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VinnyVincent

Why does everyone keep talking about toll roads like it's a positive thing?

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VinnyVincent    17

Do you guys really believe the BS about how tolls are the only way to build new roads?

I don't buy it at all.

For off; it cost a lot more to build a toll road. Look at 288. For starters is that really an area we should be focusing on? Seems to like a good business opportunity and nothing more. Lands already cleared and paid for...all they gotta do is put the road there and $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

 

Look at 290 where HCTRA pushed so hard to get their hand in. They contributed what? less than 20% in order to have the right to "manage" the HOV lane(that most people don't even want) 

Are you telling me we couldn't have done something modest like add a lane in each direction and leave metro in charge of the HOV without their money? It makes no sense at all.

The ONLY sense it makes is politicians are pushing for it so they can get rich off the lobbyists.

 

Look at 249 in Tomball. It's a joke. I'm sitting through 3-4 light cycles while a single car flied by every 10-15 seconds because they opted to pay toll on a road that ALREADY existed.

 

This is a freaking outrage and most people I encounter act like we are being done this huge favor by having tolls added. It's a total joke. We're being lied to.

BW8 makes BILLIONS per year and they claim that "that's what it costs to maintain the road" PSHHH!

Edited by VinnyVincent
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samagon    1989

the P&L is public, since it's a county thing.

 

I'm sure more current ones can be found than this:

http://www.harriscountytx.gov/CmpDocuments/66/Specialized_Reports/Toll Road FY2010.pdf

 

I don't particularly like everything being made a toll road, personally I'd like to see metro become an entity that combines with HCTRA and for every dollar spent on toll roads, some amount be spent on alternative options (rail, commuter, light, whatever).

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VinnyVincent    17
34 minutes ago, samagon said:

the P&L is public, since it's a county thing.

 

I'm sure more current ones can be found than this:

http://www.harriscountytx.gov/CmpDocuments/66/Specialized_Reports/Toll Road FY2010.pdf

 

I don't particularly like everything being made a toll road, personally I'd like to see metro become an entity that combines with HCTRA and for every dollar spent on toll roads, some amount be spent on alternative options (rail, commuter, light, whatever).

 

So if I'm reading this right, it looks like their net from the year 2010 was almost 1.5 billion dollars. They have so much money that they loan it out to people like they are a bank.

 

This is a private entity who is exploiting a road that cost less than a billion to construct. Think about it...they took 249; a road that was already there and basically installed toll booths. IIRC the county/state gets something like 20% of the revenue. So we are taking money from the state highway fund and allowing private companies to profit off that investment. In many cases these companies/investors are based overseas.

 

You're telling me there's NO alternative?

I like to invest. I also commute on 288. Personally I don't see a need to expand 288 if you compare it to other roads around here...but at any rate, I would have been willing to invest 10,000 dollars if I got a guaranteed return on it, to expand 288 and make it a toll road. I'm a man of modest means so I am sure many others would also have been willing to invest for a guaranteed return(which is what is written into the contract for these overseas investors. If the road isn't profitable guess what? The county/state has to subsidize their profits)

 

Why aren't options like that being considered? Why is it only open to private investor groups? The whole thing stinks.

 

 

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SkylineView    1215

I'd rather let the county build toll roads (out north, out west, here in town, wherever) and let the users pay for them.  Harris county has done pretty well at building facilities that people are willing to pay for and willing to use.  As long as that's the case, and the debt burden doesn't get shifted back to the taxpayers (State Highway 130... LOL), why should I pay for those roads?  

 

In fact, if you pushed that idea to the extreme... if I tossed away my car, could I get a tax discount?  What if I got a credit for not driving.  What if I only paid what I drove?


Now I'm sorry I thought about this at all... And I've opened the box on 'pay to play' with roads??  Sorry in advance. (LINK)

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VinnyVincent    17
12 hours ago, SkylineView said:

I'd rather let the county build toll roads (out north, out west, here in town, wherever) and let the users pay for them.  Harris county has done pretty well at building facilities that people are willing to pay for and willing to use.  As long as that's the case, and the debt burden doesn't get shifted back to the taxpayers (State Highway 130... LOL), why should I pay for those roads?  

 

In fact, if you pushed that idea to the extreme... if I tossed away my car, could I get a tax discount?  What if I got a credit for not driving.  What if I only paid what I drove?


Now I'm sorry I thought about this at all... And I've opened the box on 'pay to play' with roads??  Sorry in advance. (LINK)

So it doesn't bother you at all that "paying to play" is resulting in commuters overpaying by billions? I used to take BW 8 to work and it was costing me  3K a year.

I think I'd be totally okay with that IF we were building, or even maintaining the untolled roads around here, but we're not. Not only are we not doing that, we are converting existing roads to tolled roads.

When does it stop? How long before you are tolled every time you leave the neighborhood?

 

If that financial report showed them putting billions back into our infrastructure I think I'd be totally fine with it, but that's not happeningi at all, so in my opinion we are getting ripped off big time on this "pay to play" tax as you put it. Which is really all toll roads are. It's a double form of taxation and what is making this deal even more sour; a majority of the revenue is not even going back to our state/county. It's going to private investors/privatize toll operators who are using our constables like their own private police force, to enforce fines that would otherwise be illegal for any other company under the consumer protection act.

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VinnyVincent    17

And before someone argues that it's not double taxation, let me remind you that  a large portion of these toll projects are not only initially funded by the state highway fund, but they are also subsidized for maintenance and administration in spite of the fact that a large percentage of the profit goes to private entities.

 

Also, if a toll road is not profitable, such as the case with the Hardy toll road, the state has to pay the private operator(HCTRA in this case) a subsidy so that they and the initial investors receive a guaranteed profit that was written into their contract with the state.

So if it turns out to be a bad investment, the state loses out and money starts getting leeched from our state highway fund. There is literally zero risk for the private investor groups.

Edited by VinnyVincent
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DNAguy    331

HCTRA is not a private company.

 

It's a democratically approved enterprise by Harris County. People wanted / voted for this as the state of Texas was constitutionally prohibited from building / running toll roads.

 

If you don't like it or disagree with its mission/function, then I would try to start a ballot initiative in Harris county to repeal its existence.

 

However, as of the late 2000's (I can't remember what year) the state of Texas now has the ability to build roads as tolled facilities by initially floating bonds and using tolls to service said bonds. In addition, the state of Texas can go further and actually give a private company exclusive rights to a tolled facility if they design and build the road in state owned / purchased ROW.

 

So if you get rid of HCTRA, most likely you'll have less local control and possibly have private companies running the toll roads..... which is exactly what you're getting with 288. That's not a HCTRA project, that's a TxDOT project. The portion in Brazoria county is not, however. That is the Brazoria county analogue to HCTRA.

 

If you take the state's ability to build, sanction, or run toll facilities then you have no new roads.

 

So if your gripe is with toll roads in general, then bitching about HCTRA is sort of misplaced. Tolls fill in a funding gaps. Current tax levels cannot support the maintenance on existing roads. To be able to service current roads and build new ones for the growing population would require a large increase in taxes through some sort of increased registration fee, gas tax, mileage tax, or carbon tax of some sort.

 

If you're not ok with that, then HCTRA and TxDOT have to fill in the funding with something.... like a usage fee.... which is exactly what a toll is. There are arguments that say this is actually the fairest way to fund roads as those who use it, pay for it.

 

There are a lot of nuances to this argument. "tolls=bad" doesn't scratch the surface.

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VinnyVincent    17
13 minutes ago, DNAguy said:

 

It's a democratically approved enterprise by Harris County.

What's the difference? "enterprise" is defined as a business or a company. 

They are making billions in profit and the money does not seem to be making it's way back into our infrastructure, so something certainly seems fishy there...

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VinnyVincent    17
1 minute ago, VinnyVincent said:

I also don't think people wanted it and if it got voted in, it probably did so with heavy lobbying.

 

Edited by VinnyVincent
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Houston19514    2157
3 minutes ago, VinnyVincent said:

What's the difference? "enterprise" is defined as a business or a company. 

They are making billions in profit and the money does not seem to be making it's way back into our infrastructure, so something certainly seems fishy there...

 

Do just a little bit of research and read more carefully.  HCTRA is not a private entity as you have suggested; it is a part of Harris County government.

 

Further, I don't know where you got the idea they are netting more than a Billion Dollars per year.  Their total gross revenue is well under $1 Billion per year (under 1/2 Billion in the year that was linked above).  In Fiscal Year 2015, total gross revenue was about $711 Million.  Their "Net" was about $118 Million.  And contrary to your claim that none of the money makes its way back into infrastructure, in addition to the money they spend building and maintaining toll roads in Harris County, they transfer money annually to fund non-toll County road or enhancement projects ($120 Million in Fiscal Year 2015, and that is in addition to $200 Million that HCTRA contributed to TXDoT for the 290 project)

 

Harris County Toll Road Authority Financial Statements - Fiscal Year 2015

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VinnyVincent    17
35 minutes ago, Houston19514 said:

 

Do just a little bit of research and read more carefully.  HCTRA is not a private entity as you have suggested; it is a part of Harris County government.

 

Further, I don't know where you got the idea they are netting more than a Billion Dollars per year.  Their total gross revenue is well under $1 Billion per year (under 1/2 Billion in the year that was linked above).  In Fiscal Year 2015, total gross revenue was about $711 Million.  Their "Net" was about $118 Million.  And contrary to your claim that none of the money makes its way back into infrastructure, in addition to the money they spend building and maintaining toll roads in Harris County, they transfer money annually to fund non-toll County road or enhancement projects ($120 Million in Fiscal Year 2015, and that is in addition to $200 Million that HCTRA contributed to TXDoT for the 290 project)

 

Harris County Toll Road Authority Financial Statements - Fiscal Year 2015

I don't trust them. All the financial info is coming from within their organization and no third party is involved. The higher ups are likely some group of slimeball politicians who are sneaking money out of the cookie jar where ever they possibly can.

Their financials report appears to have been intentionally made hard to read. It does have 1.3 billion as a net figure somewhere on the 2010 report...

Even if their net is "only" 118 million; what's being done with that money?

 

As far as I am concerned they didn't DONATE a dime to the 290 project either. They paid an "operator fee" to boot metro out from being able to enforce an HOT lane that was created with tax dollars.

That's all it amounts to. The paid a bride to be able to get their hands on the money. If that's not the case then why is metro getting booted out?

That brings me to another point on the 290 project;

The total cost was 1.4 billion. HCTRA contributed 400 million. Are you telling me this project wouldn't have been possible without HCTRA and their contribution?

Sounds to me like HCTRA is paying to convert 290 into a partial toll road and that's where their contribution got used.

So I ask what happened to "we can't build roads without them being tolled"? Really? We could not have added a lane in each direction on 290 for 1 billion and left the HOT lane as is to make up for the missing 400 million???

We could have cut HCTRA out of the deal, told them to keep their 400 million and used the remaining 1 billion from TxDOT to expand the road, could we not have?

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SkylineView    1215
Quote

I don't trust them. All the financial info is coming from within their organization and no third party is involved. 

 

Friend, way false.  They are audited by the Harris County Auditor and by Deloitte  (LINK).  Their bonds are ranked by (among others) Fitch (LINK) and Moody's (LINK).  This is 'real-money' project financing, not like building a McDonalds.  These guys have no incentive to falsify their ratings or projections on this stuff and everybody at the table (their customers and stakeholders) are sophisticated enough to do their own review of the package.  

 

You can choose not to trust HCTRA, but they are part of Harris County, so it's your government and your assets (though they have liens to the underlying debt).  You can choose not to trust Deloitte (I mean, sigh... auditors... am I right?), and/or Fitch & Moodys but you have to draw the line somewhere.  I'll take my elected officials, a world-renowned big-four firm, and two of the top three ratings agencies over a random guy on the internet.  

 

Sorry bro.

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VinnyVincent    17
23 minutes ago, SkylineView said:

 

Friend, way false.  They are audited by the Harris County Auditor and by Deloitte  (LINK).  Their bonds are ranked by (among others) Fitch (LINK) and Moody's (LINK).  This is 'real-money' project financing, not like building a McDonalds.  These guys have no incentive to falsify their ratings or projections on this stuff and everybody at the table (their customers and stakeholders) are sophisticated enough to do their own review of the package.  

 

You can choose not to trust HCTRA, but they are part of Harris County, so it's your government and your assets (though they have liens to the underlying debt).  You can choose not to trust Deloitte (I mean, sigh... auditors... am I right?), and/or Fitch & Moodys but you have to draw the line somewhere.  I'll take my elected officials, a world-renowned big-four firm, and two of the top three ratings agencies over a random guy on the internet.  

 

Sorry bro.

I'm sorry some random guy on the internet is having to tell you this, but;

Organizations lie/misrepresent information on their financial reports and get away with it all the time. It's very common. Have you ever known anyone who works in accounting? They can attest.

 

No incentive to lie? Are they drawing a paycheck? Do government organizations not participate in quid-pro-quo? 

Just because it's the government you assume the money is being spent responsibly?

 

But don't take my word for it, I'm just some random guy who is upset with the fact that just about every highway surrounding him is becoming a road were it costs 1.75(and rising) just to go 4+/- miles. You don't find it at all hard to believe that it apparently costs that much just to maintain a road? 2 dollars to roll your car over a 4 mile stretch of road one time? Come on! I was born at night but it was not last night.

Also why not just increase taxes? The argument for "paying for something you don't use" goes out the window since people are claiming that a significant amount of money is being "donated" to help maintain non-tolled roads.

It's a tax no matter how you look at it...but as a toll road, we end up paying way too much for that tax.(and we are being taxed twice since it is subsidized to a large extent by the state highway fund)

I can't believe so many people are being outright screwed by these people and you are actually DEFENDING them.

Have you ever visited this site? http://www.texasturf.org/

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VinnyVincent    17
Just now, VinnyVincent said:

I'm sorry some random guy on the internet is having to tell you this, but;

Organizations lie/misrepresent information on their financial reports and get away with it all the time. It's very common. Have you ever known anyone who works in accounting? They can attest.

 

No incentive to lie? Are they drawing a paycheck? Do government organizations not participate in quid-pro-quo? 

Do politicians and members of government organizations not accept money/bribery to make laws/regulations that don't make sense a reality?

Just because it's the government you assume the money is being spent responsibly?

 

But don't take my word for it, I'm just some random guy who is upset with the fact that just about every highway surrounding him is becoming a road were it costs 1.75(and rising) just to go 4+/- miles. You don't find it at all hard to believe that it apparently costs that much just to maintain a road? 2 dollars to roll your car over a 4 mile stretch of road one time? Come on! I was born at night but it was not last night.

Also why not just increase taxes? The argument for "paying for something you don't use" goes out the window since people are claiming that a significant amount of money is being "donated" to help maintain non-tolled roads.

It's a tax no matter how you look at it...but as a toll road, we end up paying way too much for that tax.(and we are being taxed twice since it is subsidized to a large extent by the state highway fund)

I can't believe so many people are being outright screwed by these people and you are actually DEFENDING them.

Have you ever visited this site? http://www.texasturf.org/

 

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DNAguy    331

VV,

 

Rail at HCTRA all you want, but as I said before, they only exist because voters allow them to exist.

 

There's nothing nefarious about its existence. If you have a fundamental disagreement with their mission or actions then I suggest you start a campaign for Harris county to eliminate it.

 

I think you'd have a tough case to prove that HCTRA is cooking the books, but I learned on Tuesday that your general mistrust in institutions / government is an extremely effective way to politic right now.

 

I do not agree with 99.99% of what your saying, but your anger is real and government needs to start listening to it.

 

The appointed bureaucratic institutions like HCTRA, METRO, and TIRZ's need to get ahead of this sentiment and really lobby the public at large, They need to prove their worth and be as open and transparent as possible. It's either that or they'll see to exist.

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LTAWACS    65
On 11/8/2016 at 1:12 PM, VinnyVincent said:

Do you guys really believe the BS about how tolls are the only way to build new roads?

I don't buy it at all.

For off; it cost a lot more to build a toll road. Look at 288. For starters is that really an area we should be focusing on? Seems to like a good business opportunity and nothing more. Lands already cleared and paid for...all they gotta do is put the road there and $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

 

Look at 290 where HCTRA pushed so hard to get their hand in. They contributed what? less than 20% in order to have the right to "manage" the HOV lane(that most people don't even want) 

Are you telling me we couldn't have done something modest like add a lane in each direction and leave metro in charge of the HOV without their money? It makes no sense at all.

The ONLY sense it makes is politicians are pushing for it so they can get rich off the lobbyists.

 

Look at 249 in Tomball. It's a joke. I'm sitting through 3-4 light cycles while a single car flied by every 10-15 seconds because they opted to pay toll on a road that ALREADY existed.

 

This is a freaking outrage and most people I encounter act like we are being done this huge favor by having tolls added. It's a total joke. We're being lied to.

BW8 makes BILLIONS per year and they claim that "that's what it costs to maintain the road" PSHHH!

 

 

Absolutely agree. It's refreshing to know that someone else thinks of toll roads as I do. Those who pay for toll roads have got to be somewhat mislead.

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Ross    616

If we don't use tolls, we don't get roads. It is that simple. The money has to come from somewhere , but there is no desire to raise taxes.

 

If you think HCTRA financial are dense, you haven't looked at TxDot's books.

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IronTiger    721

A higher gas tax would help pay for more highways, but it's just not what people want right now, even though that is making new highways smaller and smaller (now they're already building three-lane toll roads). But there are multiple things in play. There are three different tolling authorities (maybe four, not sure about San Antonio's hand) that control regional toll roads, the 290 lanes were actually originally built with federal transit funding (as being used for bus lanes were a big deal), it was only the whole "federal funding" that METRO had a say in Interstate 10...it's all pretty complex and your questions all have different answers.

 

I'm not the mood to write some giant, well-researched post tonight, though, sorry!

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samagon    1989
On 11/9/2016 at 11:53 AM, VinnyVincent said:

I also don't think people wanted it and if it got voted in, it probably did so with heavy lobbying.

 

back when the BW8 was it as far as toll roads, the ballot that was voted was that a road would be built, it would be tolled, once paid for, it would be free.

 

This was how it was sold to the voters. the fine print said that they could move the money around however they wanted, so while the people driving on the first BW8 segment, between i10 and 59 have paid for that segment probably 5 time over, the money has been used to pay for other tollways.

 

Anyway, we voted for it. We may have been dumb to not look at the fine print of what we were voting for, but as it turns out, HCTRA is better than the txdot version, as has been mentioned.

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ernie5823    9

There may have been others, but the only toll road that I can think of that turned free was the old DFW Turnpike, now Interstate 30. It took about 20 years to pay it off.

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Dustin    5

Ideally, paying a toll to use a road means that road is a quicker alternative. You're paying for an easier commute. Since this basic reason for a toll road has long since been lost in the shuffle of money  mismanagement, greed and political gain, I now don't like toll roads. Haven't for a long time.

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VinnyVincent    17
On 11/10/2016 at 9:02 AM, DNAguy said:

VV,

 

Rail at HCTRA all you want, but as I said before, they only exist because voters allow them to exist.

 

There's nothing nefarious about its existence. If you have a fundamental disagreement with their mission or actions then I suggest you start a campaign for Harris county to eliminate it.

 

I think you'd have a tough case to prove that HCTRA is cooking the books, but I learned on Tuesday that your general mistrust in institutions / government is an extremely effective way to politic right now.

 

I do not agree with 99.99% of what your saying, but your anger is real and government needs to start listening to it.

 

The appointed bureaucratic institutions like HCTRA, METRO, and TIRZ's need to get ahead of this sentiment and really lobby the public at large, They need to prove their worth and be as open and transparent as possible. It's either that or they'll see to exist.

Actually if you do any digging at all, you'll see that HCTRA and their partner, linebarger blair and sampson, who participates in their ridiculous collection practices that would otherwise be illegal for any private company, have been involved in quite a few known cases of lobbying and otherwise doing very shady things with their money. A simple google search for something like "HCTRA illegal" will yield numerous lengthy articles on the subject.

 

All the writing is on the wall, but no one reads it because they eat the BS they are spoonfed by the people running these roads. 

I've pointed out several scenarios, such as with highway 290 where only about 25% of the money came from toll revenue. The rest of the money came from the state highway fund. 

 

In other words we can build and expand roads to a certain extent WITHOUT using any of these private investors money. Any statement otherwise is a lie and generally made by a person who has something to gain.

 

Is anyone else here familiar with the TURF website? Lots of good info on there.

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VinnyVincent    17
On 11/10/2016 at 9:02 AM, DNAguy said:

The appointed bureaucratic institutions like HCTRA, METRO, and TIRZ's need to get ahead of this sentiment and really lobby the public at large, They need to prove their worth and be as open and transparent as possible. It's either that or they'll see to exist.

They do lobby the public at large lol...that lobbying consists of BSing the public into thinking hteir existence is necessary- it's not.

 

I think there's a good reason for why they don't directly try to show the public their "worth". It wouldn't take long for a majority of the public to realize they are in fact worthless and need to go. Our roads should not be sold to private foreign investors and then later sold back to us for a profit. That's freaking ridiculous.

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VinnyVincent    17
On 11/11/2016 at 4:03 PM, samagon said:

 

back when the BW8 was it as far as toll roads, the ballot that was voted was that a road would be built, it would be tolled, once paid for, it would be free.

 

This was how it was sold to the voters. the fine print said that they could move the money around however they wanted, so while the people driving on the first BW8 segment, between i10 and 59 have paid for that segment probably 5 time over, the money has been used to pay for other tollways.

 

Anyway, we voted for it. We may have been dumb to not look at the fine print of what we were voting for, but as it turns out, HCTRA is better than the txdot version, as has been mentioned.

BAM! and there it is...that's how this crap gets sold to the public and voted in- Flat out lies!

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