Reasons I believe in the Non-tolled Option for 281
Commissioner Tommy Adkisson
October 29, 2009
- According to federal highway rules, the only way to have a non-tolled option considered is to have the MPO's plan reflect that singular preference.
- It will help end seemingly endless court battles over economic and environmental issues that must be addressed under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
- Schematics for the lanes planned and presented by the RMA clearly demonstrate their intent to provide only access roads, in place of existing free lanes in the plans for tolling 281 North. Tolled lanes are clearly overlaid onto the existing free lanes. This violates Senator Hutchison's prohibition in federal law, on tolling existing expressway lanes. *
- There is a viable non-tolled option that can approved. Using the 2005 Zachary proposal and actual cost of the three-mile plan used by Clay Smith on October 9, 2009 at the TAC meeting yields a $26 million per mile cost and when multiplied by this project's length of 7.8 miles, equals a total project cost of $202.8 million.
- In contrast, the RMA has yet to justify its much larger projected cost of $475 million, $70 million of which accrues to acquisition of right of way. Because the RMA is taking over a portion of the State Highway system, it is obligated to pay the right of way costs. By contrast the MPO does not have to pay right of way costs for a non-tolled scenario because TxDOT has its own separate fund for right of way.
- On Monday, October 19, 2009, the RMA testified that they plan to enter into risky multi-leveraged debt financing of the Texas Mobility Fund money in order to finance the toll road. This is the sort of multi-leveraging (second, third and fourth mortgages) that created the financial crisis we have experienced of late nationally.
- Just for the total interest on the $330 million in toll revenue bonds alone, the RMA said it needs $864 million over 40 years!
- The minimum toll project cost is $1.3 billion.
- The U.S. 281 Market Valuation study, which the RMA attempted to keep private and which could only be obtained through an open records request, says the toll plan requires 200,000 cars per day in the out years in contrast with the existing 86,000 cars per day, on average. As if these assumptions requisite for this toll plan's solvency were not risky enough, the requisite level of traffic guarantees ongoing legal battles over environmental impacts to our aquifer.
*The other side will say Senator Hutchinson's amendment is only good for one year (but they fail to recognize it's been carried over for several years now and it's officially part of the text of the bill now and no longer an amendment. It's supported by members of our delegation like Congressmen Ciro Rodriguez and Charlie Gonzalez).