Monday, May 08, 2006

Toll roads and the propositions

Check out Sal Costello's post about the new KLRU piece on tolls here in Austin. He gives links to where you can watch the video for yourself.

Section 2 A(2) of the Clean Water amendment, helps stop toll roads here in Austin by forbidding the City to support the tolling of roads based on increased growth over Barton Springs.
(2)The City must not support any toll road project, as an expansion, extension or conversion of a roadway located in or leading to the Barton Springs watershed, that relies on projections of toll revenue collections that predict any significant traffic increase from or over the Barton Springs watershed to support financing of all or part of the project.
Even though traffic can get bad out in that part of town, experts agree that cities "cannot build their way out of a traffic problem." Building more roads leads to more growth which leads to more traffic. It also leads to a polluted aquifer. We must find ways to support our existing population while prohibiting damaging increased development.

The Open Government Online amendment, Proposition 1 on your ballot, will make sure that bad deals, such as the toll road projects foisted upon us, are out in time for the public to react to the problem. In part one of the video, you'll notice that the Statesman's reporter talks about how the toll road deal was sprung on Austin with only three months for the public to react before a vote. The OGO will help give Austin more time to actually and effectively participate in our city government.


At 10:27 AM, Blogger Mike said...

Making common cause with Costello is incredibly foolish. He, like almost everybody else out there, wants those same roads, but they want them built as 'free'ways. Which, of course, is far worse for the Springs than if they're built as tollways - since freeways subsidize sprawl far more effectively than do toll roads.

At 10:51 AM, Blogger Mick O' said...

What I notice, mate, is the consistent language overkill leading to the dreaded unintended consequences. For instance the language:

"must not support any toll road project...leading to the Barton Springs watershed...that predict any significant traffic from or over the Barton Springs Watershed."

Well, East 71 "leads to" the "Barton Springs watershed" if you are heading west, and a good portion of traffic it generates is to and from the airport and some of that traffic must be coming from Southwest Austin, wouldn't ya agree?

So when they are projecting how much traffic goes to and from the airport on E. 71 I am sure they include traffic increases "from or over the Barton Springs watershed."

So if this amendment passes the City could not support the upgrade of E. 71 since it will be tolled. Now I'm not much on tolling period, but if you are going to toll, routes to the airport are understandable and this is just a silly result of this amendment.

At 10:55 AM, Blogger JS Hatcher said...

I agree that there are far worse policies than toll roads that subsidize sprawl over the Barton Springs watershed. That is why the Clean Water amendment states that the City must prioritize development off the watershed and must not support infrastructure improvements designed to service new residents.

The problem with the toll roads planned over the watershed is that they are only profitable if there is a massive development expansion over the watershed. This is wrong and should not be supported.

At 11:33 AM, Blogger Mike said...

Strategically, it's foolish to make common cause with people whose agenda is a massive EXPANSION of road-building over the aquifer. That's what I'm saying. If Costello wins, the next step will be to pressure local government officials for another big bond package for "donations" to TXDOT to build the next batch of "free"ways out his way (Circle C).

There's no danger the toll roads will default, despite what you hear from that idiot Roger Baker. The danger is that they don't get built, and instead, that suburbanites continue to believe that no matter where or how far out they choose to buy their McMansion, TXDOT will eventually build them a big free highway.

At 9:35 PM, Blogger Mick O' said...

come on, mate, everyone knows that toll road stuff was added to Propostition 2 in a cynical attempt to appeal to the toll road jihadist crowd.

At 10:31 AM, Blogger JS Hatcher said...

The toll road items were added to stop massive expansion over the Barton Springs watershed. If it were meant to stop all toll roads everywhere, then the language would be quite different.

The amendment forbids the city from entering into a massive increase of infrastructure to serve new development over the aquifer--freeways or toll ways. The idea is for there not to be a whole crop of McMansions to demand new roads. It goes to the base of the problem--massive expansion. Toll roads based on massive future growth to support the financing means that the City, who would have a direct financial stake in the toll road, must encourage further development over Barton Spring. This is the point.

At 2:31 PM, Blogger Mike said...

The city will have a much bigger 'stake' in the freeways which will be (re)proposed once these toll roads are beaten down. If you think the residents of Circle C are supporting your fight against toll roads over the aquifer because they don't want highway expansions there at all, you're fooling yourselves.

Free highways to the suburbs are a far worse deal for Austin overall - we end up 'donating' a bunch of property and sales taxes to pay for their initial construction, and the gas tax itself acts as yet another suburban subsidy from that point on. Toll roads, on the other hand, provide the suburban commuter with an opportunity to directly pay each time they drive - which is more likely than any other method to make them think (or rethink) about where they're living.

At 3:30 PM, Blogger JS Hatcher said...


that kind of system, where everyone pays for every exact portion that they use, when applied to everything results in a goverment and a society where there are no social services and every single act is charged to some giant micropayment system that charges you for every public facility you use.

Why have childless people pay for public schools? Why have social security? Why have any government institution? In any government a taxpayer ends up paying for things that he or she personally doesn't use.

The answer is that there are things that are too important to leave to chance. The answer is also that sometimes it is just plain immoral not to have a system in place that helps people. And finally the answer is that sometimes it takes a public entitiy, such as a city government, to save something that no one person could save on their own.

If we wanted giant corporations to run everything for us, instead of having a government, we would vote it that way. The Barton Springs zone is important to our city, and this amendment is designed to help stop development over that zone.

At 6:49 AM, Blogger Mike said...


I couldn't agree more. However, the things that we all pay for together ought to be things which make the community better, not worse. In this case, building 290 and 71 as freeways rather than tollways increases the already large and damaging subsidies to suburban sprawl in that area. It doesn't help; it hurts.


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