First toll roads open in Austin

Link to article here. The opening of these tax-funded tollways is just a glimpse into the toll tidal wave Perry and the highway lobby have planned for Texans. Taxing us again for what we’ve already paid for is highway robbery! Perry is intent on selling off control of our public roadways to private special interests who have lined his campaign coffers to the tune of over $1 million.

It’s time to end this reign of corruption and end this tolling scheme that will cost the average family $2,000-4,000 a year just to drive to work. Since Perry refuses to heed the will of the PEOPLE and refuses to allow us a vote, voters will choose to give Perry the boot on November 7.

From Austin Toll Party Founder Sal Costello, “Two of the tolls opening this week in Central Texas, Texas 130 (a TTC Primer), Texas 45 North toll roads were built with the use of diverted City of Austin transportation bond dollars approved by voters in November 2000. Voters were told the bond dollars would be used for public roads and bike paths, but tens of millions of dollars have been diverted for these toll roads!

“How could this Happen? Well, the media has failed to do it’s job.

“For example, The Austin American Statesman endorsed the plan to toll our tax funded freeways on June 27, 2004. Then last week the Statesman endorsed Rick Perry. When the media focuses more energy on endorsing unaccountable bureaucracies, corrupt politicians and selling electronic toll tags and NO time on investigative reporting, we, the public get fleeced.

“Perry’s all trick and no treat freeway tolls on MoPac and Texas 45 permanently take our public expressways, as we are forced to drive on increasingly congested frontage roads with stop lights. TxDOT will have a financial incentive NOT to address traffic congestion on our frontage roads. Traditional toll roads in the United States allow drivers free expressways as alternatives, but Perry’s freeway tolls permanently convert what should be a freeway to a tollway. And, the coming tolls on 71 and 183 are worse, as they are 100% funded with our tax dollars, the construction almost complete, and can easily open as free roads. Perry calls it ‘Innovative Financing ’, we call it Highway Robbery.”

First segment of tolls opens in Austin
By Patrick Driscoll
Express-News
11/01/2006

AUSTIN — State officials pulled their finger out of a dike when they opened this region’s first 27 miles of toll roads Tuesday and Wednesday.

The sections of Texas 130, Texas 45 and Loop 1 are the first wave, a trickle really, of hundreds of miles of toll roads that could be built in Texas over the next couple of decades, including more than 70 miles in San Antonio.

“The turnpike is one step in about 100 steps that this state will take over the next 25 years,” Texas Transportation Commission Chairman Ric Williamson said at a ribbon-cutting Wednesday.

Tolls and private sector involvement are keystones to a new state strategy adopted by Gov. Rick Perry and other elected leaders in recent years to build highway lanes more quickly without raising gas taxes, a move both praised and denounced.

“Texas is well ahead of the curve when it comes to embracing innovative approaches,” said Mary Phillips, an associate administrator with the Federal Highway Administration.

Terri Hall of San Antonio Toll Party calls it a scheme to fleece motorists out of $2,000 to $4,000 a year just to drive to work.

“The opening of these tax-funded tollways is just a glimpse into the full tidal wave Perry and the highway lobby have planned for Texans,” she said.

Texas Department of Transportation officials credit a mix of tax dollars, private investment and toll fees with delivering Austin’s tollway, first discussed in the 1980s, within five years rather than 25.

“In my 35-plus years in the department, I’ve never seen this many miles of highway opened in one day,” TxDOT Director Michael Behrens said.

By the time officials open a dozen more miles of Texas 130, north to Georgetown, next month and about 25 miles of all three roads by the end of next year, the $3.6 billion system will be 65 miles long. Work is nearly a year ahead of schedule and more than $350 million under budget.

Motorists can drive free on the roads until Jan. 6, when they’ll be charged 10 to 15 cents a mile. Those opting to use an electronic TxTag, which will allow them to whisk by toll plazas without stopping, will pay half price in February and get a 10 percent discount after that.

An estimated 50,000 motorists ventured onto the tollway as it opened in stages Tuesday, and about 32,000 whooshed down its lanes during morning rush hour Wednesday, TxDOT officials said.

Carlos Gonzales, elated by the birth of his daughter Cerena on Tuesday, found another sweet surprise while driving home from a hospital. An empty highway, where none had existed before, appeared before him.

“I liked it,” he said. “But I don’t like the fact that they’re going to charge. I probably will use it but not every day.”

Much of the tollway, mostly four and six lanes but up to 20 lanes wide, passes through scrub brush, pastures and forests and goes past farmhouses, industrial sites, shopping centers and apartment complexes. On Wednesday, cattle grazed in the shadows of ramps connecting Texas 45 to Loop 1.

TxDOT officials say the area is among the fastest growing in the United States. But for some Austin residents, the new toll system is a world away.

“I saw it on TV but I don’t even know where it is,” said Sam Valdez, a cashier at a gas station on Interstate 35. “It’s not anywhere near my side of town. I know I won’t ever use it.”

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