TxDOT director: Agency needs $4 billion more for roads, maintenance
Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013
FORT WORTH — The Texas Department of Transportation needs an additional $1 billion a year to keep up with maintenance on 80,000 miles of roads in the state, the agency’s executive director said Thursday.
Phil Wilson told a group of officials Thursday that TxDOT also is likely to need an additional $3 billion a year to deal with growing congestion on interstates and other roads.
Link to article here.
Lawmakers taking Texas off fiscal cliff with road debt
By Terri Hall
January 10, 2013
Thirty-one billion and counting. That’s how much road debt Texas Governor Rick Perry and Texas lawmakers have racked-up since they abandoned pay-as-you-go and started down the road of borrow and spend road policy. In fact, federal data shows Texas has the highest road debt of any state in America. Texas officials have been building roads with credit cards, and they're maxed out. Local debt incurred by toll authorities, cities and counties is equally out of control with just the North Texas Tollway Authority at $9 billion and climbing.
Indeed, the transportation picture looks bleak. If lawmakers fail to get the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) adequate traditional funding this session, Texans will be faced with more of the same failed policies -- unsustainable debt, failing toll roads subsidized with tax dollars, and public private partnerships that sell-off our public infrastructure to private corporations that charge oppressively high tolls with impunity for generations.
Texas, we can do better.
Columbia Pike Streetcar Drives Heated Procurement Debate
Arlington County Board adopts rules that allow public-private partnerships to finance major transportation projects.
By Jason Spencer
December 11, 2012
The Arlington County Board on Monday adopted guidelines that will allow public-private partnerships to help finance major transportation projects, like the Columbia Pike streetcar, after an unusually heated discussion.
Board member Libby Garvey, who was elected in November to her first full four-year term partially on a platform that included opposing the streetcar, fought an uphill battle all night.
She fought — with question after question, after question, after question.
For about three hours, the board dissected the Virginia Public-Private Transportation Act and pages of new or amended county procurement guidelines.
Orange County toll roads under review by California
With ridership and revenue on Orange County's toll roads falling short of projections, the state of California has launched a formal inquiry into their economic viability.
By Dan Weikel, Los Angeles Times
December 11, 2012
When it opened during the 1990s, Orange County's $2.4-billion tollway system was touted as an innovative way to build public highways without taxpayer money.
Today, the roads offer smooth sailing for gridlock-weary commuters willing to pay the price. But far fewer people are using the turnpikes than officials predicted, which means the highways generate far less revenue than expected to retire their debts.
Drivers facing threat of new toll roads
Motorists could face new tolls or pay some of their road tax to private companies who take over the running of the motorway network, under plans being discussed in Whitehall
By James Kirkup, and David Millward
The Daily Telegraph
10:00PM GMT 21 Dec 2012
Reforms that could give private investors control over Britain’s biggest roads will be included in the new policy agenda for the second half of the Coalition due next month, The Daily Telegraph has learnt.
The private managers of the roads would then be allowed to levy tolls on any new capacity they provide, such as new lanes or bypasses.
Existing roads that are “improved beyond recognition” by private managers could also be considered for charging, sources suggest.
Link to article here.
All three state leaders, Governor Rick Perry, Lt. Governor David Dewhurst, and Speaker Joe Straus said transportation and funding infrastructure as a state priority this session. It's incumbent upon Texans that it's not just lip service. We need bold leadership, and not the debt, toll road, public private partnership Perry model that got into this mess.
83rd Legislature Faces a New Set of Priorities
By Texas Tribune Staff
January 6, 2013
The last time Texas lawmakers convened in Austin, they were absorbed with numbers and boundaries: how to make ends meet with a deflated state budget and draw new district maps the courts would approve.
But with improving fiscal conditions and redistricting mostly in the rearview mirror, they are approaching the 2013 legislative session with some pressing policy questions, from whether to introduce private school vouchers into the state’s public education system to whether they should put in effect — and accept financing for — major provisions of the federal health care overhaul.
Link to article here.
Governor lays out plan to eliminate gas tax, increase sales tax
By Doris Taylor
January 8, 2013
During a press conference today, Governor Bob McDonnell laid out a new plan that would eliminate the gas tax but increase the sales tax.
He wants to raise the state sales tax from 5% to 5.8% percent and wants to put the money into transportation.
He said he’d do away with the 17.5 cent gas tax.
Virginia would become the first state without a gas tax.
There was a time, early in the history of the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority, when it was by no means clear that the agency would see its 10th birthday this fall.
Neither was it clear that it would have two toll roads open by now, nearly a billion dollars in assets and enough credibility that local elected officials, with little or no constituent blow-back, could vote this year to loan the authority $130 million to add toll lanes to MoPac Boulevard. Under that arrangement, the authority has 25 years to pay back the money, plus $100 million in what amounts to interest.
Those express lanes on MoPac (Loop 1), to run from near Lady Bird Lake to Parmer Lane, should be under construction by summer 2013 and take about two years to open.
Is it appropriate for the Tollway Authority to seize a vehicle for unpaid toll bills?
Posted Saturday, Oct. 13, 2012
By Dave Lieber
A respected Tarrant County justice of the peace is asking whether bill-collection procedures used by the North Texas Tollway Authority violate the state and federal constitutions.
The Watchdog is all ears.
As the NTTA ramps up its efforts to increase its criminal penalties for nonpayers, Precinct 3 Justice of the Peace Russell Casey hopes to put up roadblocks to stop the plan.
Casey says his argument with the NTTA is not about protecting scofflaws but about making sure that Texas drivers are not denied their legal rights.
The Hurst-based JP's main argument: "You don't pay that $15 toll bill, and then it turns into $75? They can issue an arrest warrant. That tosses away a couple of centuries' worth of civil rights."
North Texas Tollway Authority now wants to run its own court
Posted Saturday, Dec. 15, 2012
By Dave Lieber
The North Texas Tollway Authority wants to create an internal toll road court that would force "habitual violators" into a legal hearing with a presiding officer, opening and closing statements, witnesses, testimony and lawyers -- but no jury.
A driver who loses his case and refuses to pay up would be banned from an NTTA-operated toll road forever.
The NTTA is circulating a draft of its proposed bill for the 2013 Legislature. The Watchdog asked NTTA for a copy, but the authority declined. Instead, The Watchdog obtained a draft from another source.
Road tripping down memory lane: Financial constraints drive transportation plan in new direction
Published: Thursday, December 13, 2012 12:39 AM CST
The North Central Texas Council of Governments went on tour this week to inform and gather feedback from local residents on transportation plan recommendations they will forward to the Regional Transportation Council.
Monday evening at the Allen City Hall marked the first of three public meetings where NCTCOG representatives discussed proposed modifications to funded projects maintained in the Transportation Improvement Program; updates to the congestion management process; and changes regarding managed and high-occupancy vehicle lane policies.
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