Dewhurst: "I'm angry" at TxDOT, declares no telling how high toll rates will get

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Toll rates to increase so high, state leaders can’t even say
Texans can expect to pay more to drive on state-run toll roads — a lot more.
Houston Chronicle
February 27, 2007

But just how much more, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst can’t say because of confidentiality agreements that the Texas Department of Transportation has with private companies building the toll roads.

“I’m about as angry about what’s happening with the Texas Department of Transportation,” Dewhurst said moments after he skewered the Texas Youth Commission after reports of inmate abuse by top agency officials.

Although Dewhurst could not specifically say how much toll rates will be in the future, he described those rates as “astronomical.”

TxDOT is negotiating with private companies that allow them to build roads and charge tolls for large upfront fees.

“The Legislature has no idea what those agreements are,” Dewhurst said.

The toll road contracts run for 50 years.

Halfway into the contract, toll rates will skyrocket to unimaginable levels, warned Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Chair John Carona, R-Dallas.

And state leaders will be restricted because of “significant penalties for building other roads, competing roads,” Carona said.

At some point Texas will either have to pay billions of dollars to buy back the toll roads or “accept very high rates for very long periods of time.”

Carona proposes to link the state’s gasoline tax rate to the consumer price index for automatic adjustments to keep pace with inflation. The state’s gasoline tax, now at 20 cents per gallon, has not changed since 1991.

The state’s current gasoline tax is 3.6 cents under the national average.