It’s bad enough that TxDOT is behaving badly on nearly every front, arguably their behavior has been criminal, now their Executive Director Michael Behrens takes a swipe at a fine citizen of San Antonio, Bob McKechnie, a Toll Party supporter who’s well-informed on this issue.
Here’s a few of his “arguments”:
It is critical that we provide Texas with transportation systems that relieve congestion, improve safety and air quality and contribute to the economic growth of the San Antonio area and the rest of the state.
No one argues that TxDOT’s charge is to perform these functions. They along with a host of other bloated government bureaucracies have to learn to do it within their budgets. How do toll roads relieve congestion and improve air quality? In fact, they PROFIT from permanent congestion on the free lanes which only adds to air pollution, adversely affects human health, increases stress, thereby decreasing safety. In a study cited by Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison on the floor of the Senate in May 2005, toll roads actually triple congestion on surrounding roads and accidents increased by 17%. Also, a new driver’s tax on top of 40% increases in the price of gasoline do not grow the economy. No city and no nation has EVER taxed themselves into economic prosperity. Toll roads don’t solve any of TxDOT’s above stated goals.
The state’s population grew by 57 percent in the past 25 years, while tax dollars allowed for the addition of less than 8 percent of needed new-lane miles. While best estimates of population show a further increase of 64 percent during the next 25 years, available tax dollars will add only 6 percent more new lanes.
Anyone can go to the Comptroller’s own web site and do the math. From 1984-2004 state gas tax revenues increased 178% while population only grew 50% (and that’s adjusted for inflation). Any new residents also pay gas taxes so there’s a built-in mechanism that pours increased revenues into TxDOT’s coffers. Let’s look at the 281 project as an example. The original plan only cost $48 million and now as a toll road, $83 million. If TxDOT would stop building toll roads and build traditional freeways EVERYONE can drive, they’d save 40-100% of their money in one fell swoop!
Congestion is getting worse and will continue to do so unless we act. For instance, traffic on U.S. 281 near Loop 1604 increased from 8,600 vehicles a day in 1980 to 91,000 vehicles daily in 2004. Projections show the traffic count will exceed 160,000 vehicles each day in 2035.
San Antonio had more lane miles of highway in 2000 than in 1990, but average commute times went up! In fact, only 4 US cities have more lane iles of freeway per person than San Anotnio! We don’t lack roads, we lack proper planning. Look no further than the intersections at 281/410 and 281/1604 for proof of the incompetence at TxDOT. Don’t take my word for it, listen to former San Antonio City Planner, Dave Pasley who agrees. Read his Express-News column here.
Also, TxDOT’s projections are just that, projections. Those numbers can and do fail like projections for the Camino Colombia toll road in Laredo. That toll road failed and got bought out by TxDOT. Here’s a quote from an Express-News article on this subject from 12/04/05:
Bond buyers, probably nervous about recent toll-road failures such as the Camino Colombia bypass around Laredo, are looking for better guarantees on investments. As a result, restricting improvements to competing free roads is becoming more popular.
I could go on pointing out the lack of credible facts or any rationale to justify this toll road scam. But I’ll spare you the agony! Perhaps you’d like to submit a letter to the editor in response to Mr. Behrens call for an unelected bureaucracy to unnecessarily increase your transportation costs by more than 10 times on roads we’ve already paid for and for improvements we’ve already paid for! Submit one here.