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A DEAL IS NOT A DEAL IF IT IS A TEXDOT DEAL? Print E-mail
by Scott Bennett    Tue, Nov 8, 2005, 12:53 AM


121_plano.jpg

The fact is that Texas has more traffic problems than it has tax dollars to solve those problems.  One solution proposed by the Texas Department of Transportation (TexDOT) is toll roads.  This doesn't seem so outrageous.  It seems fair that the people who use the roads should pay a disproportionate share of the cost.  But not all of the cost.  Everyone in Texas benefits from good roads because they are the basic infrastructure on which our economy rests.

That is one shoe.  The other shoe is that TexDOT plans to upgrade roads that have already been paid for with tax dollars by converting them to toll ways.  The idea, I think, is that heavily travelled existing roads can be expanded with additional toll revenue where there are no tax dollars available to do the job.

At least the folks up in Collin County thought it was a call worth making.  It appears they are about to regret that decision.  Earlier this year the Collin Counties of Plano, Frisco, Allen and McKinney along with the County government agreed among themselves to a $365 million plan to turn State Highway 121 between Central (US75) and the North Dallas Tollway into a tollway with considerable new construction.  The local goal was to hold tolls to 15-cents per mile.  Everyone to the North thought this was a done deal.

Now the cities discover that TexDOT has other plans that don't include them.  TexDOT sees this lucrative strip as a money generator far beyond the cost of the project.  Money above meetings costs would be TexDOT's to spend as it might desire.  Reports are that TexDOT is prepared to guarantee a consortium of mostly foreign companies a 22% return on their investment in building the tollway.  It is true the cities can revoke permission for the state to build a tollway altogether, but that will mean the project will be delayed for 20-years. 

Collin County is arguably the most Republican County in Texas.  Actions like this may make it fertile territory for Democrats sooner than later.

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