September 23, 2014
We call those ribbons of concrete like LBJ, I-30 and US 75 ‘freeways’, but, as my children know, nothing is free. Nothing.
Until the Dallas-Fort Worth Turnpike opened in 1957, all public highways constructed by the State of Texas were freeways. At a quarter a pop, that first toll road was paid for in 20 years and today is that segment of Interstate Highway 30 that unites the Metroplex. In my own small way, I helped pay off that toll road, one quarter at at time.
The North Dallas Tollway was also only 25 cents from LBJ to downtown Dallas, but no more.
The people of Texas clamor for more roads and cry out against a higher gasoline tax. As my former pastor used to axiomatically say, “Sometimes you get what you want, then don’t want what you get.” By golly, you got the new roads you wanted, but now you don’t want to pay the tolls. Axiom applies.
Let’s be very clear about toll roads in Texas. They are not the product of clandestine foreign billionaires intent on sucking the life out of your bank account. Toll road construction and planning undergo the same environmental and engineering studies TxDOT uses for all public highways. Planning doesn’t happen overnight, so the only folks surprised by their construction are the people who don’t pay attention to the goings on of government.
Full disclaimer: I love the PGBT, and those wonderful toll roads that allow me to wholly bypass Austin non-stop at 80 MPH. I’ve used just about all the toll roads in Houston. I must confess: I don’t have to use any of them. Not one. Public highways can get me everywhere I go.
Do I advocate for toll roads? Absolutely not! I want freeways as much as anyone. But, for a businessman like me, time is money. Time wasted in heavy traffic means loss of business for my company, Rockwall Controls Company, Inc. Our present toll roads are costly, but sitting in LBJ or I-30 traffic is more so.
Back to building freeways.
Our Texas gasoline tax hasn’t increased since 1993 while Ann Richards was governor. Since that time, voters have demanded “no more gas tax” and our Texas legislators have complied. One lawmaker who openly admitted we need to increase the state fuel tax per gallon is Texas State Senator Bob Deuell, MD and I then and now agree with him.
Two other factors you must understand are (1) inflation and (2) CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards. The first factor means your dollars are worth less; the second means you are buying far less gasoline. Bottom line: fuel tax revenues haven’t maintained pace with necessary outlays for essential transportation infrastructure. Hence, the toll roads. You got what you wanted – new highways – and now you don’t want what you got – costly tolls.
At the Blackland Corridor meeting last night, citizens expressed anger at the NCTCOG and the toll road company. If you want to find someone to blame, just look in a mirror. That’s right. As Pogo would say, “we is met the enemy and he is us.”
No one left that meeting last night with any doubt whatsoever: our people do not want any more toll roads. I agree. In fact, Rockwall Mayor David Sweet, Mayor Pro Tem Jim Pruitt, Council Members David White, Bennie Daniels and Dennis Lewis were present to stand behind a unanimous decision of Council to oppose toll road construction. Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem spoke publicly.
We have one small, very limited resource to help us with regional transportation and it comes to us on the November ballot as Proposition 1, upon with voter approval, a small portion of our Economic Stabilization Fund (aka Rainy Day Fund) will become available for highway construction.
100% of every dollar in the state treasury started from its home in our collective pocketbooks and purses.
We learned last night our North Texas population will grow to 10.5 million by year 2035. I quote: “More people will move to Collin County than live in Collin County now.”
NCTCOG pulls out all the stops in planning for our local transportation needs. I appreciate road planning. I don’t want DART in Rockwall County for a variety of reasons, chiefly because it would deprive us of funds for our Rockwall Economic Development Corporation that draws major businesses here, leaving us less dependent on our big neighbor to the west.
Planning for bicycle routes and footpaths is tantamount to governmental poppycock. Really? Someone would plan for me to ride a bicycle to DFW airport? Get real, people. Let’s leave planning for bicycle routes and pedestrian walkways to city governments where they belong.
In this last election Dr. Deuell’s opponent opposed Proposition 1 and he opposed raising the fuel tax. Denying either is implied consent for toll road construction. After what he heard last night, what will be his position on these matters if elected this fall?