Thursday, December 01, 2005

 

Front Page Story May Put Nail in Coffin!

Though the highway lobby and most of our public officials were giddy at the news that trees were coming down to make way for their MAMMOTH toll corridor on US 281 today, the cold hard facts revealed in the article are what will sink their ship! San Antonio was a buzz with talk about toll roads, all of it NEGATIVE! Whether you were in board rooms or restaurants, the common theme was, "Can you believe what they're gonna do to 281?" "This doesn't pass the smell test, it's being built with tax money but they're going to charge us a toll, too!" and "Where is all my gas tax going?"

Careful scrutiny of the words in this article reveal many of the dirty little secrets about these toll plans that few people understood until now (when details finally make front page news). TxDOT has been saying we have no money for roads, we have no money....yet there it is IN PRINT, $77 million in gas tax money dropped out of the sky to build an excessively large toll corridor--16 LANES--, when all that's needed is 4 overpasses at the lights and it's all done in less time for almost half the money ($48 million).

They have the money to build it as a toll road (that's nearly twice the cost), but they don't have the money to build it as a free road! Remember, all that's in writing is a contract to BUILD the road, THERE IS NO SIGNED CONTRACT THAT MAKES US 281 A TOLL ROAD AS OF YET! Also in today's article we find out they're ADDING TWO MORE TOLL LANES in addition to the 4-6 lanes they revealed in the public hearings, so more bait and switch. In total, they want to pave 16 lanes in the widest parts of the plan! Note how the foreign companies are vying for these "most lucrative toll lanes" in the plans! I'll say lucrative, that's because the private firms are only fronting 7% of the cost to build and then get to charge us tolls for the next 50 years!

OK, let's make this real simple. Toll roads cost more to build & maintain, only half of all motorists can afford to drive on them while 100% of taxpayers are footing the bill to build it, we're being charged THREE times to drive on the same stretch of pavement (taxed to build existing freeway, taxed to pay for the improvements, then lifetime toll tax to drive on it), they want to charge us THREE taxes to drive on our highways (gas tax, ATD sales tax, and tolls), the toll money is going to a foreign corporation for the next 50 years, and our elected officials are DICTATING this to us without a vote of the PEOPLE!

This is nothing short of HIGHWAY ROBBERY! THIS CANNOT STAND and WE THE PEOPLE need to RISE UP and STOP IT! We cannot let the Governor, the Legislature, and a host of local politicans do this to us. Link to the story or read on and get incensed!

Timber! U.S. 281 on road to tolls



12/01/2005

Patrick Driscoll
Express-News Staff Writer


The newest signs of construction on U.S. 281 aren't pretty, but they're the first visible proof that, yes, toll roads are coming to San Antonio.

Crews have begun scraping live oaks into piles along the highway and putting up fences to catch silt that rains soon will scour from the naked ground.

In January, workers will begin constructing frontage roads and later add four to eight express toll lanes from North Loop 1604 to Stone Oak Parkway. The new roadway will be 16 lanes at its widest points.

"It's a lot of pavement," said Frank Holzmann, a Texas Department of Transportation engineer.

The $83 million job, mostly funded with $77 million in gas taxes, is expected to take three years. TxDOT studies anticipate toll fees of 14 cents a mile.

While motorists welcome the extra lanes, they frown at the idea of paying tolls.

"It should have been done a long time ago," said John Hay, who drives on that stretch of U.S. 281 to get to work.

"But is that the toll road?" he added after a pause. "I think that's a bunch of crap. I don't think it needs to be a toll road."

Like many others, Hay will scout for the best alternate free road and figures he may have to add 8 miles to his 25-mile commute.

"But I won't have to deal with the tolls, I guess," he said.

Citing a shortfall of $8.4 billion over 25 years to build needed transportation projects in San Antonio, the Metropolitan Planning Organization has included more than 70 miles of toll roads in its long-range plans.

The agency also set aside more than $500 million in public money to subsidize toll projects.

Two private consortiums are competing to fully finance, build and operate the most lucrative toll lanes — a 47-mile system on Loop 1604 and U.S. 281 on the North Side.

The construction that starts next month is for the first 3 miles of U.S. 281 toll lanes, which will be the heart of the 47-mile network and a bargaining chip for the state in upcoming negotiations with the toll-road companies.

"It's a big step for the city of San Antonio and in improving mobility for the area," Holzmann said.

Some motorists are furious that existing U.S. 281 highway lanes will be replaced with frontage roads — even though the number of lanes will be the same — and say the toll lanes won't fix traffic problems.

Critics haven't given up on efforts to stop new lanes on U.S. 281 from being tolled.

"Have toll roads solved Houston's or Dallas' congestion and highway funding issues? No!" said Terri Hall of Texas Toll Party — San Antonio. "This toll mandate is an outrage, and our grass-roots movement is growing by the day."

Other hapless drivers still are learning the news.

"Toll lanes! My gracious," said John Perrott, stroking his chin. "Well, I don't know, I might go the back way."

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