Articles by Terri Hall
Sen. Bob Hall issued a scathing statement on TxDOT’s proposed toll plan that equates the typical $10/day toll to a $25 per gallon gasoline tax that, over a lifetime, would mushroom into an eye-popping $135,000 in toll taxes. “This is … Continue reading
Tolls That Top $1 a Mile on Newly Opened Toll Lanes in Austin Are Coming Soon to a Commuter Highway Near You
If congestion tolls are starting out at over $1/mile in peak hours, imagine what they’ll be next year or in 10 years. There is no legal requirement to remove tolls from these highways, even when there’s no debt owed. Expect … Continue reading
Technology’s rapidly changing landscape will transform the way we travel in the next decade, much less the next half century. Sure as the sun rises, private innovators like Elon Musk will ensure outmoded travel will be obsolete in the near … Continue reading
Trump’s reversal on public-private partnerships (P3s) came suddenly to most folks, even inside the beltway, given that Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao was still pushing tax incentives to attract private investment as the core of the Trump infrastructure plan as of … Continue reading
RELIEF: Ending the Horror of Exorbitant Toll Fines and Fees May be Decided by Texas Attorney General
Relief may be on the horizon as Paxton considers issuing a legal opinion that could change course. The Attorney General has six months to render his opinion. SB 312’s cap on fines and fees officially takes effect on state operated … Continue reading
Fast forward to a post-Harvey world and lawmakers face a tremendous struggle of how to keep those projects on track and still mount the massive resources necessary, even with federal aid, to rebuild the critical infrastructure lost due to Harvey. … Continue reading
No one should be charged a toll to use a road that’s paid for, otherwise it’s double taxation. The move to remove tolls once a road’s debt is retired is one of several recommendations that came out of the interim … Continue reading
Many consider Texas the cradle of liberty and a bastion of limited government conservatism. But who lets a State agency abuse taxpayers and deliberately thumb their noses at a state law they know is coming online that was passed by … Continue reading
The Build America Bureau, an arm of the federal government, is also a 34 percent owner in the new deal, as a move to placate the expected taxpayer backlash for having the taxpayers’ original federal loan wiped out by the … Continue reading
Taxpayers pushed for over a decade to get these reforms in place and finally got them in SB 312. While there’s still much work to be done to completely reform toll policy in Texas, the majority of the heavy lifting … Continue reading
Whether Trump will be successful in raising the federal gasoline tax may depend on his connection to his voters. Polls indicate his base of support remains strong despite the relentless attacks on Trump by the press. If Trump can demonstrate … Continue reading
Much of the U.S. portion of the NAFTA Superhighway, consisting of intercontinental infrastructure connecting Mexico, the U.S. and Canada, is already built, quietly financed by successive congressional appropriations over the years and there is no doubt the establishment is anxious … Continue reading
Most landowners simply cannot continue a protracted legal fight to defend their private property rights, especially against the government – even a powerful state government agency. Through an amazing turn of events, the Grahams have. All Texans will have them … Continue reading
While the politicians argued that eminent domain would only be used as a last resort, that’s just the club the Texas Turnpike Corporation’s CEO John Crew needs to beat landowners into submission to sign over their land in so-called negotiated … Continue reading
Taxpayers should not stand for targeted, discriminatory toll taxes to be imposed against their will. This problem certainly isn’t unique to Texas. With the installation of public-private partnership (P3) guru and former government affairs official for Macquarie Capital, David Gribbin, as … Continue reading
While demographers claim Texas conservatives face a battle royal for the political future of the state, the GOP can be not only competitive but winners on issues important to many Hispanic voters. So, the sky is the limit, if Republicans … Continue reading
Americans are a bunch of criminals. That’s a true statement when you look at the sheer volume of laws on the books. Whether it’s the arcane tax code or litany of violations for simply going about your daily life, Americans … Continue reading
Local and state governments spar as Texas state lawmakers seek to tamp overreach By Terri Hall l February 1, 2017 One thing is clear — Texas state lawmakers are none too happy that cities like Austin have interfered with Texas … Continue reading
The Obama administration is doing its level best to turn Texas blue on his way out of office, despite the governor’s withdrawal from the program and the incoming administration’s strong stance against illegal immigration, unvetted refugee resettlement, and non-citizen threats … Continue reading
What is a city for? That’s the central question Joel Kotkin answers in his book, The Human City – Urbanism for the Rest of Us. Today’s urban planners have all but destroyed what once constituted a great place to live. … Continue reading
Texans deserve better than they’ve been getting for their multi-billion dollar investments in TxDOT. The legislature and Sunset must engage in constant oversight and a shorter review timeframe. While some progress has been made, TxDOT has a long way to … Continue reading
Trump’s anti-free trade message resonated because it hurt the American worker. Tolls likewise, hurt the American working class — and hard. Considering these three must-win states for a Republican president just tossed incumbents over toll projects, we trust Mr. Trump … Continue reading
Increasing taxes and increasing the cost to transport people and goods hurts the economy, not helps it. Charging motorists a premium to get to work will only encourage drivers to avoid the roadway to seek a free route. After 40 years of HOV social engineering and trying to manipulate drivers into ditching their cars to use transit, it has been a colossal failure. So, the policy intentionally inflicts economic pain on drivers through tolls in order to use that money to benefit those who are traveling in politically correct modes of travel. The government picks the winners and losers. Continue reading
Neither public-private partnerships (P3s) nor Interstate tolling must ever be imposed on American roads. The reason Eisenhower’s Interstate highways were an economic boon to America was the ease of connectivity and the natural economic development that occurred alongside them such … Continue reading
If TxDOT magically pulls a rabbit out of its hat to have room at-grade for these tracks, not only were they misleading the public last year at the hearing, they’d be taking up the most valuable real estate in Texas and eliminating any hope of expanding general purpose lanes in the future, because now you’d either have to condemn billions in rail or billions in private commercial property in order to do it Continue reading
The best solution moving forward is to build freeways not tollways and to ensure that taxpayers get these bankrupt projects back in the hands of the public. Continue reading
When ‘pockets of resistance’ arise in these rural towns, the federal government dispatches yet more contractors who produce propaganda films and entire assimilation public relations programs to force compliance, if not silence in communities that resist. Meanwhile, states like Texas, … Continue reading
How much more will we be asked to shell out to handle the influx of Chinese goods coming through Texas and the United States? The global corporations always find a way to make the taxpayer foot the bill for them, so taxpayers beware. Continue reading
Whether its navigation apps, weather warnings, alerts about road closures and alternate routes, or a host of other pertinent information, cell phone companies catered to the motorist and made us dependent on our phones for vital information, while at the same time big government reaches its heavy hand into our vehicles to penalize us for using them. Not all essential functions can be done hands-free, so no matter how you slice it, such bans curtail your liberty and give government another means to criminalize you for going about your life. Thank you big government. America is officially a nanny state and most motorists don’t have a prayer of complying. Continue reading
Federal Highway Administration reports a 3.5% increase in vehicle miles traveled in 2015. Yet, 28% of federal surface transportation funds (which primarily originate from federal gasoline taxes) are diverted from highways to public transit. It’s high time this raid of road funds ends. If local cities want mass transit, they should pay for it with local taxes, not raid federal road dollars to waste on transit systems with little to no riders. Continue reading
Austin advocates of sustainable development policies advancing an anti-car agenda have systematically put up barriers to auto travel and elevated politically correct modes of travel like mass transit, walking and biking. They’ve removed 1,000 parking spaces from downtown Austin to make way for wider sidewalks, and they’ve converted lanes open to all cars into restricted bike and bus lanes. Now Austin is known for its aggressive cyclists, wasteful and scandal-ridden Metro system and congestion rather than an economic powerhouse and freedom-loving Texas city. Continue reading
The Mexican customs office within the KC SmartPort is considered sovereign Mexican territory within the United States’ borders. The port was established to boost international trade by moving cargo and customs inspections into what are known as Foreign Trade Zones (FTZs) with tremendous tax and duty benefits that domestic companies do not enjoy. Inland ports facilitate the further economic integration of the U.S. with Canada and Mexico. KC SmartPort boasts its rail lines are part of the NAFTA superhighway for freight movement. Continue reading
What’s at stake is the very sovereignty of the State of Texas itself. Without the ability to have its boundaries recognized and protected, the state cannot exist for long since there’s no telling where and when the encroachment will end if the BLM is allowed such a land grab of a state’s sovereign boundaries. Continue reading
When it opened back in 2012, SH 130 had long been the poster child of Rick Perry’s failed toll road policies. At one point, the state-operated part of the tollway was so empty a distressed plane landed on it during peak hours. Lawmakers saddled Texas taxpayers with billions in debt and they hid it from the normal, open, public budgetary process. In other words, Texas lawmakers have balanced the budget, in part, because they have issued billions of taxpayer backed subsidies for private toll road companies, while hiding the costs from taxpayers and increasing costs and risks for taxpayers in the long term. Continue reading
Republican politicians have made repeated promises to restrain federal power through appointing justices who ‘will not legislate from the bench,’ or by passing laws to restrict federal power or rein in the president, but such efforts always fall flat. Rather than further more empty promises or place false hope in a long, arduous process like convention of States that has little chance of achieving the exact amendments desired, conservatives can and must seek an alternative that can work. Considering the public’s outpouring of discontent with Congress and the many challengers to sitting incumbents, the opportunity to pass legislation restraining the courts is ripe for the picking. Continue reading
Conservative think tanks are stepping up their efforts to educate the public about the abuses of civil asset forfeiture and demand lawmakers fight to protect Americans’ fundamental rights from wrongful seizure. The presumption of innocence seems nowhere to be found, when it comes to civil asset forfeiture. The modern use of civil asset forfeiture is rife with abuse and fraught with violations of citizens’ fourth amendment constitutional rights. The recent congressional action to defund the federal program only lasts through 2016, so expect both sides to be ready for battle in 2017. Continue reading
Such NAFTA international trade has all but destroyed the American manufacturing base, it threatens U.S. jobs and has contributed to stagnant wages since its inception in 1992. So the funding and expansion of the NAFTA trade corridors coupled with the porous southern border create another source of angst for American voters as they weigh the current presidential contenders. Continue reading
The recently passed federal highway bill, Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, or the FAST Act, creates a new section of the U.S. tax code, 7345, entitled, “Revocation or Denial of Passport in Case of Certain Tax Delinquencies.” No matter how you look at the two IRS power grabs, it spells trouble for the taxpayer. Whether you’ll become a prisoner in your own country by being denied a passport, or harassed by unethical and ruthless IRS sanctioned private debt collectors to settle an alleged tax debt, the Republican leadership in Congress delivered this anti-liberty, big government reality to your doorstep after voters gave them the keys to the Capitol to do just the opposite. Continue reading
The Highway Trust Fund is supposed to be a dedicated fund to highways only, but with the continued diversion of road funds for non-road purposes and Congress’ penchant for raiding other parts of the federal budget to shore-up the trust fund, even passage of this 5-year alleged highway bill leaves little to celebrate for either taxpayers or transportation special interests. With so many goodies and discretionary programs, it was hard for members of Congress to resist approving the bill, despite the lack of sustainable funding or the albatross of the Ex-Im Bank. But Republicans in particular face a backlash for support of the bill after failing to live up to its promises for reform and ending the crony capitalist stranglehold on Washington D.C. Continue reading
Many drivers are confused about the term ‘managed lane.’ It can mean a high occupancy vehicle (HOV) component, a bus or transit lane element, restricted access during certain hours, and most often, a toll required in order for single occupancy vehicles to access the lane. Bottom line, managed lanes are designed to restrict access to the lanes based on some arbitrary criteria of government planners attempting to ‘manage’ your commute. Continue reading
So, with this bureaucratic interference, there must be some other agenda at play if the government is willfully steering road taxes from efficient road capacity improvements to inefficient non-road uses. Some call it ‘new urbanism,’ others call it ‘sustainable development’ or ‘Smart Growth,’ but the blueprint that spawned it all was the United Nations Agenda 21 program. Agenda 21’s stated goal is to change people’s behavior through restrictions in land use, by herding people into dense inner-city housing, and restricting mobility to force Americans out of their cars and into government-controlled mass transit systems. It’s an assault on our freedom to travel and individual liberty. Continue reading
Both federal and state lawmakers are discovering tolls are just as unpopular as a gas tax hike and that they’re far more expensive for taxpayers than a gas tax funded highway system. The U.S. Senate tried to expand interstate tolling in its draft of the federal highway bill only to have it slapped down by a coalition of anti-toll groups, with Alliance for Toll-free Interstates leading the charge. The U.S. House is contemplating the same expansion and is running afoul of the same angry taxpayers. Continue reading
Abbott can change the tide very quickly with his new chairman and commissioner at the Texas Transportation Commission. Frankly, short of the RTC firing Morris, DFW residents have few options to stop his march to impose the largest managed toll lane network in the country. State lawmakers continue to be ignored by Morris. In fact, he works against elected officials’ efforts to represent their constituents’ opposition to new toll taxes. Residents do not get to choose who represents them on the RTC, and the board is so big, 44 members, it’s hard for residents in one corridor to sway the votes of the other 43 members to stop tolls. Continue reading
Wrongful confiscation of private property is an abuse of our fundamental rights to private property, regardless of whether it’s taken by federal or state government, or even worse, by a private developer exploiting state government power. Without the protection of property rights, there is no true economic prosperity. Our founders knew it, which is why they fought and died to protect it. Americans shouldn’t have to undergo another revolution to preserve it. Continue reading
The Texas economy, called the ‘Texas miracle’ by politicians’ PR machine, cannot continue when many commuters are now facing $200-$400 monthly toll bills. The cost is so punitive, most Texans are being priced off the toll roads, which means they’re stuck in gridlock with longer and longer commutes, diminishing quality of life, and inhibiting the freedom of travel and the efficient movement of people and goods. Continue reading
The revelation that a consultant hired by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) used a Bluetooth reader to secretly collect trip origination and destination data from unsuspecting travelers didn’t come to light in time for a bill to be filed in the Texas legislature that concluded its 84th session on June 1. But look for legislation at the earliest opportunity to protect Texans from such an infringement of their individual rights. In the meantime, the citizen groups insist TxDOT should voluntarily cease and desist. Continue reading
The people of Texas overwhelmingly elected a new Governor who campaigned on the promise to fix Texas roads without raising taxes, fees, or tolls. The Lt. Governor also campaigned on reducing the reliance on tolls. So this AAMPO plan to impose bus-toll lanes across every freeway in San Antonio is NOT what the taxpayers voted for. Continue reading
Tolling existing free lanes should be off the table in the Lone Star State that claims to be the beacon of freedom and boasts of a low tax burden. Tolling the main lanes of a highway and downgrading the free option to frontage roads is highway robbery and a means to force drivers to pay tolls to get anywhere. Texas taxpayers are adamant that this abuse come to an end. Continue reading
Texas Rail Advocates and two student leaders from Sam Houston University favor the project and spoke against the bill. Even when reminded that this bill only addresses the use of eminent domain by a private company and wasn’t a general prohibition on high speed rail, opponents maintained their position. Texas Central Railway (TCR) acknowledged that without eminent domain, it could deep six the project. TCR could still seek eminent domain authority from the federal government, but Senator Lois Kolkhorst was adamant that the State of Texas, where property rights are held… Continue reading
Texas Hill Country Landowners Prevail Over Developer in Property Rights Court Case, Face Legislative Battle
The Grahams have fought back by filing a motion to dissolve the Johnson Ranch Municipal Utility District (JRMUD) on the grounds it does not nor has ever had any legally serving directors and that it is not fulfilling the function for which it was created – to protect the natural resources of the State of Texas. The family contends the JRMUD is nothing more than the alter ego of the Johnson Ranch developer, David Hill Johnson Brothers (DHJB), that’s being used to drain the Grahams dry with endless legal fees, using the power of government to do it.
Anti-toll advocates seem to have the momentum as both Governor Greg Abbott and the Lt. Governor Dan Patrick campaigned on many of these reforms. But taking nothing for granted, the ‘Toll-free Texas’ grassroots coalition sacrificed their time and dime to come to the Capitol anyway, realizing toll entities, local governments, and transportation boards want the status quo and will lobby hard to water-down and defeat needed reforms.
While Texans are busy living their lives and contributing to one of the world’s largest economies, planners, bureaucrats, social engineers, and the rubber stamp MPO boards, supposedly run by elected officials, are busy trying their level best to screw it up…
Texas voters recognize the shell game and now consider tolls a tax, which has become the most expensive way to fund roads, and they’re holding their elected officials accountable for the runaway taxation placed in the hands of these unelected commissions and toll authorities.
There hasn’t been much public discourse about the possible merger of America with Canada and Mexico into a European Union-style North American Union (NAU) since 2007. But Diane Francis’ book Merger of the Century, Why Canada and America Should Become One Country, revives and modifies the original NAU idea into a Canadian-American merger, cutting Mexico out of the equation.
The euphoria lawmakers felt last year after placing a Constitutional amendment on the ballot for Texas voters to decide if they wanted to raid half of the state’s oil and gas severance tax on new oil wells and divert those revenues to the State Highway Fund, without ending existing diversions of the gasoline tax…
San Antonio, Texas MPO adopts more toll roads despite Prop 1 promise and pushes Agenda 21 ‘complete streets’
The betrayal taxpayers feel kicked into high gear when the AAMPO voted to add yet more toll roads to the plan instead of turning toll lanes on existing major corridors back into free lanes as promised.
Something smells fishy when two Democrats gleefully stand in front of a photo of Ronald Reagan to invoke a 15 cent per gallon hike in the federal gasoline tax (currently at 18.4 cents a gallon). The bill, HR 3636, was introduced last year by Oregon Democrat Earl Blumenauer, but it apparently hasn’t gotten much traction. So he and other supporters, Sen. Tom Carper (D- Delaware) and Rep. Tom Petri (R-Wisconsin, whose term is up in January) held a press conference to bring attention to the proposal – this time using Reagan for political cover. Blumenauer filed the bill last year on the exact date – December 3, 2013 and held a press conference, this time with Reagan ‘behind’ him, pushing the tax hike again on December 3, 2014.
Texas State Rep. Kolkhorst asks for AG legal opinion on use of gas tax revenue to subsidize more toll roads – seeks clarity over Prop 15
As voters overwhelmingly embrace a move away from toll roads with the election of anti-toll Greg Abbott as the new Texas Governor there remains an open question about whether or not the voters approved the use of the state gasoline tax, and any other money available to the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), for toll roads when they approved Proposition 15 back in 2001. Some state leaders believe the voters approved the use of gas taxes to build toll roads with passage of Prop 15, but the ballot language never mentions a word about gas taxes nor all funds available to TxDOT being used for toll roads – which constitute a double tax.
Abbott will get two new appointees to the Transportation Commission right out of the gate in February. Together with the current Commissioner, Victor Vandergriff, who’s been an outspoken critic of the agency’s practices and ill-conceived toll projects, Abbott will have a majority…
It’s important to understand this new generation of Americans known for their non-American label in John Zogby’s book, First Globals. Born between 1979-1994, today’s college students and young professionals, this 72 million strong age cohort (the biggest since the baby boomers), also known as millennials, thinks of themselves as global citizens, not American citizens. To those of us with strong national identity and a deeply rooted belief in American exceptionalism, this lack of shared values by today’s young millennials is disturbing.
Texas gubernatorial candidates Greg Abbott and Wendy Davis claimed to be against more toll roads at their last debate. Perhaps the recent research conducted by Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) that shows Texans do not want anymore tolls made the decision to be anti-toll a little easier. What’s shocking, however, is that Wendy Davis thinks she can get away with it.
The Democrat-controlled Travis County District Attorney’s Office has been called into question before for its highly political case brought against Republican Congressman Tom Delay for allegedly using corporate money to influence elections. He was convicted in Travis County but it was later overturned by an appellate court.
Ultimately, it’s crucial that the state has some mechanism in place to review whether or not private pipeline companies meet the legal requirements as a common carrier public use pipeline prior to eminent domain authority being conferred.
An out of control Texas Department of Transportation has discovered how to self-fund its agency with unlimited taxation through tolls. Texas taxpayers have had little luck controlling TxDOT and its lust for toll roads, so this notion that handing TxDOT control will mean more free highway lanes just won’t materialize.
That about sums up both the political and literal reality for Texans in most metropolitan areas of the state. Neither Congress nor the Texas legislature have addressed the structural road funding shortfall for the last decade, both turning to toll roads and massive debt financing to kick the can down the road. But Texas is now facing a fiscal cliff – it leads the country in road debt and it’s maxed out its proverbial credit card. The Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT) says it needs $4 billion more per year just to keep pace with congestion. Even worse, its $10 billion annual budget will experience an additional gaping $2-3 billion hole in 2015 as the borrowing that’s been propping up its budget disappears.
Under Dewhurst’s leadership, Texans experienced a massive shift away from an affordable gas- tax-funded freeway system to a reliance on tolling. The Perry-Dewhurst regime brought us the Trans-Texas Corridor, quick-take eminent domain, tolling existing freeways, handing our public roads to private toll corporations who charge Texans 95 cents a mile to drive, and using gas taxes and a host of public money to subsidize and guarantee the loans on toll roads. They took Texas from zero debt for roads to now the highest road debt in the nation at $31 billion.
Stop using road money (paid for by motorists) for transit, rail, and bike paths that motorists don’t use. That goes for diverting both federal and state gas tax revenues. The Texas Mobility Fund is being used to build street cars, toll roads, and dredge our ports, when it should be used to fix our freeways and keep them toll-free. Adopting a transportation policy of ‘pay-as-you-go’ would be more fiscally responsible.
‘Come and Take It’ has been the cry of Texans for generations since the battle at Gonzales in 1835 when the Mexican army tried to retrieve its cannon from defiant Texans, and the recent interest by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to take over 90,000 acres of private Texas land along the Red River has stirred the battle cry once again.
Terrell Graham and his wife’s family have owned their ranch in the Texas Hill Country for over 100 years. It’s remained a working farm and cattle ranch, and now Texas state government is stealing their land so private developers can discharge treated sewage from 1,500 new homes into the Lux family’s dry creek bed.
Cavuto decries government waste, challenges Congressman to admit where all the gas tax revenues have gone
Tired of your road taxes disappearing? So is Neil Cavuto, with the Fox Business Network who hosts his own daily show where he recently unleashed his frustration on U.S. Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon) over the congressman’s proposal to hike the federal gas tax by 15 cents. The current federal gas tax is 18.4 per gallon, which has remained unchanged since 1993. Continue reading
The first foreign-operated toll lanes became fully operational in Dallas over the weekend. Interstate 635, known as the LBJ, opened the first 3-mile stretch of the public-private partnership toll project to the public on Saturday. The expensive price tag won’t hit commuters immediately, since it opened at a big discount for the first six months as drivers get used to the variable pricing. To use the 3.5-miles of phase one, it will cost anywhere from 15 cents up to 95 cents, depending on time of day. However, the regular toll rates will cost between 10 cents PER MILE up to 75 PER MILE in peak hours. Continue reading
You cannot divorce people from the land, for when you do, it reaps widespread social and economic devastation. This conclusion, drawn by a range of specialists, sums up the consequences wrought by the destructive policies of the green movement detailed in Elizabeth Nickson’s book, Eco-Fascists – How Radical Conservationists Are Destroying Our Natural Heritage. After reading Nickson’s book, one can’t help but conclude that environmentalists are deliberately, systematically destroying property rights and rural communities across North America by promoting and mandating the destruction of the very environment they claim to be saving.
San Antonio’s proposal smacks of the European-style congestion tax imposed on downtown London, Stockholm and Milan, which carries serious implications for environmentally targeted cities all across America. Continue reading
Transportation industry professionals gathered in Washington D.C. on November 21 at a summit called Infrastructure of the Future—Sustainable Pathways to Meet America’s Transportation Challenges sponsored by two big-money lobbyists, the American Highway Users Alliance and the Volvo Group. Continue reading
When a local San Antonio TV reporter goes on a rant over a toll lane proposal, you know the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) has hit a nerve. TxDOT is proposing to add two elevated toll lanes on Interstate 35 each direction from Loop 410 in Bexar County to Schertz in Comal County, approximately 15 miles.
Hate to say it, but we told you so.
Have you ever had a kid ask for seconds during a meal before he’s even finished what’s on his plate? Well, that’s what the Texas legislature is asking of voters on November 5. Lawmakers want Texans to pass a constitutional amendment, Proposition 6, to approve more funding for water projects. A similar measure narrowly passed in November 2011 for a $6 billion revolving fund to loan money to local government entities for water infrastructure, outside constitutional debt limitations.
It’s dog eat dog as the fight over scarce road money gets uglier in Texas. At a recent Senate Select Committee on Transportation Funding hearing, the Senate Transportation Committee Chair Robert Nichols took issue with DeWitt County Judge Daryl Fowler’s comments that urban areas of the state are ‘pillaging’ road funds he believes are largely being provided by rural areas where the oil shale boom has swelled the state’s coffers of oil and gas severance taxes to windfall levels.
“Little else has given common man access to landscape, mobility, and commerce, as interstates,” observes Tom Lewis is his book Divided Highways, Building Interstate Highways, Transforming American Life. Americans have always prized their freedom, and freedom of mobility is no different. It took forty years to build the interstate highway system, not thirteen years as the Federal-Aid Highway Act originally intended when it was signed by President Eisenhower in 1956. But few national programs have transformed the American way of life so positively as the interstate highway system.
Since Barack Obama won a second term, much has been said about how the GOP needs to reach out to a broader group and be more tolerant in order to win another national election. In Texas, all eyes are on Democrat Senator Wendy Davis to see whether she will formally throw her hat in the ring to run for Texas Governor later this month. She’s energized her party over her high-profile filibuster of a bill to restrict abortion that won her national attention and made her an instant household name in the Lone Star State. Politicos have been pondering whether Texas will turn blue ever since.
They stepped in it and now the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) is on the fast track to smoothing things over with local governments across the state. Rep. Joe Pickett (D – El Paso) didn’t parse words at the August 29 Transportation Commission meeting: the agency has had a series of missteps that are upsetting people and it’s time for the Department to own up to it, say ‘we made a mistake,’ and start to make amends.
Close on the heels of news that Interstate 69 (I-69) is underway in Texas, the Indiana Finance Authority and highway department (INDOT) has selected four private developers to submit proposals for a public-private partnership (P3) on segment 5 of I-69 from Bloomington to Martinsville. The final selection is expected this fall.
It’s a wrap. After over 200 days in session this year, the Texas legislature finally agreed upon a transportation funding bill that will go to the voters for approval in November 2014. The Constitutional amendment would divert half of the oil and gas severance tax that funds the state’s emergency fund, or Rainy Day Fund, to roads, giving the highway department a potential boost of $1.2 billion annually. Lawmakers readily acknowledge it’s a stop gap measure since the agency needs $4 billion more per year.
The second called special session of the Texas legislature began with all eyes on Texas’ fetal pain bill after a filibuster scuttled it – transportation appearing an afterthought, but this one ended in yet another flop. Texas Governor Rick Perry immediately called a third special session 30 minutes later to address transportation funding. State lawmakers had initially agreed on a road funding bill at the end of the first special session and took up the same bill in the second.
State and federal highway dollars are pinched and toll road traffic is taking a hit from a sustained economic downturn and high gas prices, while states are looking for ways to get projects built with limited resources. Bond documents for the $2.6 billion Grand Parkway (State Highway 99) tollway reveal the bonds issued by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) will be backed by the state highway fund for all but $200 million of the debt, if toll revenues are insufficient.
Question: How do you know when a public agency is out of control? Answer: It tries to bypass the legitimate branch of government, in this case the Texas legislature, to make an administrative ‘rule change’ instead.
A slate of pro-property rights bills died in the 83rd regular session of the Texas legislature that ended on Memorial Day. Texas politicians love to tout their property rights credentials at election time, but when lawmakers are in session, they’ve yet to give meaningful protection to landowners in several key areas when it comes time to cast a vote.
The Texas legislature is considering another ‘tool in the toolbox’ to build roads, without the controversial concession public-private partnership (P3) model, called ‘availability payments.’ House bill 3650 by Rep. Linda Harper-Brown opens the door to this type of P3, where the private sector pays for the road and gets paid back as money is ‘available.’
The Texas House joined the Senate in voting for SB 1730 to hand 20 Texas highways to private corporations in controversial contracts called public-private partnerships (P3s) or comprehensive development agreements (CDAs), despite public opposition.
While the Texas House and Senate are busy competing over which chamber can come up with the most funding for public schools, another top priority of state government has taken a back seat – roads.
It sounds like something you’d hear on April Fools’ Day, but in Texas, Governor Rick Perry and his highway department are quite serious.
It’s been a rough road for Cintra, Spain-based global toll operator, ever since it opened its first privately-operated tollway, State Highway 130, in Texas last fall. On March 28, the Texas Transportation Commission voted to increase the speed limits on US Highway 183 to 60 MPH through Mustang Ridge and up to 65 MPH on the southern leg that runs through Lockhart…
Texans from across the state recently converged at the capitol in Austin to stress the need for Texas Governor Rick Perry, Lt. Governor David Dewhurst, Speaker Joe Straus, and House and Senate budget writers to prevent the most fiscally sound, long-term road funding solutions from being held hostage to more tolls, debt, and tax hikes.
Houston, we have a problem. Well, actually, it’s a nationwide problem. Gas tax, the primary user fee that funds our national Interstate Highway System, hasn’t been raised in 20 years. The same is true for the gas tax in most states, where gas tax is the primary source of revenue to fund each state’s highway system.
From Google’s self-driving car to harnessing electromagnetic induction to power buses and cars with clean energy, the eighth annual Texas Transportation Forum held in Austin left industry gurus breathless with new possibilities for transportation as smart technology merges with mobility.
The eighth annual Texas Transportation Forum hosted by the Texas Transportation Institute and the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) recently held in Austin had all eyes on the future – the future of international trade in light of the anticipated Panama Canal expansion, the future of road funding, and even the future of driving (like driverless cars).
Texas leads the nation in road debt as Perry solicits ideas for tax relief: Groups say nix toll taxes
In his State of the State speech, Texas Governor Rick Perry asked Texans how they’d like to see tax relief implemented in the new 83rd biennial legislative session (January 8 – May 27/140 days).
Thirty-one billion dollars and counting, that’s how much road debt Texas Governor Rick Perry and Texas lawmakers have racked-up since they abandoned pay-as-you-go and started down the road of borrow and spend road policy.
With the end of 2012 marking the 20th anniversary of NAFTA, it’s instructive to take a fresh look at the book that chronicles that battle over the last interstate highway – a NAFTA superhighway – yet to be built – Interstate 69, The Unfinished History of the Last Great American Highway by Matt Dellinger.
In a victory for state sovereignty, property rights, and taxpayers, the grassroots managed to defeat Ohio Governor John Kasich’s proposal of selling off the Ohio Turnpike to a private toll operator using a controversial public-private partnership (P3).
When Jerry Corsi talks, people listen. Corsi’s recent column on the revival of the Trans-Texas Corridor (TTC) gave national attention to what Texans have been warning for a decade.
Tonight, Pat Caddell, a committed Democrat pollster who once worked for Jimmy Carter both in 1976 and in 1980, received a standing ovation from a room full of Texas conservatives.
The spirit of Texas law says you can’t slap tolls on freeways, but the letter of the law has loopholes large enough to drive a Mac truck through it.
With all the talk of the ‘fiscal cliff’ that magically appeared the day after the election, let’s examine how we got here.
When 98% of Americans drive a car as their preferred mode of travel, street car advocates have a problem.
Jobs, jobs, jobs, that’s the worry when it comes to the political reality of international trade agreements like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and that put proponents of NAFTA attending the November 15-16 NAFTA-20 Conference on defense with the public, especially in times of economic stress and sustained high unemployment.
NAFTA-20 Conference: Mexican Ambassador’s Announcement of Open Borders Agreement Brings America Closer to North American Union
“Welcome to San Antonio, the NAFTA city,” declared San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro at the November 15 opening of the NAFTA20 conference held in San Antonio to commemorate 20 years since the signing of the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in the Alamo city.
Today marks the first day Spanish toll operator, Cintra, starts charging Texas commuters tolls to use SH 130.
Texas Governor Rick Perry recently announced his support for ending diversions to the state motor fuel tax, a practice that’s starved traditional road funds and allowed him to push tolling and road privatization.
After starving and raiding gas tax revenues throughout his administration, Texas Governor Rick Perry has finally decided to get on board with ending diversions of our state gas tax for non-transportation purposes.
The Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT) just announced that it inked a deal with Spanish toll operator, Cintra, for yet another toll project in North Texas – this time on Interstate 35W in Fort Worth.
Pat Choate’s book, Dangerous Business: the Risks of Globalization for America, is a sobering warning to Americans to retreat from the economic policies that have concentrated power in the hands of the few, hamstrung United States’ national security, and threatened the safety of our food supply, or else lose our national sovereignty and prosperity.
Texas, which lies at the heart of the North American transportation trade corridor system, is a hotbed of tolling schemes and grandiose infrastructure plans…
Just when you thought you had seen it all, Cintra, the Spanish toll road concession company that’s about to start cashin’ in on its newly built 41-mile segment of State Highway 130 from south Austin to Seguin, produces more shock and awe with its new ad campaign…
If I didn’t know any better, I would have thought George Orwell’s novel 1984 had been set in present-day Texas…
“There are few things that Governor Perry and President Obama agree on, but both oppose an increase in the motor fuels tax,” began Chris Lippincott, former Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) public information officer…
“Jobs, that’s what NAFTA brings to San Antonio,” bellowed Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff as he stood in the German-English School Courtyard in San Antonio…
Monday, Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom (TURF) scored a small victory for open government, since the San Antonio-Bexar County Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) agenda included more specificity about its proposed action for toll projects on US Highway 281 and Loop 1604 as required by the Texas Open Meetings Act.
Texas officials and transportation industry leaders gathered in Irving recently for the annual Texas Transportation Summit to examine how to move people and goods faster.
There’s a big fight going on between Bexar County, the Alamo Regional Mobility Authority (RMA), and the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) for control of the pot of the gold at the end of the toll rainbow in San Antonio…
Georgia voters overwhelmingly defeated a one-cent sales tax increase to pay for transportation projects in nine of 12 transportation regions.
There’s a gaping disconnect between economic reality and the endless push for tolling all new capacity to our roadways…
Anti-toll groups, celebrated medical doctor Donna Campbell’s victory over pro-toll, 40-year incumbent State Senator Jeff Wentworth in Texas Senate District 25 at her victory party in New Braunfels, TX, July 31.
“Why is it my responsibility as a Texas landowner to make a foreign corporation prove it has legally obtained the power of eminent domain in Texas?” asked Julia Trigg Crawford, a farmer in East Texas locked in a legal fight with Canadian company TransCanada…
Some have tried to convince the public that the Trans-Texas Corridor and NAFTA Superhighways are dead, never existed or are even a myth. Yet, Congress recently passed a new, two-year federal highway bill calledMoving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) that not only gives priority funding to these ‘high priority’ trade corridors, but also makes it easier…
It comes as no surprise that Congressman John Mica (FL-R), Chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, wants to privatize transit and enter into yet more DEBT to fund roads.
On July 11, TURF warned the Texas House Joint Committee of Government Efficiency and Reform and State Affairs that the controversial public-private partnerships (P3s) that sell-off Texans’ public infrastructure to private corporations represents eminent domain abuse and grants state-sanctioned monopolies.
Up against another short-term highway bill extension deadline, on Friday, June 29, Congress passed a two-year $105 billion highway bill called MAP-21, which stands for Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century.
On June 28, Texas TURF filed a formal complaint with the San Antonio Police Department White Collar Crime Unit seeking to open an investigation as to whether the San Antonio-Bexar County Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) violated the Open Meetings Act on June 25…
It’s apparent that the fix was in before a single citizen ever walked into the Bexar County San Antonio Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) meeting Monday.
Following the latest Texas toll road antics has been an exercise in yo-yo politics.
The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) and the Alamo Regional Mobility Authority (ARMA) declared war on the elected officials who sit on the Bexar County-San Antonio Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) at its last board meeting…
In an amazing feat of sheer determination bolstered by a whole lot of charisma and grassroots enthusiasm, Texas Senate District 25 candidate Donna Campbell pulled off an upset for the record books…
Tolls are coming to an interstate highway near you. This time, it’s Interstate 75 in Georgia, where Governor Nathan Deal just announced re-worked plans to add toll lanes…
It shouldn’t surprise anyone that in a recent closed door meeting of a Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) subcommittee, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) and the Alamo Regional Mobility Authority unraveled the policy board’s decision to…
In testimony before Congress, the Association of American State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) announced its opposition to a bill introduced by Senator Frank Lautenburg called the ‘Commuter Protection Act,’ S. 2006…
Good news for taxpayers. San Antonio’s Alamo Regional Mobility Authority (RMA) has been counting on the federal taxpayer to subsidize its toll project on Loop 1604 with a TIFIA loan.
I-69: Major NAFTA Superhighway Trade Corridor, yet to be built, Up for Consideration in House-Senate Conference
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, along with Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), are determined to pass a multiyear federal highway bill.
We’ve seen it with AIG’s toxic debt, then the banks with their financial crisis spawned by subprime mortgages, now get ready for the next big bailout – the toxic debt from toll roads.
There’s been lots of good news for landowners in recent weeks. First, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the right of an Idaho couple, Michael and Chantell Sackett, to challenge the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that’s designated their home site in an established residential neighborhood as federal wetlands.
It’s hard to disagree with much of what a recent Wall Street Journal (WSJ) editorial advocates, like making the Highway Trust Fund solvent, returning gas tax money sent to Washington back to the states, and loosening the federal purse strings attached to road money.
Advocates for the Keystone XL pipeline boast that building itwill secure energy resources, diminish dependence on foreign oil and help reduce the soaring price of gasoline.
On March 16th, Barack Obama signed an Executive Order on National Defense Resources Preparedness, which effectively gives the President and members of his cabinet dictatorial power to commandeer ‘civil transportation,’ even in peacetime, under the banner of national security.
With the next continuing resolution for the federal highway program coming to an end March 31, lawmakers in the nation’s Capitol have been scrambling to address systemic shortfalls in the Federal Highway Trust Fund, before they run out of time.
Julia Trigg Crawford’s fight to prevent TransCanada from seizing her property by using the state’s coercive power of eminent domain scored a big win late last Friday, when an appellate court reinstated her temporary restraining order (TRO).
TxDOT recently ‘found’ $2 BILLION in extra money – $700 million anticipated from the federal government and $1.3 billion gained from efficiencies’ (and apparently unearthed from the spare change under the couch cushions, who knew?).
Apparently, I hit a nerve. San Antonio Express-News columnist Brian Chasnoff (see link below) went postal over some columns I penned opposing the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) and the City of San Antonio’s ‘Complete Streets’ policy.
Former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell headlined the second day of the Texas Department of Transportation’s (TxDOT) 7th Annual Texas Transportation Forum at the Grand Hyatt in downtown San Antonio.
You gotta give him credit. Georgia Governor Nathan Deal learns quickly. He’s reversed not only his own position but his predecessor’s plans to privatize Georgia’s public roads utilizing very controversial contracts known as public private partnerships.
The Reason Foundation delivers again. One of the top think tanks that lobbies 24/7 to privatize our public infrastructure through toll roads, known as public private partnerships (or P3s), released a “scientific” poll that claims 55% support P3s and 58% of respondents prefer tolls to gas tax increases to pay for new roads.
Texas Senators Steve Ogden and Tommy Williams recently made a very public proposal to increase the vehicle registration fee by $50 (nearly doubling it) in order to pay for roads.
Once again lawmakers can’t trust the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT).
Texas voters said a resounding ‘NO’ to expanding Tax Increment Financing (TIF) and Transportation Reinvestment Zone (TRZ) authority to Lone Star State counties by defeating Proposition 4 on November 8.
The Texas Transportation Commission has announced the new Executive Director to head the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), former Secretary of State Phil Wilson.
Get ready to pay a hefty price tag to escape congestion. Houston’s Metropolitan Transit Authority (Metro) is in the process of converting 83 miles of HOV lanes into HOT lanes or High Occupancy Toll lanes, where single occupancy vehicles can access the HOV lane, if they pay a toll.
Governor Rick Perry and the GOP-dominated Texas Legislature are presiding over the most fundamental transformation of the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) in its history.
At September’s meeting, the Texas Transportation Commission quietly passed a Minute Order authorizing the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to implement a dual designation of I-10 in Seguin to I-410 in San Antonio and eventually to I-35 (53 miles total) as State Highway 130.
We’ve all heard of unfunded mandates and how federal and state governments kick their responsibilities down to the local level without paying for it.
With the pay-to-play Solyndra solar panel bankruptcy scandal rocking the White House, Texas governor and presidential hopeful Rick Perry is embroiled in a mountain of controversy all his own.
Rick Perry may be good at invoking states rights and private property rights, while disavowing ‘foreign creditors, but his actions as Texas’ longest serving governor tell a different story.
A decade ago, the word Cyclovias, meaning bike path, was not part of the America lexicon. Its source and meaning are foreign to the American way of life.
The people of Texas scored a big victory with the recent repeal of the Trans-Texas Corridor (TTC) from state statute.
Some may have never heard the term “complete streets” or “walkable communities” so allow me to enlighten you. The “Complete Streets” policy of one particular Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) says “it will serve to provide safe access for all users including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, and bus riders.”
Texas tolling authorities got their every wish granted under the moniker of ‘local control.’
Since the egregious U.S. Supreme Court Kelo vs. City of New London ruling of 2005, Americans have turned to their state legislatures to remedy the practice of government abuse of private property rights for private gain, especially for economic development purposes.
Voters thought they sent a message to politicians of all political stripes last November – we’re fed-up with out-of-control taxation, debt, spending, and big government and politicians who proceed on that course do so at their own peril.