Van Os calls on Attorney General to investigate private toll collection

Contact: David Van Os
(210) 225-1955

Van Os Challenges Abbott to Fulfill His Constitutional Duty To Investigate Private Toll Collections

SAN ANTONIO, Texas, January 24, 2006 – David Van Os, unopposed in the Democratic Primary as candidate for Texas Attorney General, challenged Attorney General Greg Abbott to perform his Constitutional duty to investigate state plans for private corporations to collect tolls on public highways.

In a letter to Abbott dated Jan. 20, 2006, Van Os noted, “…Article 4 Section 22 of the Texas Constitution requires the Attorney General to ‘take such action as may be proper and necessary to prevent any private corporation from … demanding or collecting any species of taxes, tolls, freight or wharfage not authorized by law.’”

Van Os’ letter asserts: “Many Texas citizens are concerned about the anticipated usage of public authority to enable private corporations to collect toll fees for huge toll-road projects that are being planned and forecast by the Texas Department of Transportation, such as the ‘Trans Texas Corridor,’ and tolling projects in northern Bexar County involving Highway 281, Loop 1604, Interstate 10 and/or Interstate 35.”

Cintra-Zachary, a private business venture of San Antonio contractor H.B. Zachary and a Spanish company, is slated to operate the Trans Texas Corridor and Highway 281 toll-ways and collect the tolls. Since the Attorney General is Constitutionally obligated to prevent a private corporation from collecting a legally unauthorized toll, Van Os states that Abbott must investigate the planned tolling arrangements to determine their legality under all applicable laws. Since TX-DOT was recently cited for failing to conduct environmental impact studies mandated by environmental protection laws for its Highway 281 plans, there is clearly good reason for Abbott to investigate conformity with all laws before plans proceed further. As another example, Van Os points out to Abbott that, “In the case of Highway 281 in northern Bexar County, there is a specific and serious concern as to whether all legal requirements would be met for the conversion of existing freeways to toll highways.”

Van Os wants to know if Abbott has “fulfilled your Constitutional duty to investigate these planned TX-DOT projects to determine whether the planned or anticipated toll operations will be in compliance with all applicable laws, and if so, what are the results of your investigations? If you have not done so, do you intend to conduct investigations, and will you share the results with the public?” Van Os’s letter concludes by challenging Abbott: “As required of you by the Texas Constitution, I call upon you to take all necessary and proper actions to safeguard the people from the potential dangers to the public well-being posed by private toll collectors.”

As he has stated many times, David Van Os strongly believes that “Public authority should never be exploited for private gain.”