Senator Carona introduces key bill to stop non-compete agreements

Link to Express-News’ blog by Pat Driscoll here.

This is the same senator quoted in the December issue of the Texas Monthly as saying: ““Within thirty years’ time, under existing comprehensive development agreements, we’ll bring free roads in this state to a condition of ruin” due to these non-comete agreements. He not only brought this to light, he’s putting his money where his mouth is and introduced a bill to kill this nonsense! We applaud him for it and ask the grassroots to stand ready to pressure their legislators to ensure it gets passed untainted by the highway lobby!
Going for jugular of tolls
By Pat Driscoll
January 04, 2007

A well-placed senator in the Texas Legislature recently filed a bill that, if passed, would suck much of the gas out of efforts to toll as many new road lanes as possible.

I say well placed because John Carona, a Dallas Republican, chairs the Senate Committee on Transportation and Homeland Security.

He also co-chairs the Study Commission on Transportation Financing, which by the way apparently will not have a report ready when the legislative session starts Tuesday. The committee met twice last year, and the second was plagued by disagreements over a recent study challenging state estimates that compare gas taxes to tolls.

Carona’s SB 149 takes aim at an increasingly important tool to help make toll roads financially feasible. Called non-compete agreements, they offer guarantees that free roads will remain congested so that more motorists will pay to use toll lanes.

For example, the Texas Department of Transportation has agreed (here’s one) to reimburse private investors for any Texas 130 toll losses caused by improvements to nearby Interstate 35. Projects already listed in a 25-year plan are exempted.

“Non-compete clauses have been key components of agreements between states and (private) consortia,” a federal report says. “In order for a toll road to attract enough motorists to be profitable, it must offer them enough of a benefit, such as saving time, to overcome their aversion to paying tolls.”

Carona’s bill would put a stop to that in Texas.