NOT TOO LATE TO SUBMIT COMMENTS!
You know the highway lobby WHO IS PAID TO OPPOSE US is getting their pro-toll comments in, continue to flood these guys with all the evidence of the public uprising against the highest possible tolls using “market valuation” by sending your comments in to: Loop1604@hntb.com or by fax (210) 349-2101 by July 10!
Since HNTB also engineers many of these toll projects, ask for confirmation of your comments submitted to this biased contractor to ensure your feedback actually makes it into the official record.
Some major points to make since their environmental assessment claims there are NO significant environmental, economic, social, or health impacts to the 1604 toll project:
• There are MAJOR economic impacts to motorists who will have to pay the highest possible tolls through market-based tolling or be stuck in gridlock on the non-toll lanes. Initial TxDOT surveys show 29 cents a mile on 1604 and some toll rates are as high as $1.50 a mile in Austin, which means $2,000-3,000 a year in NEW toll taxes per commuter versus 1-3 cents a mile in gas taxes which is only $200 a year on average.
• TxDOT and the RMA are choosing the most expensive, most environmentally damaging, and most invasive option which is NOT in the public’s overall best interest DESPITE MASSIVE PUBLIC OPPOSITION asking them to do otherwise.
• Destroying our existing 4 lane freeway and rebuilding it into a 4 lane tollway with cement barriers and complex entrances and exits and with 4 lane freeway to the outside is a WASTE of taxpayer money compared to the less invasive, more affordable option of simply adding the two originally planned non-toll lanes down the existing median using gas taxes or bonds (TxDOT’s bonding capacity was just DOUBLED under SB 792).
• Making 1604 a toll corridor causes people to avoid the tollway and increases traffic on surrounding neighborhood streets and puts throughway users in competition with local street users clogging our neighborhood streets and making them less safe.
Highway lobby slithers in
The Krier/McCombs Texans for Safe Reliable Transportation group sent out their highway lobby minions once again to attend last night’s 1604 hearing. We know an email went out promoting it and asking their membership to stack the deck and come in casual (versus business) attire to say they were FOR tolls based on our conversations with some of them. Krier’s outfit had their own buttons (to counter ours) and we saw guys show up in Hawaiian shirts who were supposedly incognito go over and greet the SAMCo types slapping backs and laughing all the way to the microphone, trying to have their applause for the pro-toll crowd outweigh ours, etc. It was the biggest orchestrated circus yet and so low, even for Krier.
However, it couldn’t squelch the TRUTH that there remains OVERWHELMING public opposition from ORDINARY CITIZENS who are about to get fleeced to benefit these highway lobbyists. By a more than 3 to 1 margin, the testimony from the near packed house continued to demonstrate that TxDOT, the RMA and the politicians enabling them continue their toll plans at their own peril. The public WILL NOT tolerate this unnecessary tax grab!
Tempers flared as TxDOT’s insulting presentation spoke to citizens as if they were kindergarteners while they claimed there were NO environmental, social, or economic impacts to tolling 1604. Many couldn’t choke it down and gave stenographers their comments and left, others stepped outside until the dog and pony show was over and the public comments began.
The slick simulated “movie” showing the potential toll lanes and all their schematic drawings (that were not given to the public) all stated “subject to change.” We know what that means…it’s code for we’re changing this to maximize the number of people who take the toll lanes, we can change and minimize the exits from the toll lanes to keep our captive audience, and we can take away the number of free lanes just like they did in Austin. The State Auditor (read more here and here) and history shows TxDOT and the others pushing these detested toll plans LIE and say ANYTHING to push their toll agenda!
Tollers defile “I have a dream speech”
Case in point, Vic Boyer of Joe Krier’s San Antonio Mobility Coalition or SAMCo, invoked Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech where SAMCo and the Toll Party all live in harmony on toll roads and mobility is had by all (except those stuck in gridlock on the free lanes, of course). Talk about low, invoking one of America’s cherished civil rights leaders in an effort to promote economic segregation by tolling economically disadvantaged families, many of whom are people of color, off our freeways? What an OUTRAGE! Will the Hispanic Chamber continue to support this exploitation and treading on the legacy of one of America’s greats? What about civil rights groups and those representing the economically disadvantaged?
As usual, they put the Greater Chamber & SAMCo people up first and waited to call me up to speak when only a few people were left.
Toll Party testimony
To say that there are NO economic, social, or environmental impacts to tolling 1604 is an insult and your failure to consider viable alternatives to tolling violates your fiduciary duty to the public who PAYS YOUR BILLS! We believe there are other more affordable ways to accelerate 1604 improvements than tolling. The original plan for 1604 was only to add two additional free lanes. Now the project calls for 4 additional TOLL lanes, not free lanes, which requires them to bulldoze our EXISTING freeway and rebuild it. With waste like that, no wonder we have no money for roads!
The toll plan, though being billed as speeding up the improvements, will actually be more costly, will take longer, be more invasive to build, less safe, more damaging to the environment, and increase the cost to motorists for using the highway from 1-3 cents on average per mile in gas tax to a minimum toll start rate of 29 cents per mile UP TO the tax grabbing sum of “whatever the market will bear” for a minimum net increase of over $2,500 per year per motorist for a 20 mile ONE WAY daily commute.
We put forward other options to solve congestion without tolls like using our gas taxes, bonds, tidal flow, dynamic lanes, and accelerated projects like in WA, CA, & Austin– taking a 10 month project and shortening it to 9 days and saving 25% of the construction cost, and yet there’s no consideration of such alternatives in your assessment! Toll roads don’t solve congestion; they manipulate it for profit. Toll roads DON’T work if the lanes next to it are congestion free.
Houston has 83 miles of toll roads, have toll roads solved Houston’s congestion problems? No, in fact, they’re pushing miles of new toll roads and their politicians voted to DOUBLE their toll rates! From now on, you aren’t going to get freeway improvements or congestion relief unless you have an extra $2,000-4,000 a year for tolls. You can’t possibly claim there is NO significant economic impact from this toll project! We are not gullible ignoramouses, rather we’re well-informed citizens who know a rip off when we see one. An anti-incumbent tax revolt is in order!
This new tax on driving will have a devastating economic effect on businesses and consumers alike reaping both direct and indirect cost increases (higher cost of goods), particularly retail businesses along the corridor and businesses with fleets that use our highways multiple times per day for deliveries not to mention home values in the affected corridor. It is a known fact that people change their behavior to avoid toll roads. This increases traffic on surrounding neighborhood streets and puts throughway users in competition with local street users clogging our neighborhood streets and making them less safe. Tolls on 1604 are a totally unnecessary new tax with damaging economic, social, and health impacts.
TxDOT and MPO documents show that 1604 is NOT a self-sustaining toll road. They already know not enough people can pay the toll to pay for the project entirely, so they have to use over $300 million in YOUR gas taxes to build this project yet you wont’ be able to drive on it without paying tolls, too. So it’s a massive TRIPLE TAX scheme to charge us THREE times to drive on a highway already built and paid for. We’ve already paid for what we on drive today and our gas taxes will help build the tollway, but you’ll have to pay a THIRD tax to use it! TxDOT is saying the options to the public are toll it or NO IMPROVEMENTS. They are not considering the less invasive, more affordable, and less damaging options.
Go to our table outside, get this flyer showing you what happens when they toll existing corridors like they did in CA where these folks now pay over $9 to drive 10 miles or get stuck in horrific gridlock! Sign our petition, get informed and get involved! Donate today to help fund the CITIZENS’ lawsuit that will put a stop to this highway robbery!