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We love toll roads, don’t you?!

Tell Austin Officials “No Thank You” on $752 million in new toll roads

This coming Monday night, May 12, Austin’s transportation officials are set to vote on $752 million to build three (3) new toll roads over the next four years.  That’s a whopping 77% of all the spending projected for the Austin metro area’s 2015 to 2018 road and other “non-transit” projects.

The specific vote is Item 14 on the Monday CAMPO agenda.  The details on the meeting are here.  The proposed $752 million toll road total includes $100 million for the SH 45 SW “aquifer toll road” and $652 for adding toll lanes to US 183 in eastern and southeastern Travis County.

See the list of Travis, Hays, Caldwell, Burnet, Williamson, and Bastrop county officials that sit on the CAMPO board here.

Like most of our toll roads, these projects would be paid mostly with tax dollars: only a fraction would be covered by toll-backed debt financing.

If I don’t live in Travis County should I care?

SH-45 hallmarks a disturbing trend in road construction financing that TxDOT and its allies have concocted. Here is the methodology:

  1. Identify a road that someone wants (most likely a politician) that you know won’t pay for itself but propose a toll anyway.

  2. After years of tolling shortfalls, the taxpayers will be asked to bail the project out with tax dollars.

It’s a toll strategy that’s coming to your town shortly. In a way, it’s a clever play. TxDOT gets at least some of the road they want paid for and by the time the road defaults, it’s years later and who is going to make a fuss then? Can’t happen?

It has with SH-130 in central Texas. SH-130 is heading for default soon.

Moody’s downgraded $1.1 billion of debt tied to SH-130 by five notches, from B1 to Caa3, considered junk status. It’s the second time the firm has downgraded the project’s debt, following an earlier downgrade.

Insult to injury is this – the road interests want money from Travis County (which they may get and will be borrowed). And the City of Austin (which will be borrowed). Which will be matched with the Regional Mobility Authority’s (RMA) money (which will be  borrowed from TxDOT from a fund that is largely bond money – or in other words borrowed money.)  It’s a pyramid scheme that is doomed for failure that will wind up square ly in the laps of taxpayers.

Now that you’ve done that, please be sure to check out our new citizen’s lobby that’s getting ready NOW for the 2015 legislative session. Go to the League of Independent Voters and become a member today. If you live in the central Texas area, please join us in Bastrop on June 7th and if not, please help the new League plan an event like this one in your neck of the woods.


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