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Filmmaker captures toll road opposition
By Patrick Driscoll
October 6, 2006
The more William Molina heard about toll road plans, the more outraged he got, until finally he picked up his camera and did what he does best.
Molina spent the past several months shooting more than 40 hours of footage at public meetings in San Antonio and nearby towns, talked to activists, tried to talk to toll road advocates and spliced together a film documenting what he says is a nexus of tremendous change.
“I just wanted to capture history,” the veteran filmmaker said. “One day we’re going to look back at this and say, how did this happen.”
“Truth Be Tolled,” which debuted last week and is available for free showings, offers Molina’s take on why this is happening, but mostly it’s a series of people from all walks of life, shown up close to reveal every twitch of emotion as they voice fear, anger and confusion.
“The most powerful thing about the film were the individual voices,” said Char Miller, director of urban studies at Trinity University, who sponsored a screening there Thursday.
The documentary, about and hour and 45 minutes long, treads quickly through massive state tolling laws passed in recent years, the new policies to toll every new highway lane possible with the help of private companies that would reap profits in return.
Now toll roads are planned in cities around Texas, including more than 70 miles in San Antonio. And work is under way to develop the Trans-Texas Corridor, a 4,000-mile network of toll lanes, railways and utility lines in swaths up to a quarter-mile wide through rural areas.
State officials say that to solve traffic congestion it’s better to use tolls rather than raise gas taxes to build more roads and complete them faster.
In the film, activists and elected officials bucking the shift to tolling said government has simply figured out a way to squeeze lots of money out of motorists, and they point out that traffic congestion is needed on free roads to make tollways profitable.
In public meetings throughout the state this summer, most speakers opposed toll plans.
“These are real people dealing with real issues, and the film just carries out their voices,” Molina said.
Molina, a Trinity University graduate who spent 15 years shooting movies and television shows in Hollywood and has done films for the Discovery and History channels, said he tried to interview officials with several agencies as well as elected leaders who favor tolls.
None agreed, he said.
“From what he was giving me, he already had his answers,” Texas Department of Transportation spokeswoman Gaby Garcia explained. “He wasn’t going to have a fair discussion or a balanced discussion on the issues.”
Trinity students Fletcher Rhoads and Emily Bower said the film tweaked their interest.
“It was more emotionally driven,” Bower said.
“Which is fine,” Rhoads said.
“But,” Bower added, “I feel like I need to do research on my own to form my own opinion.”
To find out more about the documentary and where it’s being shown, go to the Web at www.TruthBeTolled.com.