Rep. Garnet Coleman re-introduces bill to put moratorium on tolls

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Toll Moratorium Proposed
Bill in legislature would block all tolling of existing highways for 2 1/2 years
By Jim Forsyth
WOAI Radio
February 14, 2007

If one state lawmaker has his way, there will be a 2 1/2 year moratorium on all new tolls and toll roads in Texas, 1200 WOAI news reported exclusively Thursday.

State Representative Garnet Coleman in Houston has introduced a bill to prohibit any tolls being imposed on new lanes of any existing highways around Texas until September of 2009. That would effectively put the brakes on the movement to build new toll lanes on Highway 281 north of Loop 1604, as well as on new lanes of 1604 itself.

The measure does not mention the controversial Trans Texas Corridor, which would not be included in the moratorium because it is not an ‘existing highway.’

Anti toll groups like the Texas Toll Party said Coleman’s idea is ‘sound and thoughtful.’

“We are very excited about Coleman coming out with a proposal as smart as this moratorium,” Toll Party Founder Sal Costello told 1200 WOAI news.

A similar moratorium on new toll construction was proposed in 2005 and failed, but Costello says public anger over toll roads is growing, and so is sentiment against tolls in the Texas Legislature.

“These tolls, what we’re finding in Central Texas, the new toll roads that were just put up, cost 16 times the national average,” he said.

Costello said what bothers Texans more than the idea of paying tolls is the fact that the toll roads are being pushed through over the obvious wishes of a vast majority of Texans. He says even though turnout at dozens of public hearings around the state has been overwhelmingly anti toll, the ‘pro toll forces,’ often with backing from large corporations which stand to gain financially from toll construction, appear to be determined to construct toll roads over all opposition.

He says a 2 1/2 year cooling off program would put more ‘sense’ into the debate.