Monday, April 30, 2007
See Auditor's Report
Read Statesman article
Monday, April 23, 2007
The focal point is on the massive flyover interchange, near Lakeline Mall, that will connect Highway 183 to the new SH 45 tollway.
The opening of the interchange will complete a core section of the turnpike project. It links to SH 45, creating a new major east-west connector around North Austin.
Tolls will not be collected on the new intersection of SH 45 until later this summer. But getting through to the 183-A tollway will cost you. Tolls will be collected starting May 1.
More about PPP than you ever wanted to know.
Friday, April 20, 2007
"You have House clarity. You have Senate clarity," Nichols said. "There's an obvious will by this body to take the time to study private-equity contracts before we lock up many (road) contracts of our transportation system that cannot be corrected until our children and grandchildren are past retirement."
A recent study showed private toll roads could net investors nearly $300 billion over the next 50 years for part of one project.
Thursday, April 19, 2007
HB1892 is on the way to a vote by the full Senate with a committee recommendation that it be passed.
Arnold Romberg represented CorridorWatch today giving testimony before the Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee in support of a moratorium on Comprehensive Development Agreements.
The bill passed with seven amendments.
A series of amendments were offered and attached to protect and/or allow a number of regional and local projects to continue. However, none of the amendments to HB1892 made by the House or by the Senate keep it from putting TTC-35 and TTC-69 on hold for the next two years.
It was well into the evening before the bill was brought up again, given its last three of seven amendments, and put to a vote. All nine Senators on the committee were present and voted for their HB1892 substitution. And, they certified it for the local and uncontested calendar.
First a vote by the full Senate, then back to the House.
HB1892 should move quickly now. First stop will be a vote on the floor of the Senate where it is unlikely to see any additional amendment. Then back to the House where it will either be concurred with or sent to conference committee. Given the tremendous support shown so far we fully expect that the Senate substitution will be accepted by the House.
Then what? It gets sent to the Governor, that's what.
Before you know it HB1892 could be on the Governor's desk. Will he sign it? Not likely. No really, that's not very likely.
Will he veto it? Maybe. But if he does it looks like there will be enough time and support to overturn a veto. We're told that it has been more than 30 years since a Texas Governor had a veto overturned. Does Governor Perry want to add his name to that column in the record book?
Well done ya'll! It's goal and only inches to go.
This has been a tremendous effort and you all are to be congratulated on what you have accomplished so far. Yes, it is to soon to count our chickens, but we sure are sitting on a lot of nice looking eggs.
When we have that two-year moratorium as law we will certainly celebrate and name names. But until then we will keep our heads in the game, not lose sight of the finish line, and be vigilant for any threat to our pending success.
We are one more giant leap closer to stopping the Trans
David & Linda Stall
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
"Get your free money!" the sales pitch goes. "Billions and billions of dollars in free money! Just step right up and sign right here on the dotted line. ..."
And public officials, desperate for money to build badly needed roads and bridges, are indeed stepping right up. In Indiana, a private consortium recently handed the state a cool $3.8 billion in return for the right to collect tolls for 75 years on the state-owned Indiana Toll Road. In Chicago, city leaders have collected $1.83 billion in return for a 99-year lease on the Chicago Skyway toll road. In Texas, a private group has agreed to pay the state $2.1 billion just for the right to build a toll road that doesn't even exist yet. And by the end of the year, Georgia Transportation Commissioner Harold Linnenkohl expects a similar type of long-term lease deal will be floated for an unspecified project here in metro Atlanta.
It all sounds so sweet: State officials get billions of dollars without having to raise taxes; private companies get long-term leases on toll projects that are all but guaranteed to turn a nice profit for them, year after year; bankers, financial analysts, lawyers and consultants all get a healthy cut of the billions passing through their hands. Everybody's happy.
But of course, to make such an arrangement work, there's gotta be a sucker somewhere. Look in the mirror. You're it.
"Communities that have toll roads have decided to push for a moratorium," said El Paso County Judge Anthony Cobos, who was in Austin on Tuesday. "There's no reason for El Paso to be excluded."
Responding to public outcry over toll roads, legislators are considering two separate bills that would put a two-year stop on government contracts for private toll-road operations.
The House bill would prevent El Paso's new Camino Real Regional Mobility Authority from entering into such contracts for toll roads. The Senate bill, though, would exempt El Paso from the ban.
Cobos and state Rep. Joe Pickett, D-El Paso, both members of the El Paso Metropolitan Planning Organization, said the city should be included in the private toll moratorium. But state Sen. Eliot Shapleigh, D-El Paso, said the ban could slow development of much-needed roads in the rapidly growing city. The House last week overwhelmingly approved a measure that would impose a statewide moratorium and call for a study of private toll road deals. A Senate committee approved a similar measure, but that bill would exclude El Paso County from the moratorium. It would also exempt Houston and North Texas. Shapleigh said with the coming of 23,000 new soldiers to Fort Bliss and their families, El Paso needs as much flexibility as possible to negotiate contracts to build critical new roads. Pickett, though, said the moratorium would not hamper local projects. He said the regional mobility authority could even build toll roads under the ban. The only restriction, he said, would be that private companies could not contract with the authority to build the toll roads. Exclusion from the moratorium, he said, would be worse for El Paso. The Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee will consider the House moratorium bill today. Shapleigh, who is on the committee, said he would try to add the El Paso exemption to the House measure.
The House last week overwhelmingly approved a measure that would impose a statewide moratorium and call for a study of private toll road deals.
A Senate committee approved a similar measure, but that bill would exclude El Paso County from the moratorium. It would also exempt Houston and North Texas.
Shapleigh said with the coming of 23,000 new soldiers to Fort Bliss and their families, El Paso needs as much flexibility as possible to negotiate contracts to build critical new roads.
Pickett, though, said the moratorium would not hamper local projects. He said the regional mobility authority could even build toll roads under the ban. The only restriction, he said, would be that private companies could not contract with the authority to build the toll roads.
Exclusion from the moratorium, he said, would be worse for El Paso.
The Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee will consider the House moratorium bill today.
Shapleigh, who is on the committee, said he would try to add the El Paso exemption to the House measure.
Monday, April 16, 2007
High-profile Austin lobbyist Dan Shelley is trying to sell his Pemberton Heights house for $2.9 million, according to various real estate Web sites. The asking price is nearly $1 million more than he paid for it in 2003.
The house on Wooldridge Drive has a history of appreciating quickly. Shelley bought it from Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst for $1 million more than Dewhurst paid for it in 1998. Dewhurst and his ex-wife, Tammy, reportedly paid about $900,000, but the couple divorced in 2001 and never lived in it.
Shelley, a former legislative liaison for Gov. Rick Perry, works for Cintra-Zachry, the Spanish company that won the rights to develop the state's $7 billion Trans-Texas Corridor toll road project.
The two-story house, built in 1936, has four bedrooms, four bathrooms and one half-bath. It also has more than 5,200 square feet, a tile roof and a courtyard.
Thursday, April 12, 2007
Monday night's meeting of the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization's Transportation Policy Board was a low-key affair, despite the serious changes that new Chair Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, has brought to the regional planning committee. As of this month, most of the elected officials on the board are gone, replaced by small-city representatives. And Watson has added a peer-review committee to take a look at standing transportation organizations such as Capital Metro and the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority. As of now, the 18-member board includes Watson, Austin Mayor Will Wynn, and three City Council members; three Travis County commissioners; the mayors of four smaller cities, including Round Rock; the Hays County judge; a Williamson County commissioner; plus state Reps. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin, and Mike Krusee, R-Taylor. Capital Metro and TxDOT also still have representatives on the board.
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Construction on managed lanes could begin late next year
$110 million plan
One managed lane in each direction, on the inside
All current lane widths reduced from 12ft to 11ft
Shoulder would be converted to a lane
Sound barriers could be added
"You're going to pay an increased fee to get on this lane", said Marcus Cooper of TxDOT
Fees have not been decided
KXAN.com Feedback Forum
James 04-09-2007 22:54:04
Any time they want to improve something that has been around for 30 years they want us to pay again. What about all the money being returned to federal government for highway expenditures? Why not do away with TxDot or should we say TxEur.
Paolo 04-10-2007 00:05:34
Why should I have to pay taxes at the gas pump for the roads and then pay for a road that is already there. Some pavement and some striping does not give TXDOT the authority to tax us twice. If you build a NEW road then yes tolls may be appropriate, but on an existing roadway, no way.
DJ 04-10-2007 01:24:51
I don't think they should make the lanes 11 feet instead of 12 to fit in 2 extra lanes and then make us pay to use the 2 new lanes that were made virtually by the old lanes. I could see building an upper deck (brand new roads ) and then tolling them but not using existing roads and revamping them to fit in 2 new lanes...I also think it will open Mopac up for more accidents by making us drive closer to eachother. Not a good plan at all ! I think TXDOT is confused about what New verses Old means.
thanks for screwing us!! 04-10-2007 04:35:42
Liberal swine at their finest once again, make it sound appealing to you then you realize you are getting bent over. Wolves in sheeps clothing.
dp 04-10-2007 06:35:59
Any elected official thinks that tolling existing roads is a good idea, needs to be impeached. We have the money to build roads, but it is used to build courthouses and other garbage. We have spoken as voters we do not want tolls.
JES 04-10-2007 08:13:59
On Mopac the road is so conjested at morning and evening travel, and now you want another left lane plus make it a toll , well how will you get to that toll lane from many of the on ramps and exits. The crossing into and the exit from these lanes will make the traffic more dangerous. Sounds like if another lane will help Mopac, there should be no fee to use it. Simple math.
http://salcostello.blogspot.com/ 04-10-2007 08:49:33
1) TxDOT wants to use our tax dollars and publicly owned MoPAC right of way (our existing freeway) to create a toll tax (managed lanes) - THAT�s A DOUBLE TAX! I SAY NO TOLLS ON ROADS WE�VE ALREADY PAID FOR!
2) Narrowing lanes will increase accidents and deaths.
3) The managed lanes will create more gridlock as people try to cross over 3 lanes to enter and exit the center managed lanes! Look at freeway 91 managed lanes ($1.00 a mile!) in California.
dw 04-10-2007 10:01:00
It's a terrible idea! What you are proposing is just a SHORT TERM PATCH. A short term patch is a waste of money. I'm all for toll roads if you can build the upper deck along MoPac with FEWER EXIT ramps. I would think that those of us who live out far North or Northwest or South would be happy to pay a toll for new roads that will enable us to avoid the traffic "parking lots" and scurry past the "central" part of Austin over MoPac... (which is basically from Far West to 15th/Enfield). We can not stop growth...Austin already tried that and look at the mess we're in! Build with the future in mind!
austin native 04-10-2007 10:02:27
The additional lanes created should be free to the public. No double taxes. Crossing back and forth over three lanes of traffic to ride less than five miles in a managed lane is insane!
txbighair 04-10-2007 10:32:44
I think we need to go for it! The traffic is HORRIBLE in south Austin! South Austin needs to deal with change. It takes longer to get anywhere in South Austin. We are a big city now- even though we dont want to admit it. The transporation options need to grow with it as well.
mojorider 04-10-2007 10:46:25
I agree with txbighair. I have seen both sides of the toll road coin and originally opposed the plans all together. Coming from Taylor into Round Rock once took 45 minutes. That trip now takes 25 and the cost is negligable against my time. I now live southwest of Austin and am gridlocked to 'past the river' everyday from 290. Growth is happening. Like it or not. TXDot expects more than 100,000 vehicles to pass through the Y at Oak Hill in the near future. All options need to be explored to keep Austin moving. I am certain that those in opposition would be even further enraged by 2+ hour commutes. What good are wide lanes on MoPac if you are going 5 miles per hour?
DBP 04-10-2007 10:55:51
I'm new to Austin, from Houston, has anyone thought of using elevated HOV (high occupancy vehicle) lanes. They are restricted topeople who live in outlying areas and can carpool. It's really helped Houston. Txdot what about it??
I Carpool... 04-10-2007 11:55:51
...and I hate this idea. It will just take two lanes away and make the remaining lanes more hazardous. Ever seen the size of some of the trucks, trailers and SUVs around here? They barely fit in the lanes as they are now, and will become a real menace in narrower lanes. Think people have trouble staying in their lanes now? What happened when parking lot designers narrowed the slots? That's right, now people take up two... STUPID IDEA. Double deck the thing like I-35, or live with it as is. I vote for the latter.
gbizz 04-10-2007 13:45:07
What we need to do is rethink the whole project yet again. Instead of another lane overhead for cars, an overhead, enclosed skylift that follows Mopac and dumps into downtown. These "pods" would carry up to 6 people and you could have a LOT of them travelling around town. This seems to be the cleanest and least impacting idea, but I haven't seen anyone else come up with a better plan.
yee haw! 04-10-2007 15:17:46
The Springfield MonoRail! MONORAIL!!!
bikebob 04-10-2007 22:10:07
Ride a bike through the neighborhoods; enjoy the birds, trees, and quiet. Arrive relaxed at work. I ditched my car eight years ago and have never loved Austin so much.
Dale Johnson 04-10-2007 22:12:29
This Mopac expansion proposal seems like a lame bandaid fix for a real problem that needs a real answer. Living in NW Round Rock I've seen the traffic hazzards of bottle-necking caused by the I-35, Toll Road interchange. The Mopac bottle-neck would be much more severe in my opinion. Thank You KXAN for giving me a voice.
Marie G. 04-10-2007 22:13:49
You can wrap it with a bow or a ribbon I still am not on board. I want real solutions without smaller lanes or higher costs to counter act overpaid politicans trying to figure it out.
John H. Gray, Jr. 04-10-2007 22:14:18
Anything to improve traffic flow. Will gladly pay. City officials push the money wasting Cap Metro at the expense of more/better roads. Doesn't anyone have a functioning brain. People (in any significant numbers) will not give up the freedom and flexibility of their vehicle for an inefficient and ineffective bus system or an even less effective rail pretense which could not move enough people to even make a dent.
Erin T 04-10-2007 22:24:02
No one is asking the big questions: "We've already paid for roads with our tax dollars, so where did that money go? Where is the accountability for our sky high property tax dollars? Why is the Austin area disproportionately financing the roads for the entire state of Texas for perpetuity? Compared to Dallas, Houston and San Antonio, our population is lower, our wages are lower, our housing is higher and now we're facing 2 - 4 times the road taxes! Why is it taking so long to get the commuter train (which we've also already paid for)up and running? Could it be that CTRMA wants to delay it to "encourage" us to use/pay for the toll roads?
Louis 04-10-2007 22:27:20
I work for TXDoT. The Federal Government gives TXDot our money, over three million a year for building and improving roadways. Sometime in the near future the money will be cut back. I like my job, but there are too many indian chiefs that make too much money and they treat the people like me like ".. hit". They steal work time and hide it. They cover up and make up their policies. I was physically abused by a manager, I reported it and with manipulation changed the whole story to cover it up. So, with that out, We the people are getting *******ered into paying out more and more so we can line the pockets of those who are greedy. Let those who want to say , Yeah , I'll be glad to pay so I can get where I want to go ..faster. Then you pay for managed roads//toll roads. Or move out of Austin. By the way, there are many roads that are being tolled throughout Texas. GREED!
Marie G. 04-10-2007 22:40:01
Why are we who dispute this not more organized? We must and are allowed to organize!!!!!
JJ 04-10-2007 22:53:43
I'm an ex Californian. Down near San Diego they had a SINGLE CAR POOL LANE. In the morning, it opened going South, and closed after rush hour. In the evening, it opened going North and again closed after rush hour. It was the perfect idea for heading off the rush hour congestion (2-3+ hour commutes!!!) It takes up less space, opens in the direction needed, and you don't have to try and carve two extra lanes out of the already compacted MOPAC. Before you know it, the CITY will invoke it's EMINANT DOMAIN and start shaving more acreage off of MOPAC residents, who already are getting the raw end of the deal!
JJ 04-10-2007 23:00:06
I like that JJ.
The Dude 04-11-2007 00:26:58
I'm with the Monorail guy. Monorail! Monorail! Monorail! I think we should just rename Mopac to be the Matlock Expressway. That would be just as helpful.
Actually, I live next to the Cedar Park tollway. If my wife and I want to drive the four miles from our house to the existing free 183 using the new Toll Road, I'm going to have to pay $240/mo for the privilege. Let them toll the existing road and they'll be using your tax dollars to screw you even more.
4 miles = $240/mo. I'm very happy to sit in traffic for ten minutes longer. I can use the money I'm not spending on tolls to buy a better car and enjoy the ride. If the state is so keen on erecting toll roads everywhere and using our already paid roads to do it, I want a refund on gasoline taxes. I have a feeling I'll be waiting a while for that.
Larry 04-11-2007 06:31:31
As anyone who's ever lived in Houston will tell you, HOV lanes (which is what this is) are completely ineffective, they don't help at all. Just make it a regular lane. Why does there always have to be some complicated hocus-pocus idea? Simply adding one more lane would help, for a while, but even that is not going to be enough in a couple more years. The toll thing is getting out of hand, and somehow we need to reign these dolts in and prevent another fiasco, which is what this is shaping up to be. Speak up, y'all. One thing I can tell you, I will not pay a single toll, period. I and everybody I know, will go out of our way to avoid it. So how effective does that make your toll system now? I already pay taxes nine ways from Sunday, and I am NOT going to pay again. It's just one too may layers, too many times paying for the same thing.
haha 04-11-2007 07:40:14
If you don't like it, THEN DON'T USE IT!!!!!!!!
Concerned Citizen 04-11-2007 07:49:52
What you don't know about state agencies - Many higher-ups in state agencies are "Double Dipping", including TxDot. What this means is that they have reached retirement age, are receiving pension, but are still working and receiving a salary as well. It is legal, but unethical, in my opinion. There is where a lot of your tax money goes. Plus, these agencies are so over-staffed, it is time to take the ax to them. I'm also VERY afraid of Perry's plan of the Trans-Texas Corridor. Why didn't we get a vote on this???
The new toll roads on Loop 1 also plugged up traffice even more. I come in from Parmer and it used to get backed up around 183 before the tolls opened. Now it is a parking lot starting at Parmer. People are paying for that???
JJ 04-11-2007 08:03:45
Did I mention that the SINGLE CAR POOL lane in San Diego is FREE with taxpayers dollars at work? Of course, here in Texas the make you pay for everything. (Everything IS BIGGER in Texas, especially TAXES)
Debbie 04-11-2007 08:16:20
Just the facts that a stalled car will completely stop traffic in one lane, or that entering or exiting the tolled lanes requires multiple lane changes---I see more accidents and, therefore, more traffic congestion, not to mention more fatalities.
S 04-11-2007 09:38:17
I don't see why tax payer dollars are being used to build sound proof barriers along Mopac. It's not like Mopac just sprang up overnight. Those people bought those houses knowing it was there and I would guess they heard the noise when visiting the house before buying it. It's just another example of whiny people thinking they are owed something because of the decisions they make. Let them build there own walls or move!
Sally 04-11-2007 09:39:41
Why aren't they putting a sound barrier in front of TxDOT? Those that live close to Camp Ben Hubbard will get a great deal of increased noise and pollution. The TxDot buildings don't provide much of a sound barrier.
Terri 04-11-2007 09:44:07
It doesn't matter how much we complain.They will do what ever they want to fill their pockets anyway!
DJ 04-11-2007 09:55:47
OK I'm just wondering why they have the money to build this and yet The flyovers for Mopac and Ben White are still sitting unfinished . The ramps are there and have been there for 10 years or so but no fly over to connect them . Whats up with that ? it would be nice to just exit a ramp on mopac to head east on ben white.
Angela Hunt is a Dallas City Council member and wrote this article that was published today.
If you entered a voting booth on May 2, 1998, you saw the following on the ballot:
"Proposition 11: The issuance of $246,000,000 general obligation Trinity River Corridor Project bonds, the project to include floodways, levees, waterways, open space, recreational facilities, the Trinity Parkway and related street improvements, and other related, necessary, and incidental improvements to the Trinity River Corridor."
Two key words are conspicuously absent: "toll" and "road."Almost a decade ago, the city sold voters a vision of parks, lakes and sailboats. After the election, in a classic bait and switch, City Hall quickly dispensed with any pretense that this was anything other than a roads project. Originally envisioned as a low-speed parkway that would provide direct access to the park, the "Trinity Parkway" quickly devolved into a high-speed toll road completely disconnected from the park.
Other changes followed:
•In 1998, the estimated cost of the Trinity Parkway was $394 million. Today, the toll road is $600 million over budget and will cost more than $1 billion. City officials are unable to provide a final cost estimate.
•In 1998, the city claimed that flood control was a critical component of the Trinity River Corridor Project. This February, we learned that the Tollway Authority intends to seek a waiver from the federal government to build the road using pre-Katrina safety standards, instead of new, more stringent standards being developed in response to the disaster in New Orleans.
•Last November, the city moved the toll road even farther into the park in response to safety concerns by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, who feared that the road would weaken our levees. By the city's own calculation – and despite furious backpedaling and word-parsing – this will eliminate one-third of the downtown Trinity parkland and reduce the size of our lakes.
•The Corps also confirmed that the toll road will flood and that they must reserve the right to rip out sections of the road to repair our levees.
•There are no guarantees that this toll road will not be sold to a foreign company. In fact, last week, the state Senate transportation committee exempted the road from a proposed two-year ban on long-term toll road leases with private companies.
Read the rest of the Article.....
HB1892 will require the state to create a commission to study the effects of private equity toll roads and present findings to the state next year but would not affect projects planned by regional mobility authorities. The bill also exempts all projects that fall within the boundaries of the four-county North Texas Tollway Authority in Dallas-Fortworth.
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
Here's what I'm referring too.
"But can we do better in this century than a patchwork of road funding and repair fixes? Robin Chase, CEO of Massachusetts-based Meadow Networks, advocates a big leap forward. She recommends abandoning all gas taxes and shifting to wireless technology. A small, low-cost computer on board every vehicle would report (in real time) miles actually traveled, allowing a realistic government user charge. Fees could be adjusted for roadway congestion pricing (premiums to travel on peak roads at peak times), by wear and tear related to vehicle weight and footprint, and by the vehicle's emissions (a carbon tax to encourage vehicles with reduced greenhouse gas emissions).
Indeed, says Chase, there could be a local government bonus — a percentage of road user fees returned to the county, city or neighborhood through which the vehicle traveled, compensating for the burden of emissions, noise and congestion.
"The Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization has approved the managed lanes project in its transportation improvement plan, and along with the Texas Department of Transportation, has found a way to build the extra lanes without taking any right-of-way from the Union Pacific line or any of the property that abuts MoPac.
The new plan calls for the lanes, one in each direction, to run from
The tax payers own this right of way. Why in the world would they think it's OK to narrow existing lanes and the shoulders, add a lane and then charge a fee to use it?
Additionally, adding lanes while reducing lanes size and shoulders seems dangerous. Are they planning to lower the speed limit to 55 mph?
Statesman: Plan would change Mopac from 6 to 8 lanes
KVUE: Proposal unveiled to extend Mopac from six to eight lanes
KXAN: TxDOT Proposal Expands Mopac Without Widening Road
Thursday, April 5, 2007
Wednesday, April 4, 2007
Monday, April 2, 2007
According to Carona, the Senate is ready to pass a gas tax indexing bill, but the House bill is still sitting in the Ways and Means Committee.
It appears the bill doesn't have much support in the House.
Carona took the press room podium alone stating “I didn’t want to put anybody on a political stage for an initiative that may not be successful,” he said. “In this building nobody likes to vote for anything that resembles increased taxes, so we did not even make the request. We just felt like it was fair to leave everyone out, and I’d take the heat for it.”
Quoting from the article:
Carona’s charts indicated that indexing the gas tax (actually the combined 38.4 cents a gallon state and federal taxes) to the consumer price index would raise an extra $5 billion a year by 2030, and linking annual increases to an even higher highway construction index would generate about $11 billion a year extra by then. Do that, Carona said, and leverage that extra revenue to sell highway construction bonds, and there would be a lot fewer Texas toll roads in 2030 than under the status quo. And no private toll road leases by the state, which the Legislature is talking about banning for two years.
“This issue needs to rise to the top of the list,” Carona said.
Right now, however, it may not even be on the list.Read the full article