DEADLINE TO SUBMIT PUBLIC CO0MENTS ON 281 TOLL CONTRACT JUNE 18 AT 5 PM!
Submit your comments by email to: 281toll@AlamoRMA.org or fax them to (210) 495-5403. Tell them we want the $100 million gas tax funded overpass plan not a $1.3 billion toll road on 281 NOW! Be sure to ask for confirmation that they received your comments!
PUBLIC HEARING ON 281 CONTRACT A FARCE!
Today, per state law, SB 792, the Alamo Regional Mobility Authority (ARMA) held a public hearing for the purpose of disclosing financial details about the toll contract, toll rates and escalation methodology, and how long the tolls will be collected on the highway. TURF and the San Antonio Toll Party were there, despite a public hearing being held in the middle of a workday. Here is our official statement that was limited to a paltry 3 minutes, though we represent thousands of citizens.
TURF Statement at RMA Public Hearing on 281 Toll Contract, June 11, 2008
First, this hardly satisfies the law’s requirement of a public hearing when it’s at 1 PM in the middle of a workday when the public you’re soliciting comments from is at work paying your salaries. The purpose of a public hearing is not like City Council business or other meetings, it’s to inform the public directly and seek their input, neither of which this hearing does.
Second, Mr. Thornton and others at the RMA have repeatedly misled the public saying this toll project accelerates the improvements to US 281 when in fact, the gas tax funded improvement plan promoted in hearings in 2001 which includes overpasses, added freeway lanes, and frontage roads (I have the plans right here to prove Mr. Irwin and Ms. Brechtel who directly lied in numerous public forums saying the original plan is insufficient because it lacked frontage lanes and access to businesses are wrong) has been funded and should have broken ground in 2003.
Third, the cost of this gas tax plan comes to $170 million adjusted for inflation in today’s dollars ($100 million in 2004 dollars). The amount of gas taxes ($100 million) and Texas Mobility Funds being used for this project (anywhere from $112 million to $325 million) would more than cover the cost of keeping 281 a FREEway as the overwhelming public comment at the legal National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) hearings asked for.
This is a taxpayer rip-off of mammoth proportions considering you’re now taking a $170 million improvement plan and turning it into a $1.3 billion project (as revealed in ARMA Notice of Public Hearing for the 281 project, $475 million construction cost, $864 million in interest) when you factor in the interest on the bonds. Also, your disclosure of the contract details falls woefully short since I have the market value study for 281 that shows you plan to refinance this loan in 15 years, which can significantly affect if not increase toll rates and will extend the life of the bonds from 40 to 50 years. Your disclosure also fails to reveal the source of debt for the remaining $141 million needed, the amount of interest on that debt, whether the public will vote on issuing that debt, and any fees paid to the bond investors for both bonds.
Fourth, you told the Judge in our federal lawsuit to stop this toll road nightmare that you were planning to sell bonds in August, now you’re saying it will be this fall. Once again, which is the truth? The public can hardly make an intelligent assessment of this project and provide comment given the lack of transparency, the lack of truthfulness, and the stubborn refusal to cease the conversion of an existing freeway into a tollway without a public vote as the law requires.
Lastly, today TxDOT announced it will change the project route for TTC-69 in response to the overwhelming public comments opposing the new corridor route. Yet today, the RMA and TxDOT stubbornly refuse to respond to the massive public outcry and public comment against this freeway to tollway conversion by installing the gas tax plan and abandoning the toll plan. One can hardly articulate the level of hypocrisy we’re witnessing today. So I guess you’ve left us no choice. We’ll see you in court.