SA Current article: Thornton shows yet again how out of touch he is with citizens, yet perfectly in touch with Perry's agenda

Link to article here.

Thornton demonstrates his elitist “we know best” attitude once again, and also shows how out of touch he is with those he’s charged with representing. That’s the problem with UNELECTED tolling authority board members. They do the bidding of politicians and the highway lobby without all the inconvenient backlash at the ballot box, they stick it to the taxpayers so “they come to depend on tolls,” and they go home skipping down the lane enjoying all the perks of the job like all expense paid trips to Toronto to “promote” the NAFTA corridor nobody but road builders and foreign interests wants.

He also continually spouts that we’re advocating doing nothing. Again, he ignores the alternatives posed by both the public and elected officials: install the original FUNDED plan on 281, build 1604 with gas taxes as promised when 1604 was built or with bonds, improve the traffic flow on Bandera (one alternative is 100% funded by the feds) with a less invasive option, install the orginal plan for Wurzbach that has had funding programmed for more than a decade, and use TxDOT’s own original plans for I-35 prior to this statewide shift to tolls (in order to create a crisis to benefit the highway lobby and fleece the taxpayer)!

Thornton again makes the oft repeated remark somehow trying to compare selling off control of our public infrastructure to Toyota coming to town. He, along with all the tollers, neglect or ignore a HUGE distinction which has the taxpaying public’s hackles up…Toyota isn’t buying up control of our limited public infrastructure, is still subject to competitors, and it isn’t taking FREEways and replacing them with tollways using 50 year SECRET sweetheart deals with non-compete agreements FORCING drivers to pay up a toll or sit in unbearable gridlock. Toyota is still subject to free market economics, the foreign companies buying up our infrastructure will not (read more here).

Thornton is either ignorant or has blinders on
About this created congestion crisis and potential alternatives…I guess Bill Thornton didn’t read the story in the Express-News that says commute times are going down (“Average commute time is getting shorter”). In San Antonio, commute times have gone up a measly 3 minutes in 25 years. Guess he also failed to read (or rather he ignored?) that roundabouts are the fastest growing traffic control method in the U.S., and they’re such a safety improvement over intersections, that the feds will pay for it all 100% (read about it here). He said he’d skip down the lane hand in hand if we showed him a funding source, there it is, but he brushes it off as unrealistic because it doesn’t involve tolls for Zachry.

Guess he failed to read 281 improvements are 100% paid for with gas taxes (which TxDOT’s David Casteel again reiterated on the radio August 31 that the full $100 million ORIGINAL plan, not just the $48 million for the first 3 miles, has been and still is 100% funded with our gas tax dollars so there’s no need to toll 281), and Loop 1604 can be paid for 100% with bonds (identified in TxDOT’s own feasibility studies for Loop 1604). Guess he failed to read that the Governor admitted (in this Statesman article “Perry’s road revolution could take electoral toll”) their “funding gap” is a wish list (used to create a crisis in the minds of taxpayers to justify tolls in the hands of foreign companies).

Guess he failed to read the Comptroller’s identification of two STATE reports (“Alternatives offered for Trans Texas Corridor”) to relieve I-35 traffic ALREADY VETTED BY TXDOT prior to the shift to tolls whose viability has already been determined that would negate the “need” for the TTC and tolls on existing portions of I-35 in the RMA’s projects, AND the $7 billion in mobility and revenue bonds (see it here) right now available today to build FREEways not tollways. Nope, they say that bond money is already “allocated.” ANY AND EVERY SOLUTION PRESENTED, even TxDOT’s own solutions, are rejected or seemingly ignored by the pro-tollers. So it begs the question, are they that ignorant of reality or are they wearing blinders supplied by the highway lobby?

For Whom the Ledge Tolls
By Keli Dailey
San Antonio Current
August 29, 2006

By accepting Governor Rick Perry’s invite to again chair the Alamo Regional Mobility Authority — described as a mini-TxDOT and endowed with special powers by the state lege to find money to build and operate roads (read: to usher in a shiny alloy era of Bexar County toll roads) — Dr. William Thornton starts his second term with the Alamo RMA and extends a long career of enduring angry, contorted faces. (You’d think he’d have his fill as a practicing oral surgeon and former SA mayor and councilman.

Toll-opposition groups like Aquifer Guardians in Urban Areas, the San Antonio Toll Party, and city councils in Helotes and Leon Valley have thrown symbolic stuff into a figurative harbor to protest the Alamo RMA’s pending toll projects. In August, Helotes and Leon Valley adopted resolutions condemning a proposal for an elevated (or maybe not) toll road along Texas Highway 16, aka Bandera Road, that would be a 6.5-mile link from 410 W to 1604 W — just one of four tolling projects that Thornton’s RMA is working on.

The project with the most traction to date, a proposed 47-mile toll connecting U.S. 281 and Loop 1604 (currently delayed by legal challenges to its environmental studies), involves TxDOT, Cintra (a Spanish company) and Cintra’s minority partner Zachry Construction of San Antonio — aka Governor Perry’s little darlings, who won the bid to fund, build, and collect user fees along the first leg of proposed tollway behemoth the Trans-Texas Corridor alternative to I-35.

The Current caught up with Thornton at Jim’s on 410, where the oral surgeon was wearing blue scrubs, eating an omelette, and extolling the virtues of tolling.

With the recent flap over Dubai’s port deal, you can see why people aren’t happy about selling vital infrastructure to foreign companies, right?
Do they have a problem with Toyota? Toyota’s from Japan. Look, there’s no way the toll roads are going to pick up and move to [Cintra’s homeland] Spain. It’s an investment. It’s a financing of a significant, important infrastructure to meet our needs. If they’re going to take the risk in that investment, they should get a return. And because of that, we’re able to accelerate from 20 to 7 years our transportation projects.

But what if cities still don’t want tollways? Look at Helotes and Leon Valley’s resolution to reject the elevated tollway.
Look, there were 10 to 12 different options discussed on Bandera. There’s not much patience around this community project. There are 17 significant intersections from 1604 to 410. I find it interesting that at the public hearings people went so far as to suggest roundabouts, you know, the ones you see in quaint European movies. That’s what some of the toll opposition has suggested instead. Can you see between here and Selma 17 roundabouts? Somewhere reality’s got to come into play.

Nationwide, though, the track record for tolls even as a revenue source is iffy. And an AP story said tolls are more dangerous — Indiana’s I-90 toll road has many accidents. They’re also seen as a double taxation particularly hard on low-income people.
I would argue that the low-income individuals who use it, will come to depend on it to get to work, and that the loss of potential income if they didn’t have a toll road makes up for what they’re spending … I would challenge those who say it is not affordable for lower-income people and say the discretionary income factor is more important … The only other option is to raise property taxes, or the gas tax.

C’mon, isn’t there money out there for transportation projects? Look at that $286-billion Republican highway bill just signed by President Bush that’s earmarked with all kinds of pet projects, like that $223 million bridge to nowhere in Alaska.
Well, you need to be talking to the state legislature, then Congress. The percentage of dollars that comes to Texas, that we’re competing for, and right now we’re working to involve every voice in San Antonio that we can get to address things now. We can’t wait for the federal dollars, because in the meantime, we sit here in gridlock.
And another thing about the gas tax — as a funding source, there’s a concern because it’s diminishing. People are getting better gas mileage. Twenty years from now, if things continue and cars get more fuel efficient, a future based on a gas tax won’t be as predictable as it used to be. I think one of the things in talking is we’re trying to present more options. One of the options people are calling for is to do nothing and I think that’s irresponsible.

But what about the man at a Bandera hearing who said he didn’t want to pay 25 cents to go up to H-E-B and get bread …
They need to go to an H-E-B closer to the house.

What if it’s along a route he normally takes to the store, now suddenly made into a toll …
No, no existing roads would be converted into a toll. We don’t even know where the entrance or exits would be on our projects yet. This is a way for us to take control of what will be done and how money will be spent locally. Maybe we can create a multi-modal mobility authority that works with VIA and the City and County and, dare I say, somewhere in the future maybe explore mobility opportunities for light rail.

It’s easy to sit on the outside and shoot arrows toward the middle, it’s easy to talk about what the future might be if the legislature were to raise the gas tax. The reality is we have a problem today and I don’t see that many additional sources of revenue to solve this problem. If someone can tell me what these sources are, I’ll join hands with them and skip down the road.