Skewed Results Leave Out the Most Pertinent Information Public Needs to Make Informed Decision About Toll Plan

San Antonio, TX, October 12, 2005 – By the Alamo RMA’s own press release revealing the results of a survey conducted by Baselice & Associates, they admit their toll plans are in trouble (though they probably don’t even know it). When asked the best way to pay for new construction, only 27% of Bexar County residents said toll lanes. That means 73% DO NOT WANT TOLL LANES. This is consistent with other polls that show 70% of Texans are opposed to tolls.

“What I find totally outrageous is that the Alamo RMA is surveying registered voters asking them party affiliation and how they vote (straight ticket or not) USING PUBLIC MONEY! IT’S AGAINST THE LAW for a state entity to conduct political polling (GOVERNMENT CODE – CHAPTER 556. POLITICAL ACTIVITIES BY CERTAIN PUBLIC ENTITIES AND INDIVIDUALS)!” says a shocked Terri Hall, San Antonio Director of a grassroots group opposed to freeway tolls called Texas Toll “This is another example of how this toll proliferation isn’t about mobility, congestion, and economic well-being, it’s about politics! It only confirms what Comptroller Carole Strayhorn found in her study of RMAs which found self-enrichment, insider dealings, and conflicts of interest (View the report).”

“TxDOT and the AMRA know that the ONLY thing that stands in their way is public opinion. The Governor and Legislature have already re-written the law to allow them to double tax roads we’ve already for and to toll our existing highways, so now these corrupt state agencies are trying to manipulate public opinion to appear in favor of their toll scheme. Despite their best efforts to spin the results to make it appear as though people prefer tolls more than other funding options, the survey at the end of the day, no matter how skewed, still manages to reveal that 73% of respondents don’t want tolls to fund highway projects,” notices Hall. “Frankly, it’s really sad that our government has become so irresponsible that we no longer trust its public opinion polls. The RMA is using a predictable scheme in order to push the largest tax increase in Texas history, increase the cost of doing business, and grow the size of government in very difficult economic times.”

The purpose of the survey is to push tolls. The TOLLING authority paid a company to manipulate the facts to get some positive numbers for tolls, which they got in some areas of the survey because the questions are clearly worded to produce the desired result in favor of tolls. In actuality, what the questions reveal is that people want congestion relief more quickly. Once respondents were given other options, the majority, 73%, didn’t favor tolls!

“The poll actually tells respondents that tolls won’t add to the tax burden! A toll is a tax and even when people choose NOT to pay it, they do pay the tax, BIG TIME, through the higher costs of goods. Many of the questions are based on such bogus statements, therefore most of this poll yields bogus results. When asking opinions about specific toll plans, it states new toll lanes would be added on specific freeways leaving the existing lanes non-tolled. That’s patently untrue and they know it!

This poll is rife with falsehoods and half truths like: it’s tolls or a 25 cent regional gas tax hike (the Central Texas MPO found it would only take 1.5-2 cents gas tax hike for needed improvements), it’s tolls or we don’t get our highway improvements for 20 years (TxDOT has admitted on camera to a local reporter that they have the funds for the improvements on 281 AND we have in our possession TxDOT’s own documents stating the funds exist and will be used to build US 281 as a toll road instead), that the people who use the toll lanes pay for the construction and operation of the toll lanes (not true $100 million in gas tax money is being used to re-build existing freeways into tollways), and every question about adding toll lanes leads the respondent to believe tolls would only be placed on NEW lanes (the Federal Highway Administration states any lanes built within existing right of way whether new pavement or not is an existing lane). These are verifiably false and misleading statements and the RMA needs to be held to account,” states Hall.

What they didn’t tell respondents is they’re converting existing lanes into toll lanes leaving only frontage road as the “non-toll alternative,” that they’re handing our highways over to a private company to set the toll rates as high as they want using secret contracts for up to 50 years, that taxpayer money not just private money is being used to build the toll roads, that bonds and pass through financing are among the options that can accelerate highway projects without using tolls, and a host of other vital information upon which people need in order to make an educated decision about the toll plans.

“I’d say this is key information that would glean vastly different answers. I KNOW it would because we’re on the ground every week educating people about TxDOT’s toll plans, and once folks find out they’re tolling an existing road we’ve already paid for, and in some cases that the improvements are paid for as well, it’s universally opposed! People aren’t just opposed; they’re incensed! TxDOT’s own survey conducted by UT Austin found that over 70% of Texans are against tolling existing roads, so of course, they have to lie in order to get numbers that make it appear Texans are for tolls.

“This slanted survey claims that support on the northside increased to 62% when given details about the plan, but nowhere do they tell those residents that the improvement plan for 281 is ALREADY FUNDED. Why don’t they ask northside residents this question: do you support paying tolls for improvements that are already paid for on highways that are already paid for? Did the pollster inform these residents that bonds can provide funding for other highway improvements without increasing the tax burden?” asks Hall.

Toll roads cost 40-100% more to build than free roads, they cost more to maintain, less than half of motorists can afford to use them, it drives up the cost of goods for everyone regardless of whether or not they personally choose to drive in the toll lanes, and it’s an inefficient tax where most of the money goes into collecting tolls and catching violators.

“To build these as traditional freeways it’s less expensive, less invasive, less maintenance, with more control and accountability to voters, allows business to maintain its cost of goods, and EVERYONE can use them. Who would choose tolls given that set of facts?” concludes Hall.

“Let’s see a true independent survey conducted….put the toll plan to a vote and the RMA will see definitively what voters think about their toll tax scheme,” challenged Hall. “The fact is TxDOT and the RMA are afraid of a genuine public debate on these issues. The facts are not on their side so they have to hide them or push a deceptive message in order to cram their toll plan down the taxpayers’ throats!”