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Any Hctra Repurcussions Here?

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Press Release

People for Efficient Transportation, Inc

Lawsuit UPDATE:

People for Efficient Transportation files suit to stop unlawful toll authority.

People for Efficient Transportation, Inc. filed a Lawsuit & TRO Tuesday (attached) in State of Texas District Court against Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority (CTRMA - Toll Authority), Attorney General of Texas Honorable GREG ABBOTT, and Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, Honorable CAROLE STRAYHORN, in their official capacities.

The regional CTRMA Toll Authority is composed of an illegal board. The board currently has 6 year terms, as per HB 3588, authored by State House Representative Mike Krusee. A provision in the State of Texas Constitution says a regional entity must be 2 years or less.

"The illegal, unconstitutional CTRMA board should NOT be allowed to move forward with the double tax toll plan. An illegitimate, unelected board should NOT be permitted to control the tolling of 50-percent of our Metro highway lane miles, especially without an independent economic impact study showing the need for the plan. This is nothing more than a special-interest political power-play and is a recipe for disaster," commented PET Officer and founder, Sal Costello.

Along with People for Efficient Transportation, Inc., Hannah Riddering is a co-Plaintiff named in the lawsuit. During the past 18 years Riddering has made her living driving a taxi cab. "Because this special-interest experimental toll plan will charge Texans a fee to drive on our metro area expressways for the first time ever in our county, it's an additional income tax and ongoing burden for the public and especially hurts people like me who drive for a living." stated a concerned Ms. Riddering.

Judges Davis makes Two Rulings this morning.

We are still enjoined. Litigation continues.

RULING #1. The CTRMA claimed that People for Efficient Transportation (PET) did not have standing (or a right to be heard) because, as CTRMA lawyer, Mr. Steele surprisingly claimed, "They are just Citizens". Judge Davis ruled in favor of PET. Judge Davis said PET has the right to be heard and to file legal petition.

RULING #2. Judge Davis ruled against the Temporary Restraining Order. The TRO was one petition, we filed two petitions on Tuesday. CTRMA is still enjoined. Litigation continues.

Sal Costello, PET's founder, said just following the hearing that, "The illegal board sold the bonds shortly after the TRO hearing even after they promised their investors and insurance company, in the official statement, that there is 'no litigation'. There is litigation. What's more, the RMA's terms of office are still unconstitutional. That was uncontested. They opened themselves up for more lawsuits from bond buyers. The dog is still in the hunt. Litigation continues"


PET Officer, Sal Costello

People for Efficient Transportation website

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If only these people really knew what they were talking about, then might make a case.

The Double Taxation is red herring and completely untrue. No gas tax money (your taxes for transportation and other stuff) is used in the toll road construction. Yes, private consortiums perform the studies and build the roads that'll charge for usage. This is all at no cost to the tax payers. People should be for this. They know that their money won't be used for this project. If it fails, no lost to them. That is the beauty of toll roads. The cannot use tax payer money. They have to fund themselves and repair themselves with that money.

I have worked on the proposed SE segment of the SH 45 loop around Austin. The one thing the tax payers do pay for is the few reviewers assigned by TxDOT to review the project. And these people are not the easiest to please. SH 130's plans were rejected several times by TxDOT. The standards are set extremely high. Higher than in fact the typical standards used on TxDOT's taxpayer funded construction.

The Quality Assurance/Quality Review (QA/QR) document is over a 1000 pages. Detailing every aspect that needs to be reviewed. There are many redundant check processes and independant review process. If mistakes are made in the internal review, it still has to go through the TxDOT review and Independant review. The flow chart alone for this process is extremely complex. I had to do a double take in the QA/QR seminar.

HCTRA has to go through some of the same steps. I do admit they are not a rigorous, but TxDOT is still involved to ensure that their standards are met.

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If only these people really knew what they were talking about, then might make a case.

I don't agree with you on many points.

First, let's consider the Austin case. The Austin group is fighting the tolling of highway sections that are 100% paid for with gasoline tax funds. This includes sections of 183 and TX 71. This is a money grab by CTMRA, plain and simple, and can justifiably be called double taxation. Were you aware that CTMRA plans to charge a $2 toll for a 4-mile section of 183A? CTMRA is a revenue generation scheme, and Austin is going to pay heavily.

In the Austin area, a lot of gas tax money was used to develop SH 130, SH 45, Loop 1, as well as 183 and TX 71. Perhaps this money will be paid back later. But gas tax money was used on these projects.

Second, let's consider toll roads in general.

We need to draw a distinction between privately financed toll roads and governmental agency toll roads.

You speak as if all toll roads are privately financed, but so far none are and only 1 is in the works (TTC-35) and 2 are in dicusssion in DFW. None on the radar screen in Houston. In Houston, we can expect HCTRA and possibly TxDOT to build the toll roads here.

My understanding is that TxDOT's toll bonds are backed by the gasoline tax. This provides a lower interest rate, but also means that tax money will be used if toll funds don't meet bond payments. There is a good chance SH 130 or SH 45-SE will be losers, for example. We have seen some massive toll road failures in Texas, including the Beltway 8 bridge and Camino-Columbia tollway. In the case of BW8, Houston toll payers bailed it out at a cost of hundreds of millions. Private investors took the loss on the Camino Columbia toll road.

In terms of standards for toll roads, TxDOT may adhere to high standards but HCTRA definitely does not. In general, I think toll roads are more cost sensitive and will not be held to the same standards as conventionally funded routes when constructed by non-TxDOT agencies.

In terms of HCTRA toll roads, the original bonds were backed property taxes and HCTRA came very close to needing property tax funds around 1990.

We have already seen HCTRA toll revenue diverted to uses not related to the toll network. Expect to see more of this in the future. It is also happening in other places such as Washington DC, where increased tolls will finance new rail. Tolls will become another source of government revenue (another form of taxation), and conventional highway funding sources will increasingly be diverted to non-highway uses, starting with transit.

In terms of privately financed toll roads, we will be paying for the owner's profit.

There are more reasons to object to toll roads, see my web site for a listing of reasons


People in the construction and engineering industry (which I think includes you) are now on board with turning Texas into the toll road capital of the world because they are most interested in the money, not where the money comes from. But the money ultimately comes from Texans, and moving toward these inefficient means of financing infrastructure because we have an idiot in the governor's office is going to be costly to Texas.

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but where do you plan on getting the funds for contructing highway?

A correction on US 183 and SH 71. The new facility (and all facilities that are currently untolled) will require that feeder roads be build to give a free option that is not less convenient than the current road. The new main lanes will be tolled. You pay to go faster.

I agree, I hate the concept of turning a current freeway in to toll and in complete objection. Essentially, i believe if say I-35 would be a toll road; it would have to be similar to the new Katy Freeway. Where the advantage to using the toll portion would be a faster trip. The same capacity would still available for the free portion. This is the concept of the Sam Houston Tollway and Beltway 8. Beltway 8 is the feeder roads. TxDOT did want to build the freeway portion yet. The toll portion has no state affiliation. HCTRA came in and constructed the portion (poorly I admit) the main lanes.

That concept is being applied to US 183 and SH 71.

As for taxpayer funds to develop the toll road plans: TxDOT as I'm sure you know will produce many preliminary schematics that may never get built. TxDOT had schematics for SH 45 for years but no means to pay for it. It moved it to toll road to pay for final design and construction.

Taxpayer dollars are used constantly to develop plans for freeways, roads, bridges that may never get built, or will be built several years down the road. The reason for this is to get federal money. The Federal Highway Administration only hands out money if one the state can fund a portion of it and the state has finished plans. At the end of the fiscal year, the FHA typically has leftover money that is can only dole out if the state meets those two primary criteria. My home state of Louisiana has spent millions of dollars to produce plans for many roads, and every year several get the money because the state is ready for it. The concept is used heavily to replace old on system and off system bridges.

As for toll revenue being directed away from toll roads to other projects, I'm for it if it is exclusively for transportation needs such as light rail or other forms of rail. On some level, I wish METRO and HCTRA would work a little more together. Also, as long and HCTRA can make the bond repayments while divert funds to other uses, I'm OK.

These issues get very complex. If you can get the state legislature and the driving public to accept a rise in gasoline taxes to replace tolls, that would be great. But not senator or representative has the balls to attempt this and everyone in the state would object unless they are properly informed.

By the way, I loved your book Houston Freeways, I have two copies.

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