Despite the passage of increased funding that was supposed to alleviate worsening traffic congestion around the state without increasing taxes or tolls, it appears as though San Antonio residents will see some of their major freeways turned into – you guessed it – tollways.
In 2014 and 2015, voters approved Propositions 1 and 7 respectively, both of which increased funding for transportation projects, under the premise that taxes/fees would not be increased and the funding would not be used for toll projects.
It was also made abundantly clear that this money was supposed to be put towards projects to alleviate the most congested roads first.
TXDot recently released a list of priority projects in a 10-year plan which will use some of these funds.
At a cursory glance, it looks like TXDot plans on spending about $2.3 billion spread amongst 14 different piecemeal projects across the San Antonio area – and roughly the same amount on just two toll projects on 1604 and I-35.
That is, they plan on spending $2.3 billion putting tolls on highways that are currently free – highways that could be improved for much less by simply widening them and not putting in tolls.
As Terri Hall with Texas TURF says, “One of the biggest problems driving up the cost of the toll project is the need for special interchange ramps in order for the elevated lanes to interact with the existing interchanges at 410S, 410W and Loop 1604. The plan calls for building exclusive interchange ramps at three major interchanges for the managed lanes. That is completely unnecessary. If this were done as a regular general purpose lane expansion on the ground, there would not need to be new interchanges built to accommodate toll lanes that the vast majority of drivers cannot even afford to access.”
Of course, officials claim that tolls – or ‘managed lanes,’ as they prefer to call them – are necessary to alleviate traffic. Using the same logic that burdensome taxes spur business innovation, it looks as though officials and their developer friends are simply reaching for excuses to execute a money grab.
“It’s clear TxDOT officials are trying to consume all the Prop 1 and Prop 7 funding on lower priority projects that don’t address the major congestion problems so that they can force a toll scenario on congestion weary commuters on Loop 1604 and I-35,” says Hall. “Yet TxDOT has included roads that were already funded, projects where the cost doubled overnight, and expansion projects on I-10 E (that aren’t congested) jump to the front of the line to prop-up the failed SH 130 and more.”