Express-News Editorial: Toll roads right move

Link to editorial here.

Seems the Editorial Board needs to tune into other local news sources who have already broke the story that our politicians have diverted nearly $10 billion in gas taxes to unrelated earmarks like tourism promotion and cemeteries. This State doesn’t lack money and our repeated surpluses and TxDOT’s 117% budget increase on Rick Perry’s watch prove it. What the State lacks is fiscal discipline, funding priorities, and respect for taxpayers’ hard-earned money.

Non-compete agreements that prevent efficiency and the expansion of free lanes, privatization with no caps or an end point for tolls, and granting monopolies also dominate the public’s concerns and without fiscal accountability (like getting rid of the DOUBLE TAX toll projects that are already partially or 100% funded with taxpayer money) and taxpayer protections in place, the public should not sit idly by “to give toll roads a chance.”

Editorial: First few tolled miles right move for Texas

The first 27 miles of a regional toll road system were unveiled this month in the Austin area.

The roads are part of a push to use tolls to finance the state’s transportation infrastructure, including the Trans-Texas Corridor. The pet project of Gov. Rick Perry, the TTC will eventually snake throughout the state and include rail, pipelines and toll roads.

San Antonio likely will have more than 70 miles of tolled roads, most of them on the North Side.

Toll roads, particularly along highways that already have been constructed, have come under fire from opponents who say it is little more than an attempt to fleece motorists. They say motorists should not have to pay to ride on roads that already have been paid for.

But state money isn’t unlimited. The gas tax has not been raised in 15 years, yet the costs of building and maintaining roads has increased with inflation.

The Texas population is expected to double by 2040. If the state doesn’t address the transportation infrastructure now — with tolls being only one of many tools — we’ll be hurting in the next few decades.

Unless people are willing to pay more at the pump, the money has to come from another source.

Critics have rightfully decried the private nature of the multimillion-dollar negotiations with private consortium Cintra-Zachry. Toll roads are in the public’s interest, and these contracts should not be shielded from view.

But the reticence of state leaders and the consortium to supply information is not a good enough reason to oppose toll roads.

Voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment in 2001 that created the Texas Mobility Fund to back state bonds for transportation projects, including toll roads.

That was a forward-looking vote, and opponents should give toll road projects a chance.