Collin County State Reps. Scott Sanford (R-McKinney), Matt Shaheen (R-Plano) and Jeff Leach (R -Allen) recently filed a ten-item legislative agenda under the banner “Toll Free Texas,” which aims to more effectively prioritize non-tolled roads. Reforms include greater transparency, stronger safeguards for locally elected officials, and preventing toll-road abuse, cronyism, and obfuscation.
Rep. Sanford filed six bills. The first, HB 856, would require that Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) live-stream, record, and publish all meetings. MPOs are the regional authorities that control virtually all transportation funding. Historically, they’ve been used as vehicles for more rail projects and other non-road waste.
HB 1834 and HB 1837 would require locally elected county officials to affirmatively approve any toll project inside their own jurisdiction. Currently, only the consent of the politicians, transit, and toll bureaucrats serving on the MPO effectively matter.
The bills further require that the cost of any new toll facility be repaid over a shorter, twenty-year period, after which the toll is removed. Similarly, HB 1183 by Rep. Shaheen would also require county approval of any Comprehensive Development Agreement (CDA) for new toll roads. HB 1734 (also by Shaheen) would further require the road be returned to TxDOT after its construction cost is repaid.
HB 1734 specifically protects the integrity of existing toll revenue statewide. Tolls would only be levied as a user fee to repay the cost of the road, not as a transportation tax to finance unrelated projects at the behest of local politicians and transit bureaucrats.
HB 1835 by Rep. Sanford would prevent the conversion of existing “free” roads into tolled or “managed lanes,” while HB 1838 would call for the conversion of all twenty-three toll roads in Texas into traditional, non-tolled highways within thirty years. The bill would only require that a report or “plan” be conducted to begin the conversation.
Regarding increases in road funding, Reps. Sanford and Leach both offer proposals that dedicate existing tax dollars to non-tolled roads. HB 1836 by Sanford is the broadest, calling for 10% of all sales tax revenue to be wholly dedicated to the State Highway Fund. Currently, all undedicated sales tax revenue flows into the state’s General Revenue fund.
Rep. Leach proposes two additional options. The first, HB 202, would dedicate 50% of the Motor Vehicle Sales Tax (MVST) to the State Highway Fund for non-tolled roads. The second, HB 203, would dedicate all sales tax from automobile parts for the same purpose.
The Toll Free Texas agenda moves transportation policy aggressively in a pro-taxpayer direction by increasing transparency and public accountability, by dedicating existing tax revenue towards non-tolled roads, and by preventing further toll-road abuse.