Perez' pro-editorial only tells one side, and it's filled with half truths

Link to article here.

Richard Perez was the local waterboy for the highway lobby as Councilman and MPO Chair. He knows who butters his bread and he’s going to use the financial resources and backing of the Greater Chamber to get the toll road road heist done.

First of all, it isn’t “progress” to take on massive public debt nor is it “progress”to subsidize a toll road that can’t even pay for itself! Secondly, his wording is very misleading. He gives the illusion the existing expressway lanes that are there today will still be there when they’re done adding toll lanes. Not true, as was published in the Federal Register, the official legal notice for US 281, EVERY SINGLE HIGHWAY LANE will be converted to a TOLL LANE and the NEW lanes will be access roads with stop lights and slower speed limits which will be the ONLY non-toll option. There will be NO toll-free highway lanes!

Lastly, TxDOT’s resources are hardly “tapped out.” The Legislature just doubled TxDOT’s bonding capacity, transferred more general revenues to TxDOT, and voters just gave them an additional $5 billion in bonds November 6. Then, 281 overpasses have been funded since 2003. TxDOT REFUSES to build them toll-free with the gas tax money it already has in hand because they want to raid the wallets of the poor chaps unfortunate enough to live and work in the 281 corridor. It’s money grab, pure and simple. This is anything but progress or speeding up road projects, rather, road contractors and complicit politicians have teamed up to jam up traffic everywhere until motorists submit to their plan to rip-off taxpayers!

Richard Perez: Toll road plan will enhance S.A.’s future

Web Posted: 12/01/2007 07:11 PM CST

Richard Perez
If we look 10 years into the future, few decisions will impact our city’s road safety, economic development and quality of life more than the Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Board decision scheduled for Monday. Which direction will we go? Will it be years of waiting, lawsuits and growing traffic, or will the city move forward?

The plan before the board is better than when we first discussed toll roads. When I served as chairman of the San Antonio-Bexar County MPO Transportation Policy Board, we included a toll system in the region’s long-range transportation plan. We were anxious that the system would be controlled in Austin. But now, the system is controlled locally by the Alamo Regional Mobility Authority. We were concerned that a foreign company would build the road and take the profits out of the U.S. But now, all profits stay in our region and will be used to maintain and expand future roadways.

We already see improvements. Through the hard work of Texas Transportation Commissioner Hope Andrade, we see remarkable construction on Interstate 10, the I-10/Loop 410 Interchange, the U.S. 281/Loop 410 Interchange, and Interstate 35 South from Military Drive to Division Avenue, to name a few. But these resources are tapped out.

We must take our next step toward progress. On Monday, members of the MPO Policy Board can pass a vote that provides long-term solutions to our traffic nightmare.

I support the MPO vote to add tolled lanes and direct connectors to the existing free expressway lanes. Here’s why.

We will always have free travel on U.S. 281 and Loop 1604. No one will ever be required to pay a toll. We will always have a free alternative adjacent to the toll lanes.

The free lanes on U.S. 281 will be in better shape once the toll roads are constructed. This design calls for adding lanes in the middle (where lanes currently do not exist). In order to do this, the design actually requires upgrades and enhancements to the current free lanes on U.S. 281, making free travel faster.

Traffic in San Antonio is getting worse every day. Congestion at key locations along U.S. 281 and Loop 1604 has already reached a level of “F” — the worst congestion ranking on a scale from A to F. And traffic continues to grow at 15 percent per year.

We have witnessed continued and significant federal and state transportation funding cuts; these cuts mean shrinking dollars for highways. Help is not coming any time soon from Washington, D.C. or Austin. Just this November, federal rescissions were announced, and the money once earmarked for transportation projects is no longer available. This also means that a significant portion of transportation projects the MPO Policy Board scheduled for 2008 will not happen or will be scaled back. We must solve this problem using our own resources.

The costs for roadway construction projects have risen 72 percent in the last five years. Intense global competition for raw materials such as cement, copper, steel, rubber and petroleum products has been a major factor in this rise. For example, a $100 million project in 2002 dollars now costs $172 million in 2007. We can’t wait.

When I served on the San Antonio City Council, my charge was to represent not only my district, but all the good people of our community. I always did my homework and acted in the best interests of San Antonio. As I take the reins of the chamber, my mission has not changed.

The chamber’s mission is to implement a long-term vision for a vibrant San Antonio. The plan before the MPO is our means. It is a fair solution, and at the end of the day, the only solution.

Richard Perez is president and CEO of the Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce. He formerly served two consecutive terms on the San Antonio City Council from 2003 – 2007.