Yesterday’s tolling authority (Alamo Regional Mobility Authority) meeting was interesting theater. Executive Director Terry Brechtel came under fire by Board member Bob Thompson, who also acted aggressively toward yours truly. Thompson, appointee of Commissioner Lyle Larson, seemed visibly shaken that the RMA doesn’t seem to have the money to pull off the first toll project, US 281. He recognized that even if there’s not one hitch, it’s teetering on the edge of “no go.” Brechtel and Chairman Bill Thornton explained they’re doing the best they can and the project has now been delayed for FOUR MONTHS in order to accommodate Washington Mutual’s offices and employees by extending the project to Marshall Road.
So for all the tens of thousands of motorists who use Hwy 281 daily, you don’t have the RMA’s ear, but if you’re Washington Mutual who already received millions in tax breaks, you get special treatment. So when TxDOT tells you that a lawsuit by concerned citizens caused delays to the fix on 281, remember that it’s TxDOT who intentionally delayed it to turn it into this toll project and now even the RMA is causing further delays. So all this time we’ve been told tolling is the ONLY option to accelerate these road projects….but the opposite is true if you look at the FACTS.
The original gas tax FUNDED improvement plan on 281 would have already been finished by now (funding became available 2004). The funding for the Borgfeld overpass has been available since 2003, and now even with the toll road, it won’t be extended past Marshall Rd for the foreseeable future. Brechtel admitted they plan to use the “surplus revenue” from 281 users to make improvements to 1604 rather than extend the improvements to Borgfeld as has been promised, funded, and on the books since 2003!
Even more telling was Thompson saying he was FOR the toll roads and eager to use that slush fund gathered from 281 users to fund mass transit. While we are FOR more mass transit options, taxing one corridor to death in order to fund other roads or programs is a discriminatory and unequal distribution of taxation (WITHOUT REPRESENTATION I MIGHT ADD).
So I asked if Thompson had checked with Commissioner Larson’s constituents who are very much opposed to tolling 281 if they support his pro-toll position to fund mass transit, and he came unhinged trying to defend himself having let the cat out of the bag.
It also became clear that TxDOT WANTS the RMA to fail so that it can then advance the CDA private toll contract for Loop 1604. The RMA wants the pot of money, so they’re against the private stuff, but TxDOT has not released Loop 1604 to the RMA because it still wants to give it to Cintra-Zachry. The same could be said of Hwy 121 in the Dallas area. TxDOT wants the public tolling authority’s bid to fail so it can give the project back to Cintra-Zachry. TxDOT is not only flouting the law, the leopard is showing its spots. They’re a wholly owned subsidiary of the road lobby that is burning any bridges it had left with County Judge Nelson Wolff and other local officials.
So the RMA’s venture into tolling has a rough road ahead, with more bumps coming….
Thornton, eager to get access to your wallets, had this to say to the road contractors who filled the room: “The prize is only 5 months out.” Well, not if the citizens have anything to do with it!