Truth Be Tolled: 281 Special Edition - New trailer for 2014!
The last line sums it up well... "You can't toll every road, that just doesn't make financial sense." Yet the drum beat goes on...
Check back for film availability... Thank you Storm Pictures for your incredible work documenting the effort over the years!
When Republican Joe Straus gets some heat for his ineffective leadership on transportation, who does he turn to? The liberal press and Capitol insiders that are so jaded to the political process they don’t see a problem with politicians raiding road funds for non-road purposes. Hope this makes your blood boil…
Read my article on Straus where I educate voters on the anti-toll choice in this House race - Matt Beebe.
Another Attack on Joe Straus
by Paul Burka
Texas Monthly blog
February 10, 2014
Joe Straus's enemies are out in force once again, trying to make a mountain out of a molehill -- namely, the issue of diverting gasoline tax revenue to other uses. Let me state unequivocally that diversions are a phony issue. They are not an affront to transparency.
The only diversion in the state budget that matters is the use of gasoline taxes to pay for the cost of operating the Texas Department of Public Safety, which amounts to a billion dollars every biennium, more or less. Yes, this is a diversion, but a necessary one. If budget writers did not employ the diversion, they would not have the funding to be able to fully fund DPS, and highway safety would suffer. The most recent attack on Straus is not very persuasive.
This is politican-speak for soliciting the special interests to lobby elected officials to raise taxes and increase spending. No doubt we need to boost transportation funding since the gas tax hasn't been raised in 20 years and not even adjusted for inflation, but when past highway bills contained over 6,000 earmarks for congressional pet projects, and when anywhere from one-third to nearly half of past gas taxes went to transit instead of roads, Congress needs to prioritize existing taxes and properly fund highways or completely devolve the federal program to the states.
Shuster: Lawmakers need 'educating' on transportation funding
By Keith Laing
January 24, 2014
The chairman of the House Transportation Committee said Friday that lawmakers in both parties needed to be “educated” on what needs to be included in a new road and transit funding bill. Speaking at the U.S. Conference of Mayor’s annual conference, Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) said he needed the help of municipal leaders to convince lawmakers to make compromises that will be necessary to approve a new surface transportation bill.
“We need your help also in educating members of Congress,” Shuster said. “Because there are some members out there, and on both sides of the aisle there's education needed. On my side of the aisle, there's a reluctance to think … the federal government has a role or we shouldn't be spending money, or we shouldn't be spending more money. On the other side of the aisle, we've got, there's a reluctance to streamline things. To make sure we can get these projects … out there in the field and get them done quicker. Time is money.”
Straus wants tolls, higher taxes, Beebe to keep freeways free
By Terri Hall
February 7, 2014
Speaker(R - Dist 121) is a master at kicking the can down the road. After three sessions as Speaker of the Texas House, Straus has failed to properly fund the state highway system. At the commencement of the 83rd regular session last year, he promised to end diversions of the gas tax and to make funding infrastructure - both roads and water - a priority. Neither happened.
Instead, Straus punted the funding of infrastructure to the voters with two constitutional amendment elections. After three expensive special sessions, the Texas legislature finally agreed upon a transportation funding bill that will go to the voters for approval in November. During the second special session, Express-News Austin Bureau Chief Peggy Fikac tweeted that Straus was telling senators he wants a transportation crisis in 2015 to increase pressure for taxes. So crisis creation and crisis management describe Straus’ leadership style.
The Constitutional amendment that passed would divert half of the oil and gas severance tax that funds the state’s emergency fund, or Rainy Day Fund, to roads, giving the highway department a potential boost of $1 billion annually. Lawmakers readily acknowledge it’s a stop gap measure since the agency needs $4 billion more per year.
Wolff: I like tolls, if you won’t carpool or get on a bus, then you oughta pay
By Terri Hall
February 6, 2014
Bexar County Judgewants you to pay up to 50 cents a mile in new toll taxes to drive San Antonio freeways. Tolls will cost the average family $2,000-$4,000 a year in new taxes on driving and Wolff has his fingerprints all over the deals that brought it to San Antonio.
First, Wolff lobbied for a new $10 hike in your vehicle registration fees from the Texas legislature last year - the only local fee hike that didn’t require a public vote first. This money goes directly to the county-run toll authority. Then, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) decided to offload part of the state highway system to local governments.
Rather than tell TxDOT to take a hike, Wolff brokered a back room deal with Transportation Commission Chairman Ted Houghton to takeover some state roads from TxDOT and utilize half of the new fee hike to add toll lanes to I-10 in a financing package that includes tolls on US 281, and in return, TxDOT dropped $70 million in discretionary funds to extend the non-toll expansion on Loop 1604 West. However, all of Loop 1604 is targeted for tolls, too.
Campbell’s betrayal on tolls leaves Chan opening to snag senate seat
By Terri Hall
February 1, 2014
How the mighty fall could be the theme of the Texas Senate District 25 race where incumbent Donna Campbell faces a tough fight to hang onto her senate seat. Campbell drew two primary opponents in her re-election bid, one a Chamber of Commerce establishment pick, former County Commissioner Mike Novak, who’s running on giving more money to public schools and raising the gas tax in addition to supporting toll roads (all loser issues in District 25). He’s taken huge sums of money from San Antonio’s major toll road player, Zachry. The other opponent is former City Councilwoman Elisa Chan.
Chan jettisoned to rock star status in conservative circles when she opposed the city’s non-discrimination ordinance that many felt went too far and amounted to making adherence to scripture a crime. Though Chan resigned her seat after the controversy, she’s a perfect fit for District 25 Republican voters. She has both social and fiscal conservative bona fides and is - as anyone who’s met or worked with her will tell you - super sharp.
TxDOT sticks to toll roads or no roads agenda
By Terri Hall
January 7, 2014
If you tell a lie long enough, it’s eventually accepted as truth. That’s what attendees of the Texas Transportation Forum hosted by the Texas Department of Transportation’s (TxDOT) were expected to buy into at today’s gathering pertaining to the myths of tolling. TxDOT has been criticized by the public over the last decade for promoting its doctrine of toll roads or no roads. After several attempts at re-making the agency and trying to convince a skeptical public that it’s changed, the leopard hasn’t changed his spots and it’s back to its old toll roads mantra at this year’s forum. On the heels of announcing an $825 million toll plan for San Antonio, TxDOT continues to hold road funds hostage to tolling.
SA leaders unveil ‘mobility,’ er, ‘congestion’ plan
By Terri Hall
January 6, 2014
Today, Texas Transportation Commission Chairman Ted Houghton announced an $825 million ‘5-year Mobility Plan’ for San Antonio’s congested north side freeways that includes toll lanes on US 281 and Interstate 10 and free expansion on Loop 1604 West (for now).
Houghton was joined by Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, Mayor Julian Castro, and officials from Via Metropolitan Transit and the Alamo Regional Mobility Authority (RMA) who stood united in their plans to add toll lanes to much of the north side -- even converting two-four existing free main lanes on US 281 into a toll lanes. This comes on the heels of public meetings to add toll lanes to Interstate 35.
More bike paths? Congressman floats near doubling of federal gas tax
By Terri Hall
December 5, 2013
Tired of your road taxes disappearing? So is Neil Cavuto, with the Fox Business Network who hosts his own daily show where, yesterday, he unleashed his frustration on U.S. Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon) over the congressman’s proposal to hike the federal gas tax by 15 cents. The current federal gas tax is 18.4 per gallon, which has remained unchanged since 1993.
Cavuto asked what many Americans want to know -- where are our road taxes going? Where is the toll money going? Our roads and bridges are crumbling or in perpetual states of construction or reconstruction yet we’re still stuck in traffic. Now congress wants us to pay more and Cavuto asks a legitimate question. Why should we?
Lawmakers Audit Automakers Over GPS Privacy Issue
GAO report investigates privacy protections for in-car navigation devices and apps.
January 16, 2014
Ongoing revelations about the depth of domestic spying by the National Security Agency keeps individual privacy in the spotlight. In a report released last week, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) examined whether automakers and the producers of in-car navigation devices have been adhering to recommended privacy practices. The congressional watchdog agency, for the most part, was satisfied with what it found, though it identified a few areas where improvement was needed.
Folks, this along with the tax hikes in Virginia are being held up as the model for the next federal highway bill. Con. Bill Shuster from Pennsylvania is a BIG reason this series of tax hikes passed a Republican legislature. Now the special interests are hungry for more at the federal level, using PA as a test case. It’s time to DUMP Shuster, who has drawn an opponent in his primary race.
Pumping out the Pennsylvania gas tax facts
By Liam Migdail-Smith
January 21, 2014
There's been a lot of debate over the $2.3 billion boost to transportation funding Gov. Tom Corbett and the Legislature approved in November.
On one hand, it will help Berks County and the rest of the state pay for road and bridge projects, such as widening Route 222 between Reading and Allentown.
On the other hand, drivers will have to pay more.
Link to KSAT-TV 12 story on the ‘Super Toll Plan’ for San Antonio as well as the ’Turn Back’ proposal to make city taxpayers foot the bill for STATE highways in the city here.
Link to WOAI story here.
‘Super Toll’ Plan Gaining Traction at City Hall
by Jim Forsyth
Thursday, November 21,2013
That $1 billion scheme to build toll lanes on I-10, US 281, and Loop 1604 across the north side, dubbed ‘Super Tolls,’ appears to be getting traction at City Hall, as the plan was unveiled to city officials on Wednesday, 1200 WOAI news reports.
By Ben Wear
Austin American Statesman
November 20, 2013
A toll discount for trucks on Texas 130 has significantly increased big-rig traffic on that road since the program began April 1, likely luring several hundred trucks a day off of Interstate 35 through Central Texas.
Despite that, what was projected to be a yearlong pilot program on the entire 89-mile tollway likely will be discontinued on the southern 40 miles at the end of the month, and, in the next couple of months, it likely will cease on the other 49 miles of the highway. The reason: lost revenue.
This story continues on our new premium website for subscribers only. Continue reading/get access here.
Once again, the mention of swapping free Interstate 35 with the SH 130 tollway that's about to go bankrupt has raised ire across Texas, especially in Austin. It's yet another form of taxpayer bailout for private corporations.
Even An 85 MPH Highway Can't Fix Austin's Traffic Tangle
by Wade Goodwyn
National Public Radio
December 17, 2013
Four decades ago, Austin, Texas, had a population of 250,000 and a reputation as a laid-back oasis of liberal politics and live music. Today, the Austin metro area is home to 1.8 million people and has some of the nation's worst traffic congestion.
For years, the city has done little to address the growing problem. But most in the Texas capital now agree something has to change if Austin is to save what's left of its quirky character. The best way to experience Austin traffic may be from inside the police department's new helicopter. Breathtaking in the late afternoon sunlight, the state Capitol and the University of Texas Tower glow like torches.
But tear your eyes away from the skyline to look down and — poof! There goes your pretty picture. Nearly everywhere you look, the roads are backed up with cars, pickup trucks and 18-wheelers crawling along.
At least there's one Republican out there willing to pull the plug on the corporate welfare known as public private partnerships...
Parnell wants to abandon public-private partnership to let state build Knik Arm Crossing itself
By Pat Forgey
December 18, 2013
JUNEAU -- Gov. Sean Parnell says the new plan to get the Knik Arm Bridge built is to remove the "private" from the public-private partnership concept that has until now been a key selling feature.
"It is a change from the road we were on, but it isn't a change in the project itself," said Michael Foster, chairman of the Knik Arm Bridge and Toll Authority .
The Texas Transportation Commission Chairman, Ted Houghton, caused a firestorm of controversy over directing TxDOT to explore swapping free interstate 35 with the failing SH 130 tollway, forcing local traffic in Austin to pay tolls to use an interstate that today is free. Most lawmakers say 'No way!', but with TxDOT's powerful, illegal lobbying arm, it's only a matter of time. Yet another taxpayer bailout for private corporations looms...
Worsening Austin Traffic Prompts Talk of Toll Road Swap
By Aman Batheja
November 5, 2013
As congestion worsens on Interstate 35 through Austin, state leaders are seriously discussing a drastic response: tolling the highway's lanes in the city and making part of the nearby State Highway 130 toll road free.
“You’d move the free lanes out to 130 and the toll lanes to I-35,” Texas Transportation Commission Chairman Ted Houghton said last week at the commission’s monthly meeting. “I think that’s something that needs to be looked at — whether it’s legal; if it’s not, what you’d have to do to get it across that goal line.”
Is your car spying on you? GPS tracks ‘consumers,’ identity theft at risk
Data collection raises concerns
By Phillip Swarts
January 7, 2014
Consumers' locations and other data are at risk of being leaked by companies that run automobile navigation services like GPS, a report has found, putting the national debate on privacy behind the wheel.
Despite telling consumers they are collecting the information and seeking consent, companies do not always disclose what information is collected and how it is used. Companies are also inconsistent when it comes to giving drivers the ability to delete their information.
The ridiculous idea to swap the free Interstate 35 with the failing SH 130 tollway made news all the way up to the New York Times. You'd think that'd shame Gov. Rick Perry's Texas Transportation Commission into dropping the idea, but don't count on it unless the new Governor cleans house and brings sanity back to transportation policy.
Facing Limits on Financing Road Repairs
By ROSS RAMSEY
New York Times
November 7, 2013
Ross Ramsey, the managing editor of The Texas Tribune, writes a regular column for the Tribune.
Texas voters overwhelmingly told the state government to open a $2 billion account to finance water projects this week, a little beam of sunshine for conservative politicians asking their price-sensitive constituents to spend some money.
The supportive numbers for that proposition on financing the projects were healthy, but evidence of voters’ thrift was easy to find: In local elections on the same day, here in the middle of football season, voters that would have converted the once-beloved Astrodome into a convention hub and would have enshrined a district’s football teams — this time in the Katy school district — in a $69.5 million stadium of their own.
Incorrectly charged by TxDOT tolls
by ANDY PIERROTTI / KVUE News
November 26, 2013
AUSTIN -- A KVUE Defenders investigation has uncovered thousands of drivers incorrectly charged on toll roads operated by the Texas Department of Transportation over the past several years.
The issues involve tolls only operated by TxDOT, which include parts of Loop 1, State Highway 45, State Highway 130, and SH 45 SE.
Link to article here.
First foreign-owned toll road opens in Dallas
By Terri Hall
December 16, 2013
The first foreign-operated toll lanes became fully operational in Dallas over the weekend. Interstate 635 known as the LBJ opened the first 3-mile stretch of the public private partnership toll project to the public on Saturday. The expensive price tag won’t hit commuters immediately, since it opened at a big discount for the first six months as drivers get used to the variable pricing. To use the 3.5-miles of phase one it will cost anywhere from 15 cents up to 95 cents depending on time of day. However, the regular toll rates will cost between 10 cents PER MILE up to 75 PER MILE in peak hours.
Private Toll Road Investors Shift Revenue Risk to States
By David Mildenberg - Nov 27, 2013
Companies that build private toll roads are pressing states to assume more financial risk of traffic not meeting expectations, a change that benefits the operators while threatening to increase taxpayer costs.
Illinois and Indiana are among states offering set payments instead of the right to keep toll revenue, the standard financing method in the past. A similar approach is being used in Florida to expand highways in Fort Lauderdale and Orlando, and by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey for a bridge to Staten Island.
Upcoming TURF Events
- Texas sends home two lawmakers that supported red light cameras
- Port Authority appointees devised toll-hike plan to bolster image of NJ, NY governors
- Pressure to lift ban on tolling existing interstates
- Length of P3 deals questioned by congressional panel
- Austin app gives toll refunds for carpoolers
- Aussie company defends U.S. toll road failures
- More tolls for Hwy 183 in Austin
- Revolving door: LaHood subsidizes company then goes to work for it
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Latest Press Releases
- Anti-toll candidates sweep in many key races
- Public drain for private gain: Prop 6 rural water raid to benefit developers
- Dirty trick: TxDOT bypasses legislature to enact law using rule change
- Texans ask Perry to veto bill to hand 23 Texas roads to foreign entities
- Targeted tax: Residents ask Perry to veto fee hike on Bexar County
- Texas for Sale: Texas roads may be handed to private, foreign toll operators
- Texans ask for leadership to enact NEW vision for road policy
- Grassroots applaud Perry's call to end diversions, reject Rainy Day raid