Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Don’t mess with TXDOT

Eighty percent of Texas voters approved Prop 1 in November. The question is not whether they got screwed. It’s whether they care enough to do anything about it.

Barely a month after Texas voters overwhelmingly agreed to free up as much as $1.5 billion more a year for road construction, the Alamo Area Metropolitan Planning Organization today is set to approve a new long-term transportation plan that doubles the number of roads which will involve “managed lanes,” which is government-speak for toll roads, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

So now tolled roads in San Antonio will include:

  • I-10 between I-410 and Seguin on the east side
  • I-35 between downtown and Selma on the northeast side
  • SH 1604 between Bandera Road and I-35 on the north side
  • US-281 from SH 1604 to Guadalupe County on the north side
  • I-10 between I-410 and Boerne on the northwest side
  • SH 151 between I-410 and SH 1604 on the west side
  • I-37 between I-410 and downtown on the southeast side

In short, all major routes southeast, east, northeast, north, and northwest in and out of and around the city will have toll lanes.

Since TXDOT was pursuing toll roads anyway, why include the anti-toll road language in Prop 1? To get the votes to pass the funding measure.

Ben Ross writes at Greater, Greater Washington of a similar venture on I-95 in Maryland:

Since the tolls won’t cover the extra construction costs that they require, tolls are clearly not a way to raise money. What toll lanes do accomplish is to push most drivers off the pay lanes and onto the crowded free lanes. That might be acceptable if the toll lanes paid for themselves, but in this case it’s the majority that’s getting stuck with the bill, subsidizing an affluent minority.

“Managed lanes” don’t pay for themselves. And the taxpayers who fund them don’t use them. “Why did Maryland ever undertake such a project?” Ben Ross asks. The answer is the same for TXDOT: Because they can.

The issue is how do you manage growth. Urban sprawl, or not living where you work, started this mess. It was a byproduct of two developments:

  1. Dislocated growth fed by economies of scale: Cities are the only place where relative family stability is possible in a mobile, global economy.

  2. Self-segregation by race and affluence.

Growth is not a given, nor is it desirable in all circumstances. Reckless pursuit of growth will burn us out.

Leroy Alloway, spokesman for [the San Antonio Metropolitan Planning Organization, said the long-range plan called “Mobility 2040” is also adding 34 non-toll roads and is necessary to relieve congestion as the population keeps growing.

He added that there is expected to be $1.6 billion in new projects to address the million new residents moving to our area in the next 25 years.

Alloway says if they don’t add this plan, the city would have unmanageable gridlock.

That is, we need less gridlock, so we can grow San Antonio, so we can have more gridlock.

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