Link to article here. As if a new tax on driving while paying $3 at the pump isn’t bad enough, this article outlines one of our top complaints…the MASSIVE tax subsidies that will be pumped into these financially risky toll roads. So you’ve already paid taxes to build 281 & 1604, additional tax money will be dumped into building the toll lanes, and then you’ll have to pay a THIRD tax, a toll tax, to drive on it!
Subsidizing toll roads
By Pat Driscoll
November 27, 2007
Something that might not get enough attention in the toll-road debate is the matter of public subsidies, so let’s take a look.
Texas Department of Transportation officials knew years ago that most toll roads wouldn’t be able to pay for themselves. To put it in DOT-speak, “Few projects are 100 percent toll viable.” To put it in taxpayer terms, public money on top of toll fees is needed to help pay for most of them.
Sure enough, in San Antonio where traffic hasn’t reached the same frenzied “Where-do-I-pay-to-get-out-of-this?” level seen in Dallas and Houston, none of the 70 miles of planned toll roads are wholly toll viable, early studies show. That includes U.S. 281 and Loop 1604, long viewed as the most lucrative projects.
A 2004 analysis said a then-planned 22-mile startup system is just 28 percent toll viable:
The local picture changed in 2005 when Cintra of Spain and Zachry Construction Corp. of San Antonio said they could build a 47-mile toll system on U.S. 281 and Loop 1604 without any public funds. Though no details were released, officials said the firms could do what TxDOT couldn’t because they had more ready capital to invest.
So TxDOT went ahead and broke ground on a three-mile section of 281, and hoped to get back its $77 million from a private concession deal being negotiated for all 47 miles.
But a lawsuit from critics stopped U.S. 281 work so more environmental study could be done, and before it was finished Senate Bill 792 nixed concession possibilities. Now 281 will be financed publicly rather than privately, a move cemented by local toll officials wanting to apply “reasonable” caps to toll fees.
But that means U.S. 281 will have to be subsidized.
The Alamo Regional Mobility Authority, the agency now developing the 281 project, won’t release the latest financial model but says $69 million in public funds is needed to help build the first four miles, plus $43 million more is needed for the next four miles and another $83 million for five interchange ramps at Loop 1604.
“There isn’t surplus revenue in the case of 281,” authority Director Terry Brechtel told her board last month.
To develop all of the U.S. 281 tollway, Brechtel on Monday will ask the Metropolitan Planning Organization to shift around some of the $325 million in public money earmarked for local toll projects.
Here’s a breakdown on where the subsidies and toll-backed bonds could go:
- U.S. 281 from Loop 1604 to Comal County
- $112.2 million in Texas Mobility Funds
- $363.5 million in toll bonds
Five ramps linking U.S. 281 and Loop 1604
- $82.6 million in Texas Mobility Funds
- $61.4 million in toll bonds
Loop 1604 from Texas 151 to Northwest I-10
- $63.2 million in Texas Mobility Funds
- $382.9 million in toll bonds
Loop 1604 between Northwest I-10 and U.S. 281
- $67 million in Texas Mobility Funds
- $193.9 million in toll bonds
- $325 million in Texas Mobility Funds
- $1 billion in toll bonds