window.dataLayer = window.dataLayer || []; function gtag(){dataLayer.push(arguments);} gtag('js', new Date()); gtag('config', 'UA-29484371-30');
Wednesday , February 20 2019
STEP 728
RHINOS 2018-2019 728
Bordertown Undergroun Show 728
Home | Tag Archives: texas tolls

Tag Archives: texas tolls

Lawmakers Frustrated Over Increasing Costs to Pay Off Tolls

Paying off most of the debt Texas has racked up building toll roads would cost about $36.7 billion, a final report from the Texas Department of Transportation revealed, a tall order for state lawmakers who would like to wean the state off tolled highways.

The estimate, a jump from the findings of a preliminary report, fueled conversation at a Senate Transportation Committee hearing Wednesday called to look at the department’s progress in calculating the cost of eliminating toll roads across the state.

“The report includes a review of 53 toll roads and 28 financial tolling systems in the state, excluding international bridges,” department Executive Director James Bass told the committee.

During the 2015 legislative session, a bill pushed by Rep. Joe Pickett, D-El Paso, asked TxDOT to figure out the cost of removing tolls acrossttqtToll the state, though a decision to do that has not been made. Lawmakers understand that the public is getting increasingly displeased with paying both taxes and tolls, committee chairman Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, acknowledged.

That frustration was expressed by Terri Hall, head of Texans for Toll-free Highways, who told the panel the state should eliminate tolls because the public has no say in their imposition.

“The state must insist TxDOT implement a plan to retire these tolls one by one until they’re gone,” Hall said. “Tolls are the most expensive option and must cease to be the most used option. This toll tsunami is on autopilot and we must declare no more.”

In his own PowerPoint presentation, Nichols noted that the state’s budgetary emphasis on transportation has decreased over the past decades. According to his figures, one third of the state budget went to transportation in 1960. Today, that number is closer to 11 percent.

Tolls came about because transportation has been poorly funded, he said.

“If the department is adequately funded, there is not a need for toll roads,” Nichols said in an interview. “And I agree with that. The state would’ve never gotten into toll roads had transportation been adequately funded.”

During the 84th legislative session, however, lawmakers passed extensive measures to boost transportation funding, allocating none of the new funds to toll roads. In May 2015 the Legislature agreed to ask voters to approve dedicating $2.5 billion of general sales tax to highway funding, which will begin in 2017.

ttqtToll2The following month, Gov. Greg Abbott signed a series of transportation bills, including House Bill 20 which brings transparency into the project funds of the Texas Department of Transportation, and House Bill 2612 which requires TxDOT’s report.

To help wean the state off of toll roads, Sen.Bob Hall, R-Edgewood, suggested that Bass take a “serious look” at ramp metering, a method of controlling busy roads with either a traffic light or two-section signal light. Hall said they’ve proved successful in many states, including Missouri and California. Bass said TxDOT is “looking at opportunities to pilot and try it out more than what we currently have.”

“With modern technology, many states are using this to help managing traffic rather than penalizing the poor with tolls,” Hall said at the meeting. “They reduce emissions, are not very expensive and reduce accidents.”

To generate revenue for transportation, Hall suggests dedicating more of the vehicle sales tax and the gasoline tax to the highway fund.

“People don’t want to give more [of their money] until they see what their giving is going to the right place,” Hall said.

Read more Tribune coverage on this topic:

Correction: This story originally stated that the estimated toll road debt was $36.7 million. Don’t lawmakers wish. It’s actually $36.7 billion.

Author:  – The Texas Tribune

Paying Off Texas Toll Roads Could Top $30 Billion

If Texas decided to pay off the construction debt for nearly all of its toll roads tomorrow, the price tag would be somewhere in the neighborhood of $30 billion — at least according to a preliminary report from the Texas Department of Transportation.

TxDOT Executive Director James Bass and Texas Transportation Commission Chair Tryon Lewis discussed these findings during a House Transportation Committee hearing on Wednesday, focusing on the potential cost of eliminating toll roads across the state.

The department is preparing a final report for the committee in September, as required by a law passed during last year’s legislative session. The measure, authored by Rep. Joe Pickett, D-El Paso, asked the agency to review toll roads across the state and produce a plan detailing what the state would have to do to remove them.

Despite his role in the legislation, Pickett said he is realistic about how to limit the reach of tolls.

“I don’t see Texas just committing to paying off $50 billion in debts so that we can say we don’t have any tolls in Texas — that’s not feasible,” said Pickett, who chairs the transportation committee, on Wednesday afternoon. He said the state has “made headway” preventing “bad projects” from moving forward.

While it is unlikely the state would attempt to eliminate all tolls in one fell swoop, Bass explained that the $30 billion price tag was a rough guess and that it would likely take “weeks and weeks” to produce a more accurate number.

Bass said the state has 51 toll roads and bridges finished or under construction, which combined have more than $21 billion in outstanding debts — a number that would jump to $38 billion if the state opted to pay off the bond debt over several years. Both numbers increase with the addition of public-private toll roads.

One toll project not included in the calculations is the privately operated toll road on the southern part of State Highway 130, run by the SH 130 Concession Company. In March, the company filed for bankruptcy less than four years after its section of the highway opened.

While the department is required to produce a plan for completely removing tolls, Pickett said his emphasis was on explaining what eliminating these tolls would actually look like for Texas.

“I’m not talking about all tolls everywhere, but I did want the discussion so regions can talk about how much debt the regions have and what their plans are,” Pickett said. “And I think by next session we should hopefully be able to move forward and say, “OK, I think some of these could be removed.’”

Author:  – The Texas Tribune

The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues

STEP 728
Bordertown Undergroun Show 728
RHINOS 2018-2019 728