Here’s my comments to the RMA Board yesterday:
We’ve been told this new environmental study on 281 is “independent.” Concerned citizens however, are seeing the process is, once again, being hijacked by special interests. HNTB, a member of SAMCO and the Greater Chamber, both of which are pushing tolls, is conducting this “study” to the tune of $800,000. Then, this very organization paid HNTB $6.5 million of our hard earned taxpayer dollars to do preliminary engineering on the RMA’s first 3 toll projects.
Now how is this NOT a conflict of interest? It is, and this is precisely why the voters know the public meetings aren’t to get public input to help you reach a decision, it’s a step in the check off list to the foregone conclusion of tolling. You’ve repeatedly emphasized that the 281/1604 project is TxDOT’s not the RMA’s and yet nearly every board member attended the public meetings for 281 and even coached speakers in the business community on how to dress and what to say to push tolls on a public who clearly doesn’t want them. You’re using our tax dollars to lobby against the will of the people who fund this organization. That’s called taxpayer funded lobbying and it’s going to end very soon!
We’ve also noticed your new catch phrases trying to state the decision to toll or to use or not use CDAs are “yet to be decided,” but your actions tell a different story. There’s already talk of a CDA for Bandera Rd. when this organization promised elected officials in Leon Valley and elsewhere that the decision to toll has not been made and that true community input would be sought and considered first.
Well, we’re no fools and we’re not buying the talking points to try and placate the angry masses until you get your CDAs signed and then it’ll be back to your old mantra, “It’s a done deal, live with it.” (They may as well be saying, Let them eat cake!) We know what your marching orders are; you’re a tolling authority plain and simple, and we’re not going to let you ram the tolling of our existing highways and rights of way down our throats without a vote.
Isn’t it important to know the impact of the Trans Texas Corridor in relieving I-35 truck traffic before pressing ahead with a MASSIVE toll project on I-35 with the SAME goal…to alleviate truck traffic on I-35?
If the point of the Trans Texas Corridor is to relieve truck traffic from existing I-35, then why on earth is the Transportation Department proposing to takeover EXISTING portions of I-35 from San Antonio to Laredo as part of the Trans Texas Corridor toll road?
It’s grossly irresponsible to press ahead with 73 miles of toll roads without studying the impact of what’s become permanently high gas prices.