Reaffirm tolls on US 281, I-10 despite more road money coming to fix non-toll
(San Antonio, TX – Tuesday, January 17, 2015) Today, Bexar County commissioners passed a resolution brought by Kevin Wolff to ‘reaffirm’ what’s been dubbed the $825 million ‘Super Toll Plan’ for toll lanes on US 281 (from Loop 1604 to the county line) and I-10 (from Loop 1604 to Boerne), and the initial non-toll expansion of Loop 1604 W (though tolls are coming from Bandera Rd. to I-35).
County Judge Nelson Wolff, Commissioners Paul Elizondo, Chico Rodriguez,and Kevin Wolff, voted to adopt the resolution, with anti-toll newcomer Commissioner Tommy Calvert abstaining, despite public opposition and additional non-toll road funding coming from Prop 1 as well as $1.2 billion from ending gas tax diversions that’s coming in the new budget soon be adopted by the Texas legislature.
Every member of the court took turns saying they were opposed to toll roads. Judge Wolff noted $200 million in local tax dollars have gone into funding state highway projects and implored the legislature to do its job to properly fund roads. Yet, in the end, all but one voted in favor of adopting the toll plan, promising, yet again, to remove the toll lanes if new funding comes from the legislature.
“It’s political double speak to say you oppose toll roads then vote to adopt them, especially when you know new funding is coming,” argues Terri Hall, Founder/Director of TURF and Texans for Toll-free Highways.
Judge Wolff, Commissioner Wolff, and board members of the Alamo Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (AAMPO) have previously promised to turn planned toll lanes back into free lanes on projects like US 281 when new funding became available. When running for re-election in a tight race, Nelson Wolff even sent a letter to the Transportation Commission asking to turn toll lanes back to free lanes on US 281 if Prop 1 passed. Prop 1 passed with 81% of the vote last November, but the first round of Prop 1 funds were sent elsewhere. So were Prop 12 funds, stimulus funds, and the streetcar funds that were taken from roads.
The commissioners’ move is not only premature, but totally out of step with Governor Greg Abbott’s vision laid out in his state of the state speech given today in a joint session of the Texas legislature, where Abbott promised to secure $4 billion more per year in road funding without tolls, and even declared transportation an emergency item to expedite it.
“The trail of broken promises that culminated in today’s vote is causing many to question whether the voters were lied to. Knowing that Prop 1 will add $1 billion a year in new road funds with more coming from the Texas legislature, the timing of this action couldn’t be more dubious. Who votes to re-affirm toll plans now, when Texas voters sent new leadership to Austin promising no more tolls and when the legislature is in the process of getting new funds to prevent tolls?” questions Hall. “Two new transportation commissioners are also coming, one a prominent San Antonian, Bruce Bugg, so at the very least, the commissioners should have waited to see what the legislature and the new commissioners do before they reaffirm the old regime’s toll roads.”
Suspicious timing, old guard being replaced
Former Governor Rick Perry’s Transportation Commission Chairman Ted Houghton is being replaced in just a few short weeks by an appointee of incoming Governor Abbott, who campaigned against toll roads. Houghton and Perry have made it their mission to impose tolls all over Bexar County, and they’ve been unsuccessful due to citizen resistance.
Hall emphasized the suspicious timing, “With passage of this resolution, the Commissioners are attempting to thwart the efforts by Abbott, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, and the Texas legislature to fix the road funding shortfall without more tolls, and hence get Bexar County freeways fixed toll-free as promised.”
What’ll cost? $8-$10 a day
The published toll rates of the toll authority, the Alamo Regional Mobility Authority, range from 17 cents a mile – 50 cents a mile. The plan will impose ‘congestion tolling,’ to ensure drivers pay the maximum to use the toll lanes during peak hours (when everyone actually has to get to work).
So these new toll taxes will average $8-10 day or over $2,000 a year in new taxes just to get to work. That’s per driver, it’ll be thousands more per household. Those who can’t afford to pay tolls will be second class citizens on congested alternatives.
The more congestion on the roadway, the more you pay. These ‘managed’ lanes will be HOV-transit toll lanes giving special access to buses with exclusive direct connect ramps from inside the toll lanes to the $15 million dollar Via transit centers outside the tollway.
In addition, the Bexar County Strategic Mobility Plan will add tolls to Loop 1604 (from Bandera Rd. to I-35 at the Forum). Two public meetings on that project are scheduled for March 4 and 5. Another public hearing to add toll lanes to the I-35 corridor (from 410 S. to FM 1103 in Schertz) will take place next week, Thursday, February 26, at Morgan’s Wonderland.
Last month, the AAMPO transportation plan just added $605 million in TOLL ‘managed lanes’ on:
I-10 (from 410 to SH 130)
Hwy 151 (from 410 to 1604)
I-37/US 281 (from SE to downtown)
I-10 (from Boerne Stage Rd to Boerne)
This is in addition to the existing toll projects on:
US 281 (from Loop 1604 to Bexar County line)
Loop 1604 (from Bandera Rd to I-35, eventually the whole loop)
I-10 (from Loop 1604 to Boerne Stage Rd.)
I-35 (from downtown to Loop 1604, & eventually to the county line)