MPO: Delay on gas price study; TxDOT: "I

Apparently MPO Chair Councilman Richard Perez, has a different set of rules for Commissioner Adkisson to place an item on the agenda than for TxDOT, school districts, and other parties who get agenda items placed on the MPO agenda without having to bring it to the Board for approval. Perez asked Adkisson to bring up his study of gas prices at today’s meeting to be placed on NEXT MONTH’S agenda.

Clearly, the MPO needs to clarify how an item gets place on the agenda…Mr. Perez keeps making any item that remotely relates to tolls or that brings accountability on the toll plans have to go through “special” hoops other items do not. Stay tuned, this ain’t over and we were able to tell the press of this injustice and playing politics with our highways! Overall, Commissioner Adkisson’s concern over gas prices and the increase in public transit usage were echoed by the Board and the study will get a vote next month. MARK YOUR CALENDARS NOW, try to arrange your work schedules around it, Monday, June 19 at 1:30 PM at the Via Metro Center at 1021 San Pedro!

Some of our supporters still wanted to address the MPO Board and one speaker expressed concern over the plans to toll not only Bexar County, but Hwy 46 in Comal and other outlying counties. District Engineer for TxDOT (read his previous outrageous comments here) David Casteel tried to mislead our speaker into thinking no existing lanes would be tolled and that there were no plans to toll Hwy 46. Well, I had to say something. I couldn’t let such blantant lies and condescension go unanswered. So when I went up to speak I told Mr. Casteel his comments were NOT TRUE! He contended with me and I brought forth the preponderance of evidence that demonstrates in fact TxDOT is tolling existing lanes and right of way and that they do have plans to toll Hwy 46 (see previous posts here and here).

At one point I said, “You can’t tell me tolls aren’t in the future for Hwy 46.”
Casteel tried to deny it: “Tolls are NOT in the future for Hwy 46.”
“We don’t believe you,” I retorted.

The pass through financing contract between TxDOT and Comal County (page 3) specifically has a clause that allows them to impose tolls later if the County and TxDOT agree to it. If there’s no plans to toll 46, why is that phrase in the contract??? Then there’s the November Transportation Commission Meeting transcript, and Comal County Commissioner’s email as more evidence, the list goes on (see previous posts here and here).

AFTER I ceded the rest of my time because the lies and outright decption were making me sick to my stomach, Casteel grabs his microphone in further defiance and nearly shouts, “And I don’t like being called a liar either.” For the record, I didn’t call him a liar, I said he hadn’t told the truth. Perhaps if he stopped lying, we could honor such a request. TxDOT’s credibility is totally shot and for them to act insulted that the public flat out doesn’t believe a word they say is their own doing. In addition to deliberately misleading the public on tolling existing FREEways and other details of the toll plans, they are suing the Attorney General to keep public contracts SECRET (see story here).

They’re charging us almost twice as much to build tollways as freeways. They’re tolling us for a freeway and improvement plan that’s already paid for and then they lie about the funds being diverted to other projects only to have them show up when they let a contract to Zachry to build a tollway (but not a freeway). They admit at the MPO to tweaking the timing of the stoplights on 281 that doubled commute times over night and then deny it weeks later calling US conspiracy theorists and liars ( read about it here). They’re trying to silence private citizens from sharing public information with fellow citizens demanding we get State permission first ( read about it here). They stonewall, stall, delay, and often flat out refuse to answer basic questions forcing citizens to do formal public information requests just to find out what the taxpayers are expected to fund, and they demand the public face and speak only to them in the midst of a PUBLIC meeting on highway corridors that affect a residents’ fellow audience members more than TxDOT ( read about it here, see Bush Middle School Meeting). Then they hold workshops at taxpayer expense announcing Texas is for sale to the highest bidder at the expense of the public good (see it here). Mr. Casteel, since the shoe fits, wear it!

Philip Russell with TxDOT briefed the MPO today on the TTC-35 project (the project with the secret contract, read about it here ) as well as the Hwy 130 project and how it relates to the Trans Texas Corridor (more info here). During his talk, he tries to sell the idea of privatizing our infrastructure by saying there isn’t enough money to complete certain projects for 20 years or more unless a local entity wants to pony up hundreds of millions to help get it done sooner (mocking local governments for their unwillingness to pony up money for STATE highways that aren’t under their responsibility…that’s TxDOT’s job!). So he tried to lead the MPO down the road that CDAs (public-private partnerships) and private money are harmless and are the best things since sliced bread because now TxDOT can build whatever they want whenever they want without a pesky little hindrance like money and accountability! Then he actually stated:

“I couldn’t care less where the money comes from. It could come from Casteel’s bank account for all I care.”

In that statement, there’s no moral or ethical limitations and no depth to which they won’t stoop for cold hard cash, no regard for the best interest of Texans, no regard for national security, nor regard for the economy (increasing the cost of transportation 2-10 times through tolls), no regard for blowing a hole in the family budget, and no concern for granting a single entity a 50 year monopoly over our public infrastructure to foreign companies (see recent Barron’s article here and article on the U.S. Addiction to Foreign Money here). It’s past time to clean house at TxDOT. How do we do that? Elect a new Governor. See why we endorse Strayhorn here.

(Commentary reported by an attendee)
Due to the results of the 2000 census, Garden Ridge, south of FM3009, has enough population and is dense enough for the SA MPO to be required by Federal Law, to initiate talks with Garden Ridge to become part of the SA
MPO. A slide for the year 2030 showed how Comal and Guadalupe Counties south of Loop 46, and yes the term Loop 46 (San Antonio is calling Hwy 46 the outer loop of San Antonio) was used, would be part of the MPO. Another slide showed how in the year 2030, all of Comal and Guadalupe Counties would be part of the SA MPO.

An alternative to this would be for New Braunfels, in the year 2010, to become its own MPO. That would be triggered because the city’s population would exceed 50,000. The downside for New Braunfels is all the work involved running an MPO.

Garden Ridge should not become part of the SA MPO. Instead, have New Braunfels become an MPO in 2010. Then have all of Comal County align itself with that MPO. If Comal County were to become part of the SA MPO, then the county would have one vote on the board. Thus, the Judges of Comal County would relinquish control of Comal County. That’s a bad idea! As for money, it wasn’t discussed much. That fell somewhere between the SA MPO won’t get more money for bringing in that area, to the SA MPO must be compensated. I see another tax on the horizon. Comal County has independence and low taxes. Let’s keep it that way.

The SA MPO stated they would wait until the end of summer to contact Garden Ridge and New Braunfels about becoming part of the SA MPO.

Though it wasn’t stated, I’m concerned this will be a prelude for SA to extend the city limits and engulf Garden Ridge, and other parts of Comal County.

Parts of Comal County already are part of the SA MPO. As for Guadalupe County, there is an area on the east side of I-35, north of Schertz that will also be approached to become part of the SA MPO. I hope the folks in Guadalupe County have the foresight to avoid becoming part of the SA MPO.

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