Toll Road Mythology 101

Toll Road Gurus are at it again… all over the nation

One of the many reasons why toll roads should be prohibited. Reasons for toll hikes wind up being for the promises of building various roadways instead of a more practical pay as you go approach via gasoline taxes and other transportation taxes. In addition, private toll roads enable 80% of toll revenues off the top goes to the company managing and operating the toll roads. That doesn’t seem cost-effective, does it? Add to it a 70-year state contract to that private toll company and you can see a long distance debt that our children’s grandchildren will have to takeover.

But toll road proponents, e.g., Peter Samuels a special interest reality-ignorant editor and promoter of toll roads, tell us that tolls are the only way roadways can be built quickly and affordably . They don’t tell us about the long-term debt, increased pollution and ongoing toll rate increases that are part of such a plan. Wealthy toll special interests get richer while the people continue to shell out infinite toll taxes to finance that increased wealth.

Only scam artists encourage toll roads. The majority of people have little to say and do most of the paying for them.

See what’s happening in Dallas, TX below:

Peter Stern


NTTA board’s finance panel postpones vote on toll hike

By MICHAEL LINDENBERGER / The Dallas Morning News

The North Texas Tollway Authority finance committee heard – but did not approve – a staff recommendation today to increase toll rates throughout its growing network of toll roads.

After lengthy discussion, the committee decided against voting on the proposal to raise rates on toll roads from 11 cents per mile to 14.5 cents, effective Sept. 1.

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The committee will meet again next week for a specially called meeting, and the full nine-member board will vote on the hike in July.

But an increase appears certain. NTTA staff and its financial advisors said failure to raise the rates significantly could make it difficult, or even impossible, to issue new debt to complete work on already promise toll roads.

Still, board member Bob Day, former Garland mayor who is a Dallas County appointee, wants his colleagues to phase in the increases, waiting till 2010 to impose the full increase. He also proposed making tolls fully twice as expensive for those who do not get a toll tag, though some steps would be made to help low-income drivers who do not have credit or debit cards avoid the surcharge. Drivers have been slower to get slow tags than NTTA expected, making it more expensive to collect tolls.

“Let’s face it, this is kind of a tax on transportation,” Day said.

A delay might not be possible, however.

The proposed increase comes as NTTA seeks to reassure bondholders, who hold $6.1 billion in NTTA debt, that a steep decline in traffic on NTTA’s toll roads does not threaten the authority’s solvency.

NTTA, and by extension the entire region, bet heavily on the State Highway 121 toll contract, which was awarded to NTTA after fierce political skirmishing in 2007. NTTA won the 52-year contract after promising to build the road and pay $3.2 billion upfront with money it borrowed against future tolls.

A private company had offered to pay nearly as much, and take the risk that traffic – and therefore revenue – would meet projections.

But regional officials decided to bet on the record-breaking population growth in North Texas, and chose NTTA.

But the recession has slowed the Dallas-Fort Worth area’s population growth, though it is still fast by national standards. Traffic also has decreased as drivers seek to minimize transportation costs, inclduing spending money on tolls.

Though NTTA’s traffic projections were far more conservative than those issued by Cintra, the Spanish private company that was bidding against NTTA for local toll projects, they have nevertheless proven to be significantly inflated.

So far this year, traffic on State Highway 121, now know as Sam Rayburn Tollway, has been 19 percent below what NTTA and its advisers had expected.