Terri Hall, Founder/Director
Texas TURF & Texans for Toll-free Highways
JoAnn Fleming, Executive Director
Grassroots America – We the People PAC
for Abbott’s I-35 Non-toll Expansion
“Special interests plan to stall I-35 expansion to set Governor Abbott up
to break his no-toll promise to the people of Texas!”
(March 24, 2020 — Austin, Texas) Today, Texas Conservative Grassroots Coalition leaders from Grassroots America – We the People PAC, Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom (TURF), and Texans for Toll-free Highways released a statement strongly supporting Governor Greg Abbott and his Texas Transportation Commission’s decision to fully fund the Interstate-35 expansion through downtown Austin as non-toll. The Coalition noted the Commission has prioritized existing funding to get this major project underway without adding to the tax burden of working families.
Background: JoAnn Fleming, Executive Director of Grassroots America stated, “During his first gubernatorial campaign and throughout his administration, Governor Abbott consistently promised to fix state transportation woes without raising taxes, fees, debt, or tolls, and that’s precisely why 164 grassroots conservative political opinion leaders – influencers – representing 133 unique groups and districts across Texas – are supporting Abbott’s non-toll I-35 Expansion, which includes 12 segments on the state’s 100 Most Congested Roads List for 2019. For Governor Abbott, it’s simply a matter of ‘Promises Made – Promises Kept.’ Now that state leaders are admitting the 87th legislative session budget process will be a painful nightmare with unfolding economic hits from the coronavirus pandemic and oil price collapse, we are stepping forward now to have the Governor’s back.”
Special Interests Working to Convince Abbott to Break His Promise: At least one group, Keep Texas Moving, funded by Texas Association of Business, criticizes Abbott for putting all of TxDOT’s discretionary money into one basket, supposedly depriving other areas of the state, but the Coalition notes that all TxDOT districts will still receive their normal levels of formula funding as programmed.
Grassroots Transportation Policy Expert Pushes Back: Terri Hall, Founder/Director of Texas TURF and Texans for Toll-free Highways asserts that Keep Texas Moving has an ulterior motive — “Their backers want to stall Abbott’s non-toll expansion in favor of a tolled public private partnership (P3) or Comprehensive Development Agreement (CDA). Cintra, one of the primary private toll operators in Texas just happens to sit on the board of Texas Association of Business. Pretty cozy, right?
“It’s obvious what’s going on here. A Spain-based global firm, Cintra, muscles its way onto the board of what used to be the premiere voice for Texas businesses – TAB – and forms a lobby group to sideline the Governor and one of the most significant highway projects of our generation to selfishly try, once again, to pass a bill authorizing a crony private toll road rather than allow it to be done as a freeway, using existing funding that gives access to all Texas drivers.”
Hall adds, “Keep Texas Moving even brought on big name lobbyists with close ties to the Governor – John Colyandro, Mike Toomey, and Ray Sullivan to stall this absolutely critical project until they can lobby the Texas Legislature to bypass Abbott’s no-toll pledge to get CDA authority next session.
“Texans have a visceral reaction to foreign corporations taking over our public highways and getting a 50-year right to gouge Texas drivers like they’re already doing in DFW with tolls that exceed $3/mile in peak hours. Fed-up Texans cannot afford this! We plan to help Gov. Abbott keep his promise.” Hall concludes.