The Toll Road Forum hosted by State Representative Joaquin Castro, Councilwoman Elena Guajardo, and the City of Leon Valley last night, gave residents a chance to hear both sides of the story on TxDOT’s planned toll roads. The forum drew over 250 concerned citizens who let us know through applause, their questions, and the volume of signed petitions that they are clearly against an elevated tollway through their community. Myself and Bill Barker, Transportation Consultant who volunteers selflessly to our cause, debated David Casteel, District Engineer for TxDOT, and Terry Brechtel, Executive Director of the Alamo Regional Mobility Authority.
The crowd actually gasped and began to hurl shouts of distaste when I read this statement from the Bandera Rd. toll feasibility study that claims this about the construction of an elevated tollway:
“There is no apparent adverse impact on social groups, neighborhoods, communities, or public facilities.” (SH 16 Feasibility Study Final Report, p. 4)
WHAT???? How can erecting a gigantic elevated tollway WITH NO EXITS over existing neighborhoods, schools, and businesses have no adverse impact!? The World Bank explicitly states there are negative social impacts to an elevated urban tollway: “toll roads can have significant social impacts… These can be both positive (providing improved access for some regions of a country) and negative (degrading the environment around the road, for example underneath an elevated urban expressway).” See source here.
The study also assumes:
“No additional competing or feeder routes” would be built. (p. 15)
See history of non-competes in these deals with private companies here.
“As the alternative free routes reach capacity, the tollway becomes more attractive resulting in higher estimated traffic volumes.” (p. 17)
This means they intend to CLOG our free routes to force more traffic to use the tollway. It’s a stated strategy in several places (see post here and here), for them to deny it is to LIE! More users of the toll road, means MORE REVENUE for these private companies and the State!
The toll feasibility study for Bandera Rd. also assumes:
“The project would most likely be built through a CDA with the Alamo Regional Mobility Authority.” (p. 20)
CDAs are these contracts that privatize our public freeways in 50 year sweetheart deals (see Toll Glossary here). They’re being negotiated in secret and even elected officials cannot see the details without signing a non-disclosure agreement (see story here, note some of the councilmembers have since done an aboutface and are pro-toll, apparently having no problem with this attack on open government). So ELECTED officials cannot share the details of a PUBLIC contract with their own constituents! Terry Brechtel of the Alamo RMA told the Mayor of Leon Valley, Chris Riley, that using a CDA has not been decided, but it’s clearly stated that they fully intend to use a CDA in their own documents! So Brechtel lied to an elected official!
The feasibility study for Bandera Rd. affirms what we’ve been saying for nearly a year…
TxDOT not only plans to make it a tollway, they plan to have some sort of non-compete agreement or understanding where the free routes will not be improved, and, in fact, they plan for the new growth in that area to clog the free alternatives beyond their capacity so that MORE people will be forced onto the tollway and increase their revenues!
This arrogant revenue building scheme of our out of control government needs to be stopped! It’s not just TxDOT, but our politicians starting with Governor Perry who are responsible for this. Governor Perry appoints the Transportation Commission that oversees TxDOT and he’s heard from tens of thousands of Texans against tolls, but on they march without accountability. In fact, Secretary of Transportation Norm Mineta came out with a statement affirming the federal government’s role in this shift to privatize our freeways. Read more here.