Proposition 1’s largest “selling point” was that funds diverted from the state’s emergency savings account to transportation would only be spent on non-tolled roads. At last week’s RTC meeting, however, officials admitted that increases in state funding will actually make it easier for them to build more tollways and passenger rail by freeing up existing revenue that can now be replaced by Prop 1 money.
The Regional Transportation Council (RTC) is an obscure partner of the NCTCOG and ultimately controls which projects receive federal, state, and local funds in North Texas. Cities and counties aren’t asked to individually adopt RTC policy that affects their jurisdiction; they can’t even opt out. Stated differently, unless localities band together in consensus to oppose projects in the RTC’s 2035 plan, citizens who live there get stuck paying for them.
The RTC reiterated its misguided “commitment to transit,” also known as passenger rail. Michael Morris, the RTC’s head bureaucrat elaborated, “Prop 1 gives us another tool we previously didn’t have”, by subsidizing roadway projects so that existing funds can be spent on a “comprehensive approach” that includes RTC-approved land use plans, bike lanes, passenger rail and of course, more toll roads and “managed” lanes.
TxDOT officials and local politicians serving on the authoritative council appear complicit with its wasteful agenda. The staggering amount of tax revenue they plan to divert away from traditional roadway expansion was outlined in last week’s presentation.
Over $16.5 billion through 2035 has been “budgeted” for passenger rail and bus expansion to “induce” drivers to stop using cars, while over $40 billion in spending is for “managed” lanes (i.e., tolls), new toll roads, and other roadways. The exact mix between traditional roads, tolls, and rail projects was left ambiguous in the presentation, although not a single public official raised a question to clarify.
Texans who voted for Proposition 1 in the hopes of stopping toll road expansion are in for a big disappointment. Without a statewide prohibition on toll roads, rail and other non-road projects that applies to all state funds, increases in state funding like Prop 1 will actually encourage more waste by the regional governments that ultimately control which projects receive funding.
As long as county and local officials (and their delegates to the RTC) continue to vocally support non-road projects, expect more toll taxes, new rail waste, and continued traffic woes.