The Alamo Regional Mobility Authority (ARMA) is waging an all-out propaganda war on the citizens who oppose their toll agenda. Using our taxpayer money, they’re sending this letter to every property owner in the 281 corridor, in some cases, more than one letter per household! That’s a heap of dough! This affirms why ELECTED officials, not un-elected bureaucrats seeking to justify their continued existence at taxpayer expense, should be making these tax decisions and getting all parties to the table for the simple solution NOW.
Here’s our response to help you discern TRUTH from the half-truths and outright deception in the ARMA letter:
1) One of the fatal flaws to the most recent 281 environmental study conducted by TxDOT is that management conspired to pre-determine the outcome of the study BEFORE the study was ever conducted. They suppressed documents showing the potential negative impacts of the mega toll road, and only divulged the information that would get the feds to give them the clearance for the toll road.
This email shows TxDOT management colluded to break federal law in how they conducted the study by ordering a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) regardless of what their study found. Now ARMA’s letter essentially puts them on track for the same violation of the law. By virtue of the tolling authority doing the study, it again biases any 281 study in favor of the toll road, hence tainting any honest consideration of the non-toll option which over 90% of the public feedback on the last 281 study demanded.
2) ARMA claims it is the entity in charge of our regional transportation “options” (code for tolls), which is a blatant falsehood. Our elected officials who have oversight over TxDOT, especially those who sit on the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) and vote to allocate our gas taxes and who decide which projects are tolled or not tolled (and who must agree to the market valuation and toll rates of toll projects), have a broader and more superior role in transportation decision-making than a mere tolling authority whose only “option” is toll taxes. ARMA is gettin’ too big for its britches!
3) ARMA claims no capacity can be added to 281 for 3-5 years. Not so. If TxDOT would immediately agree to the original, non-toll, gas tax funded plan which all concerned groups have asked for, there are provisions in federal law that would allow for an expedited environmental assessment that would be subjected to public review for a 30 day period, and the feds could re-instate the clearance and commence with the non-toll solution immediately thereafter. They have to make the public believe there are NO OTHER OPTIONS but the path that leads to the approval of their toll road.
4) ARMA’s letter cleverly states that an “overpasses only” option has been rejected by the feds for “safety” concerns when that’s NOT what the citizens have been asking for. There is no “overpasses only” plan. The plan we refer to is TxDOT’s plan promoted and promised in public hearings in 2001 that included overpasses, 2 extra highway lanes, and frontage lanes where needed (to give access to businesses). See www.281OverpassesNOW.com for proof.
There is neither citizen nor environmental opposition to that plan, and we announced that on the day we filed the lawsuit. All parties are well aware that if TxDOT would build the original plan and not convert an existing freeway into a toll road, the fix would commence immediately WITH NO OPPOSITION. Their intractable insistence on clinging to the toll road as the only solution (and routinely dismissing out of hand all other viable, more affordable, less invasive solutions), is tantamount to abusive government bent on using its billy club to beat the taxpayers into submission.
Another immediate option to improve the flow of traffic, and hence the safety of the corridor, is synchronizing the timing of the stop lights. This improvement is noticeably absent from the letter and the fundamental way TxDOT and the ARMA create gridlock on 281 to punish citizens who oppose their toll road.
5) It is an outright lie to state that the environmental clearance was pulled for “contract procurement irregularities” and not because the study was “flawed or inaccurate.” We have evidence from our lawsuit that TxDOT suppressed a study showing the potential severe impacts of the toll road (hence making the study inaccurate on its face), hired firms with clear conflicts of interest, and that management conspired to rig the outcome of the study to get clearance for the toll road, all of which makes the study fundamentally flawed and inaccurate. It’s this failure to admit wrongdoing that requires law enforcement and the court to step-in to ensure an honest study is conducted without further violations of the law.
6) ARMA’s letter ends saying they are the local leadership for transportation and will look at other modes of transportation as options. First of all, all RMA’s were formed under STATE law (HB 3588) and are officially subdivisions of the state. Currently, ARMA is 100% funded by TxDOT. Though there may be locally appointed figureheads as the un-elected bureaucrats in charge of raising your taxes on driving, they are NOT a local entity but a STATE agency.
Also, by their own admission in public meetings, they have NO OTHER SOURCE OF FINANCING THAN TOLLS! So if they “consider” other modes of transportation, they would have to use their toll slush fund from congestion-weary motorists to subsidize other modes, unlike TxDOT who can use non-toll revenues.