TxDOT buys back SH 288 from foreign toll operators

Link to article here.

TxDOT ends agreement with private company overseeing Highway 288 toll lanes

ABC13 Houston
March 30, 2024

The Texas Department of Transportation is moving forward with a plan to end its agreement with the private company that oversees the toll lanes on Highway 288. So what does that mean for you?

The question is: When the state takes over the tollway, could you get a better deal or wind up paying even more?

TxDOT says it’s too early to say. That’s not necessarily the answer drivers want to hear while this is getting sorted out.

“[The drive is about] $17, $18 one way,” Darren Dixon, the owner of a BBQ restaurant right next to Highway 288, said.

Dixon drives the toll road daily.

“I do it every day, back and forth,” he said.

For Dixon and other drivers, a toll decrease would sure be welcome.

It’s the most expensive toll road in the area,” Shelly Nixon, another driver, said. “It’s so expensive. Surely they can make money and save us money at the same time.”

About eight years ago, TxDOT signed a contract with a private company called Blueridge Transportation Group that allowed them to build and run the toll lanes on 288.

The deal was supposed to be good for 50 years, but now, the state plans to pay that company $1.7 billion for the lanes over the next few months. That total is more than $600 million more than it cost to build and maintain, according to our partners at the
Houston Chronicle .

Buying back the tollway and creating a nonprofit corporation to oversee it could make the state money in the long run.

Since the toll lanes opened in 2020, the Chron reports drivers have had to pay more and more, from around $6 to more than $15 during peak commuting.

When ABC13 asked TxDOT whether the buyback would mean lower prices for drivers, the agency made no promises.

“If the agreement is terminated, toll revenue collected after the date of termination and future decisions regarding tolling policies, pricing, and operations, will be at the authority of the Texas Transportation Commission,” TxDOT said in a statement.

In the meantime, Dixon’s bills are adding up.

“I would say, $120, $150 a day, in tolls,” he said. “For my business, I see the receipts and gulp a little.”

EV mandates will force automakers to cut conventional vehicles

Link to article here.

Biden’s EV mandate likely to severely limit how many conventional vehicles automakers can produce

Ford will need to build two fully electric F150s for every gas-powered F150. By 2032, the company will need to build four electric F150s for every gas-powered F150.

By Kevin Killough
March 30, 2024
Just the News

The Environmental Protection Agency has released its final tailpipe emissions standards, which some have called an electric vehicle mandate.

“Make no mistake: This is a coerced phase-out of gas-powered cars,” the Wall Steet Journal editorial board recently opined on the final rules.

The 1,181-page rule doesn’t require auto manufacturers to produce any electric vehicles, and the EPA insists the rule is not an EV mandate.

“The standards continue the technology-neutral and performance-based design of previous EPA standards for cars, pickups, and vans,” the agency states in a March 20 press release.

The rule sets limits on the total fleet emissions allowed from the companies’ vehicles, but the only way to meet the standards is for a manufacturer to, over time, appears be to make a large and growing portion of their vehicle lines electric.

With a mixture of hybrids, which combine aspects of batteries and gas-powered motors, the portion can be lowered, but automakers who continue producing gas-powered vehicles will likely need to produce a lot of EVs to meet the EPA’s demands.

Beginning in 2027, the average carbon-dioxide emissions allowed across truck fleets will be 184 grams per mile. By 2032, that will decrease to 90 grams per mile for trucks.

The Ford F150 is the best-selling vehicle in the U.S. today. The tailpipe emissions for its 2023 model line range from 352 grams per mile on the F150 Pickup 2WD HEV, to 741 grams per mile on the F150 Raptor R 4WD.

Matt Randolph, Sentinel Energy vice president and principal partner, explains in a Substack article that with an average of 430 grams per mile for the F150 line, in order to meet the 2027 EPA standards, Ford will need to build two fully electric F150s for every gas-powered F150. By 2032, the company will need to build four electric F150s for every gas-powered F150.

In 2023, Ford sold 750,789 gas-powered Ford F150s. For Ford to sell just half of the gas-powered F150s that it sold in 2023, Randolph writes, the company will need to produce 750,789 F150 Lightnings, the electric version of the truck, in 2027.

Ford had planned to produce 3,200 Lightnings per week, until this past December, when the U.S. automaker scaled that back to 1,600 per week. Should the company stick to that schedule in 2027, it will be permitted to sell only 166,400 of the popular gas-powered F150s.

By 2032, when the limits fall to just 90 grams per mile, the company will be able to sell only 41,600 conventional F150s, should it produce 166,400 Lightnings. In 2023, the company sold 24,000 Lightnings, but it had aimed to sell 150,000.

Energy expert Robert Bryce calculated, based on data from the company’s earnings report, that Ford lost $64,731 for every electric vehicle it sold. The company pulled off a $4.3 billion full-year net income last year only because its conventional vehicle sales produced so much profit that it made up for the losses on the company’s EV lines.

Should the EPA rule remain in place, the company will lose that revenue stream to support the losses on its EV lines.

It’s hard to say that the electric F150’s appeal to consumers will start to meet the company’s expectations anytime soon.

Compared to the hauling capability of its gas-powered counterpart, the vehicle falls woefully short, according to those who have driven the vehicle. Automotive writer Aaron Turpen wrote in a review of the Lightning that when towing full loads, the vehicle’s range will drop down to as little as 100 miles, less in cold weather.

Writing in MotorTrend, Christian Seabaugh recounted his experience hauling sand and rocks with a Lightning.

The gas-powered F150 versions have towing capacities ranging from 8,200 pounds to as much as 14,000 pounds.

Seabaugh was looking to haul about 4,800 pounds of gravel and sand for a patio-paving project at his home. With three trips, Seabaugh was able to haul all the sand and gravel back to his house, but he had to exceed the towing capacity on the vehicle by a couple hundred pounds.

Surveys show that most F150 owners do little to no hauling, so it’s hard to say how much that limitation will impact consumers buying personal vehicles. Companies looking for work vehicles for their fleets won’t likely be as comfortable with work crews having to make multiple trips in an electric truck that could be done with a single trip in a gas-powered truck.

For consumers, the main concerns about EVs are lack of charging stations, cost of repairs, and range anxiety, which is the fear of running out of charge before reaching a charging location.
The chances that Ford will sell enough Lightnings in 2027 that the EPA will grant the company permission to build enough of its popular gas-powered F150s to meet demand were further dimmed this past week.

The Detroit Free Press reported that Ford is cutting the hourly workforce at the plant in Dearborn, Michigan, where it produces the Lightnings. A year prior, the company had announced it was ramping up production, but as the pace of sales slowed, the Freep reports, the company has scaled back production.

In just three years, scaling back production of EVs will require automakers to do the same for their gas-powered lines.


Biedermann trounces Miller, but Miller on war path to trample property rights

Link to article here. (Click on the link at this site to view the video of Miller gettin’ cozy with a lobbyist)

Despite defeat, Miller executes more damage to property rights
By Terri Hall
June 1, 2016

After an onslaught of threats that remain unresolved, residents of the Texas Hill Country just got a little retribution. From issues with land development and water to toll roads and property rights, Texas House District 73 yearned for new leadership. After an ugly, heated run-off election last week, it got it. Incumbent State Representative Doug Miller, an establishment Republican and staunch supporter of liberal Republican Speaker Joe Straus, was ousted by newcomer conservative businessman Kyle Biedermann of Fredericksburg. With Miller set to appear as an ‘expert witness’ on behalf of the developer of the controversial Johnson Ranch housing development, a very public showdown between neighboring landowners and this lame duck representative is taking shape.

The vast majority of the problems facing Hill Country residents over the last decade stem from out of control development. Between commercial development and massive new residential housing developments popping up across the scenic and once pristine Hill Country, issues like traffic, water shortages and rate hikes, sewage dumping, and even flooding have plagued residents, and they’re not getting much help from their elected representatives. Indeed, many see Miller as part of the problem.

The latest in the dispute over a wastewater permit involving the Johnson Ranch has emerged through the Johnson Ranch Municipal Utility District (MUD), which is a quasi-governmental entity controlled by the developer of Johnson Ranch. MUDs, which are controlled by private developers, allow private corporations to gain access to the governmental power of eminent domain. Naturally, landowners who have their private property stolen in the name of a public use for what amounts to private gain fight back. Such is the case with Terrell and Pat Graham who have been forced to spend a small fortune in legal fees defending Pat’s family homestead that’s been a continuous working cattle ranch for over one hundred years — the Lux family ranch.

Miller is set to serve as an expert witness for the Johnson Ranch MUD, testifying against the Lux-Graham family, which puts Miller at odds with the private property rights that Texans hold sacred. While it comes as no surprise to the Grahams, who have received no help from Miller for three years, it’s sent a shockwave through Bulverde residents who see Miller’s provocative move as a thumb in the eye and proves his coziness with well-connected special interests who funded his re-election campaign has wholly clouded his objectivity when it comes to his role as a public servant. What makes this move by Miller more breathtaking is the fact that he Chairs the Special Purpose District Committee that oversees the creation and governance of MUDs.

The Grahams’ property adjacent to Johnson Ranch is under threat of eminent domain by the Johnson Ranch MUD. The developer, David Hill Johnson Brothers (DHJB), wants to dump up to 350,000 gallons a day of treated sewage onto the Graham’s ranch, causing problems for cattle grazing and robbing them of the use and enjoyment of their property. An administrative law judge agreed with the Grahams and recommended that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) deny the wastewater permit, but TCEQ granted it anyway. The Grahams are appealing that decision.

But in the meantime, the developer tried to do an end run around the Graham’s lawsuit by reviving a dormant MUD where it could use eminent domain to take their land instead of wait for a final ruling that may go against the developer. Miller is now a party to the MUD’s abusive actions. Rather than defend the public interest as an elected official, he’s siding with special interests who have rewarded Miller financially. Miller is wholly owned by those special interests, so much so that he’s willing to throw his own constituents under the bus in order to allow an entity controlled by a developer to steal private property from one Texan using forcible eminent domain for the developer’s own private gain. Yet, Miller claimed he was strong in defending property rights.

This is why Miller was defeated. His constituents realized, whether it was during the campaign or in their own dealings with him, that he no longer represented them but special interests. The best course of action when an elected official is this bought and paid for is to boot them from office. It’s refreshing when voters do just that. Sadly, it may not be in time to help the Graham-Lux family hang onto their property.

However, residents of House District 73 can look forward to having an advocate in their newly elected representative, Mr. Biedermann. As a landowner himself, Biedermann understands first-hand the tie Texans have with their land and the threats that come from both government itself and from private entities that team up with big government to take it. Most importantly, Biedermann knows his constituents will hold him accountable if he ever wavers, as they did with Doug Miller.