Comments from Terri Hall / Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom

About the RTC/NCTCOG plans and whether or not saying no to the toll road effects other planned improvements…

Short answer is ‘No.’

For those who may not know me or our work at TURF. We’ve been fighting toll roads all over Texas for a decade, starting with the Trans Texas Corridor. We’ve studied statutes, RTC plans, Transportation Commission Minute Orders, toll contracts, testified in the legislature for 4 sessions and worked to kill and pass hundreds of bills. You name it, we’ve studied it. I’ve debated think tanks nationally on this subject and the press uses me as a resource to explain to them the details of these plans/contracts. I’ve been called an expert by many.

Here’s why saying ‘no’ to the NE Gateway toll road won’t effect other improvements:

This confusion and concern by elected officials is fomented by bureaucrats like Michael Morris & TxDOT who manipulate our elected officials with threats. I’ve witnessed him and TxDOT do this for the last 10 years. Right now in San Antonio, TxDOT and our local transit board are threatening to yank funds from our highway if my senator keeps pushing for non-toll lanes. It’s called blackmail, folks. They do it quite openly. It’s why TxDOT and the RTC have so much power. They manipulate our politicians using fear and ignorance (since few of them know the rules, where the pots of money are, etc.). They know how desperate everyone is for road improvements, and everyone has to work with TxDOT at some point to get it done. They fear if they challenge TxDOT, they’ll face retribution (which they do try to do – but the law protects us against these intimidation tactics).

I could bury you with examples of what they do, but I want you to pass along to ANY of your elected officials this message: we got the law changed to ensure road funds DO NOT get yanked if a region decides against toll roads. Chairman Joe Pickett helped us do it between 2009-2011 for this very reason. He sat on his local MPO board (it’s the equivalent of your RTC) and got tired of TxDOT bullying everyone into toll roads by threatening to yank their funding for other projects.

The New TxDOT rule change (which is administrative law) took effect Jan 1, 2011 and can be found in this section:
Limits on the commission’s ability to allocate funds based on a region’s participation in toll projects – §16.156 (Texas Administrative Code Chapter 16, Subchapter D can be found here:
http://info.sos.state.tx.us/pls/pub/readtac$ext.ViewTAC?tac_view=5&ti=43&pt=1&ch=16&sch=D&rl=Y

(a) Toll project conditions. Neither the commission nor the department may require that a toll project be included in a region’s transportation plan or program as a condition for the allocation of funds for the construction of projects in the region.

(b) Limitations on allocation decrease. Neither the commission nor the department may:

(1) revise a formula as provided in the unified transportation program under §16.105 of this chapter (relating to Unified Transportation Program (UTP)), or a successor program, in a manner that results in a decrease of an allocation to a district or metropolitan planning organization (MPO) because of:

(A) the failure of a region to include toll projects in a region’s transportation plan or program;

(2) take any other action that would reduce funding allocated to a district or MPO without the prior consent of the MPO because of:

(A) the failure of a region to include toll projects in a region’s transportation plan or program;

Source Note: The provisions of this §16.156 adopted to be effective January 1, 2011, 35 TexReg 8388

Bottom line is this: DO NOT back down, keep pushing. The fact that they’re already being threatened means you’re being effective and very soon will prevail in stopping this unwanted toll road by keeping it out of the RTC plan. It is absolutely true that the road cannot move forward unless it’s in an RTC/MPO plan. The one elected official who said they may word it to be all squishy and leave open the possibility of the road (being added) in the future, but don’t let that happen. If the need arises later, (they’ll) work to get it in the plan at a later date. Because as long as it’s in the RTC’s plan, it will happen, trust me. Plus, y’all need to know, since Perry is on his way out and we’ll have a new Governor soon (who’s campaigning on not increasing toll roads) and two new transportation commissioners come February, help is on the way. Do not allow these threats to make your elected officials get wobbly on us.

– Terri
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Terri Hall
Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom
http://www.texasturf.org

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