multi-state International Corridor Development Program in S. 1072

In a 1996 study done for NASCO, it was estimated that the corridor needed $2 billion per year in infrastructure improvements over an 18-year period. NASCO supports as high a funding level as possible for the Multi-state International Corridor Development Program to operate as intended.


More
About NASCO


Friday, May 25, 2007

Despite Loss of Amendment 13 CorridorWatch.org Backs SB792

CorridorWatch released a statement today expressing, gratitude for all supporters, disappointment about losing amendment 13 and yet, support for SB 792. Sometimes in politics, you take what you can get now and save your energy for the fight ahead. It's like the old saying of "two steps forward - one step back".


"The valiant effort of Representative Lois Kolkhorst together with dozens of other legislators, thousands of CorridorWatch members, and the thousands more who joined us could not over come the tremendous power of the Governor's office."

"Did we lose? NO WE WON! We got a lot, a lot more than anyone thought possible!"

"public representations have been made to the legislature that no TTC construction contracts will be executed during the moratorium. Should that occur a certain firestorm will erupt with CorridorWatch leading a charge against TxDOT."

"Here are some of the positive things that Senate Bill 792 will do:
  • SB792 creates a formal legislative study committee to research and report on public policy implications of private partnership toll projects. This will provide the public a substantive opportunity to participate in the discussion of public-private partnerships and perhaps the overarching Trans Texas Corridor.

  • SB792 will require the authorization for comprehensive development agreements to come under review and reauthorization. This provides another opportunity to stop the use of CDAs.

  • SB792 provides for greater public access to information and more disclosure with regard to the Trans Texas Corridor and other toll related contracts and details."

"If you have ever heard a CorridorWatch program presented in your community you might remember that one of our goals has been to make the TTC less attractive to investors and private participants by placing limitations and restrictions on the potential deals. SB792 takes us a long way in that direction.

Here are some of the other things that Senate Bill 792 will do:

  • SB792 prohibits a firm who has developed the market valuation for a toll project from investing in a private entity that participates in financing, development, construction or operation of a toll project. This helps eliminate a conflict of interest that has occurred in other state’s public-private partnership deals. It should also inject more accuracy into the financial model.

  • SB792 prohibits the use of an estimate of future project revenue in calculating the estimated amount of loss to the private participant in the case of termination for convenience (unless it was in the agreed base case financial model). This impacts the ‘buy-back’ provision of public-private toll roads and safeguards us against unreasonably high buyout expenses.

  • SB792 provides local toll road authorities with access to the state highway system without being required to pay excessive and unreasonable access fees to TxDOT. Those fees would of course be passed on to motorists.

  • SB792 grants authority for local toll roads to be developed using comprehensive development agreements within the framework setout in the bill’s provisions. Not a great provision, but does allow more local control that would otherwise exist.

  • SB792 invalidates a TxDOT ‘protocol’ established in north Texas that restricts the ability of regional toll road authorities to fully participate in toll road projects in the region. The ‘protocol’ served to force private toll road participants over public authorities.

  • SB792 places limits on the non-compete and competition penalties allowable in the terms of an agreement with a private toll road partner. Limits included a geographical limitation of four miles and a series of transportation projects and facilities that cannot be prohibited or for which no penalty can be paid.

Some anti-toll groups will advocate for defeat of SB792 when it comes up for a vote in the House and Senate. CorridorWatch however will advocate for it to be passed into law. It represents a giant step in the right direction and lays the ground work for more progress in the future."

Read all @ CorridorWatch.com...

Toll road agreement reached WITHOUT amendment 13

SB 792 no longer includes an amendment the House added to ensure that no legs of the Trans-Texas Corridor tollway flanking Interstate 35 will be built over the coming two years.

S B 792 is the distillation of dozens of bills filed this session by legislators dissatisfied with how Perry and the Texas Department of Transportation dove headlong over the past four years into pay-as-you-drive highways. More.....

Senate Bill 792 "is not only full of loopholes, but it makes things worse. 792 allows local authorities the same powers we were trying to take away from TxDOT," said Sal Costello, leader of People for Efficient Transportation.

Critics believe that Texas Department of Transportation officials will simply call the temporarily banned private equity toll road agreements another name: facilities agreements.

But. Rep. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, author of the "facilities amendment," said TxDOT would get dragged into court if the agency tries to thwart the moratorium by using loopholes to get around it.

"It's a strong bill, with or without the amendment, if you think about how far we've come in the last year and a half," said Kolkhorst, who helped lead the fight for a moratorium on private toll roads.

Rep. Joe Pickett, D-El Paso, who helped craft the final legislation, said the message in the bill is that "the public is telling TxDOT that 'We don't trust you. We have lost faith in what you are doing.'"

Terri Hall, founder of Texans Uniting for Reform & Freedom, called SB 792 "a counterfeit moratorium because this governor snuck in a way to charge us 'market rate' on all tolls projects from now on" that will result in the highest possible tolls.

"It does us no good if 281/1604 are in the private toll moratorium if they can still use our public toll authority to do the same thing," she said.

"Our victory comes in the power of us sending a shot across the bow to this governor and TxDOT that their tricks are no longer under the radar."

She accused lawmakers of selling out and predicted that voters will respond at election time.





WHO IS THIS MONUMENTAL TEXAN?

Monday, May 21, 2007

SB 792 Support needed to keep Ammendment 13

Without ammendment 13, SB 792 won't slow down the TTC. CorridorWatch just released this info:


Open The Floodgates!

The Lt. Governor's Office has cleared their voicemail box that was filled to capacity yesterday and report that they have established a temporary fax line today.

Please Note:

Lt. Governor
David Dewhurst
800.441.0373
512.463.0001

If you have already called, Great!

It would really help
if you could also send a fax today

Fax 512.463.0677
Additional (temporary) Fax 512.936.8144