Link to article here.
The North Texas Tollway Authority (NTTA) is literally drowning in debt and can’t make it’s debt service payments without raising toll rates 32% in a down economy, yet it’s hard to feel sorry for them when they acted like high rollers on the taxpayers dime with its $42,000 junket to Austria.
The NTTA wouldn’t be in this mess were it not for being forced to bid against Spain-based, Cintra, in order to keep Hwy 121 in public hands. They had to come up with an up front “balloon” payment of over $3 billion and now it’s coming home to roost. Regardless of who got the rights to what was once called the “road to riches,” it’s the taxpayers who are on the hook to pay the tolls. The tolls would be even higher were Cintra in charge. Read about the coming 75 cent per mile toll Cintra will bleed out of motorists on LBJ and I-820 here. Add to that the fact Senator Robert Nichols added an amendment to his bill to GUARANTEE when a public road is sold to a private toll operator that the corporation NEVER LOSES money on the deal, you see how severely our politicians have sold out the taxpayers!
North Texas Tollway Authority OKs rate hike
Thursday, July 16, 2009
By MICHAEL A. LINDENBERGER / The Dallas Morning News
Tolls will jump about 32 percent on North Texas Tollway Authority toll roads Sept. 1, thanks to a 8-1 vote this morning by board members.
The new rates will be about 14.5 cents per mile on the President George Bush Turnpike, State Highway 121, now known as the Sam Rayburn Tollway, and the Dallas North Tollway.
In imposing the increase, the board turned aside, by a 7-2 vote, a proposal by board member Bob Day, a Dallas County appointee. Day wanted the increase to be phased in over time. Day voted against the increase.
The new rates will boost NTTA revenues about $14 million this year, and $43.5 million in 2010, and a steadily rising amount in every year beyond.
Director Dave Denison said he was concerned that the rate was in response to temporary conditions caused by the current recession, and will bring in more than is necessary to meet the agency’s obligations.
“I’m not absolutely fully convinced” that the 14.5 cent rate is necessary, Denison said.
“If we come out of the recession and are going great guns we may not need all this money,” he said.
Some board members also initially seemed opposed to wording in the new rate policy that nows sets an automatic toll rate increase every two years. Every two years from now on, rates will jump nearly 6 percent, without the need for a board vote.
The increase is necessary, CFO Janice Davis said, because NTTA’s revenues are no longer enough to meet obligations to creditors to whom NTTA owes about $6 billion. Bond convenants require NTTA revenues to be at least 1.5 times its debt payments. Without the increases, the agency would likely not meet that obligation in the next couple years.
The automatic increases are necessary, too, or else NTTA’s ability to borrow more money to build new roads will be constrained, staff and financial advisors said. Previously, toll rates were reviewed only every five years.
NTTA’s financial squeeze is due to a combination of factors: while total traffic numbers are up, they are lower than expected; collections from drivers without toll tags have been less successful than expected; and fewer drivers on the new Sam Rayburn Tollway have signed up for toll tags.