Link to article here. So much for the pro-toll policies of Bush being set aside by a new Administration…doesn’t matter who holds office, the BIG MONEY is in charge and they want you to pay dearly to get to work, even to use freeways already built and paid for.
Texas toll roads: Obama sides against Hutchison in spat with Perry
Mon, Feb 01, 2010 | By Todd J. Gillman
Dallas Morning News
President Barack Obama isn’t exactly a player in Texas’ Republican primary for governor. But today, he seemed to weigh in on one of the more contentious issues: toll roads in Texas.
The 2011 budget Obama unveiled today calls for repeal of a federal moratorium on the tolling of existing roads in Texas. That puts the president at odds with Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison — though not necessarily on the side of Gov. Rick Perry.
“The Administration would prefer that federal toll policy be addressed nationally as part of the multi-year surface transportation reauthorization legislation,” the Federal Highway Administration said in a statement, when asked to explain the budget language.
Hutchison inserted temporary moratoriums into highway appropriations bills in 2007, 2008 and last fall. The latest expires with the current fiscal year, at the end of September. Her point is that is just wouldn’t be fair to charge drivers to use a road that was already paid for through taxes or tolls — the implication being that, left to his own devices, that’s what Perry would do.
It’s a potent, populist issue for Hutchison — and a straw man, given that Perry vehemently denies any intention to slap tolls on existing freeway lanes.
“The department has made it clear that we have no interest in tolling existing lanes,” Texas Department of Transportation spokesman Chris Lippincott said this afternoon, when told of the Obama budget provision. “Whether we are prohibited from doing so in federal law is irrelevant,” he said.
And it wouldn’t be easy, even if the state’s Transportation Commission didn’t have a policy in place that effectively abides by the moratorium. To turn a freeway (or even a single lane of existing roadway) into a toll road, TEXDOT would need a waiver from the Federal Highway Administration. These are granted only rarely. Then, state law requires approval from the county commissioners and then from a county’s voters.
“There are significant barriers,” Lippincott said.
Hutchison spokesman Jeff Sadosky reiterated the senator’s stance, including the insinuation about Perry’s intentions: “Taxpayers have already paid for these roads. It is wrong to toll them, taxing Texans a second time. Kay Bailey Hutchison will continue to fight attempts to toll roads already paid for with taxpayer dollars, no matter where those efforts are coming from,” he said.