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.


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.


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.


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.


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 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.