NE Partnership, small city mayors, against current toll proposals

Link to article here. These comments by the Northeast Mayors will be interpreted by TxDOT as an endorsement of the toll roads. TxDOT always claims they’re NOT tolling existing roads, yet every single toll lane in the plans for 281/1604 will toll existing lanes/right of way that we drive on today, toll-free. Not even half of the toll roads on 281/1604 have adjacent non-toll expressway lanes, which the mayors said they may support (only about 12 miles of the 47 miles of toll lanes will have a non-toll expressway option). The rest of the project area will only have frontage roads as the non-toll option, clearly NOT an expressway and it can be easily slowed with stoplights.

When I questioned many of the Mayors after the meeting at Retama, they all opposed tolling any existing lanes or right of way already paid for once by the taxpayers indicating they oppose the current toll projects as proposed. Their comments certainly don’t qualify as a ringing endorsement of the plans to toll existing FREEways all over Texas. The MOST CRITICAL factor to these smaller cities will be the non-compete clauses in the toll roads which will prohibit expansion of any free roads surrounding the tollways. This could bring their cities to a state of gridlock for the next 30 years! TxDOT is keeping any non-compete provisions SECRET, yet they’re asking the MPO, which is being kept in the dark, to cast a final vote to approve the toll projects.

Councilman Weeper is rather disingenuous saying he hasn’t received a peep in opposition to the toll roads only 400 in favor. We helped publicize the highway lobby’s stealth campaign to lobby for approval of the toll plans. The plan was hatched in a closed-door meeting at Valero October 19. Expressions of support from those who will financially benefit from the toll roads is hardly a legitimate indicator of public support! It’s an obvious conflict of interest! Weeper has since received over 900 emails in opposition to toll roads…in case the 2,000+ who turned out in opposition at the public hearings weren’t sufficient!

Opposition to toll roads grows in NE Partnership
November 20, 2007
By Edmond Ortiz
Staff Writer
The Herald – News

The Northeast Partnership for Economic Development is providing its input on toll roads. Judging from comments made by attending elected officials at the partnership’s Nov. 8 meeting at Retama Park, the coalition of Metrocom and Seguin leaders is inclined not to join the toll road bandwagon.

The transportation policy board of the San Antonio-Bexar County Metropolitan Planning Organization will vote Dec. 3 on the toll equity plan that is being developed by the Alamo Regional Mobility Authority.

The equity plan contains financing terms for planned toll road projects that would cover Loop 1604 from Interstate 10 to Texas 151, and U.S. 281 from 1604 to the Comal County line.

Some Metrocom cities had no representation at the Northeast Partnership’s luncheon, but top officials who were there said they and their constituents see toll roads as double taxation.

“I’ve seen over 400 emails in support of the 281 toll, none in opposition. Since I represent over 334,000 residents on the MPO, I felt it’s my duty to encourage citizens to vote their desires,” said Selma City Councilman William Weeper, the partnership’s representative with the planning organization.

Selma Mayor Jim Parma, who chairs the partnership, asked for a roll call of attending mayors to arrive at a consensus. Parma, Al Suarez of Converse, Henry Edwards of Live Oak, Joe Medinger of Universal City and Jay Feibelman of Garden Ridge all expressed concerns with the idea of toll roads.

“I’d support tolls except for any existing roads taxpayers have already paid for,” Feibelman said. “If you want to build two extra lanes on one side of 1604 and two other lanes on the other side and if I have a choice between those toll lanes and the free highway, that’s fine.”

“I’ve heard from some constituents. The Live Oak City Council will consider this issue later, but I can’t see paying for roads twice,” Edwards said.

“I don’t like the concept of toll roads, but I’m with Mayor Feibelman. If I have a choice between those and free highway, that’s good,” Parma said.

“We need to keep free access to certain roads, but you know it’s natural. The minute a freeway opens, it’s clogged,” Medinger said. The Universal City mayor touted methods of alternate travel to help alleviate vehicular/passenger transit such as using mass transportation.

“When I go to meetings in downtown (San Antonio), I take VIA so I don’t hassle with gas or parking. It’s just part of the bigger solution,” he added.

Bexar County Precinct 4 Commissioner Tommy Adkis-son reiterated his general opposition to toll roads.

“I’ll continue to insist we see the best possible proposal,” Adkisson added.