Tuesday, October 16, 2007

17 cents will get you a mile on U.S. 281

By Patrick Driscoll - San Antonio Express-News - 10/16/2007

Noisy, anxious speculation over how much motorists will pay to use toll lanes on U.S. 281 has ended with a silent revelation.

Barring legal action and a dramatic turnaround in the courts, drivers in two- and three-axle vehicles could pay 17 cents a mile when the first four miles of U.S. 281 toll lanes open in 2012, according to documents posted on the Web without fanfare Monday.

Rates might increase 2.75 percent a year through 2017 and then 3 percent annually after that, about as fast as consumer inflation has been rising.

The Alamo Regional Mobility Authority, which will develop the U.S. 281 tollway, negotiated for months behind closed doors with the Texas Department of Transportation to set the toll rates and had carefully kept the numbers hushed.

But the local Metropolitan Planning Organization must sign off on the deal, and following its habit of releasing information before meetings, posted the proposed toll fees. The organization meets next Monday.

"There you go," spokesman Scott Ericksen said. "It's just our process."

Now that the rates are out there, a furious long-running debate over toll roads will now shift to new ground.

"I'm just glad we're finally getting down to the nitty-gritty," said Jim Reed, a mobility authority board member.

Terri Hall, founder of San Antonio Toll Party and Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom, said the fees, while comparable to Houston and Dallas, are higher than some other states — a claim borne out by a recent state audit.

"Texans have to be asking themselves, 'Why do we have to pay so much?'" she said.

Vic Boyer, director of the public-private San Antonio Mobility Coalition, said business and road industry officials are so far warm to the rates.

"I think they feel fairly comfortable with what they've seen," he said.

Rebuilding U.S. 281 into a tolled expressway with nontoll frontage roads from Loop 1604 to Marshall Road is just a start for the mobility authority.

The agency hopes to use $258 million in public funds and sell bonds backed by decades of toll fees to add $1 billion worth of toll lanes to highways:

The first 4 miles of U.S. 281 — which officials say will cost $200 million, a third more than estimates earlier this year. Construction starts next summer.

U.S. 281 toll lanes to Comal County. No timetable has been set.

Loop 1604 from Culebra Road to U.S. 281. Construction starts in late 2009.

Plans also call for tolled interchange ramps along Loop 1604 to give motorists faster shots to other freeways such as U.S. 281. The proposed toll rates under consideration for 2012 suggest charging 57 cents for each ramp.

Emergency and military vehicles would get free passage on toll lanes. VIA Metropolitan Transit would get a $42,000 a year break, enough to allow buses and vans to ride free, but the agency would have the option of spreading its exemption among other vehicles, such as vanpools.

In 2012 trucks would be charged 46 cents a mile on toll lanes and $1.15 per interchange ramp.

There would be no tollbooths. Instead, motorists would pay via an electronic scanning system.

"Our goal is to be reasonable, to keep it affordable," mobility authority Chairman Bill Thornton said.

The authority will brief the nonprofit mobility coalition at a private meeting Friday at Valero Energy Corp. to strategize support for toll plans.

"We want everyone to have a chance to see this, to ask questions," Boyer said. "We were on the ball and asked for it."

When Hall heard about Boyer's meeting, she called Reed to set up a presentation for toll critics, which will be held at 6 p.m. today at Chester's Burgers at 16609 San Pedro Ave. She said she wants to know how much profit U.S. 281 toll lanes will generate.

"That's the real crux of the matter," she said. "That'll be interesting."

What's it going to cost?

The Alamo Regional MObility Authority on Monday released rates for toll lanes in 2012.
Vehicles - 2-3 axles incl. govt.: 17 cents cost per mile / Interchange ramps 57 cents

Vehicles - More than 3 axles: 46 cents cost per mile/ Interchange ramps $1.15

Vehicles - Emergency, miliatary and most public transit: No charge cost per mile; No charge interchange ramps.

Rates will increase 2.75% annually now through 2017 and 3% annually after that.

Planned toll lanes to open in 2012 on U.S. 281 are from HWY 1604 to Marshall Road.
Read story and see graphic in San Antonio Express-News.

Fair Use

FAIR USE NOTICE: This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Material from diverse and sometimes temporary sources is being made available in a permanent unified manner, as part of an effort to advance understanding of the social justice issues associated with eminent domain and the privatization of public infrastructure. It is believed that this is a 'fair use' of the information as allowed under section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 USC Section 107, the site is maintained without profit for those who access it for research and educational purposes. For more information, see: http://www.law.cornell.edu/ To use material reproduced on this site for purposes that go beyond 'fair use', permission is required from the copyright owner indicated with a name and an Internet link at the end of each item. [NOTE: The text of this notice was lifted from CorridorNews.blogspot.com]

See ARCHIVE on side bar

Content is being archived weekly. Many pertinent articles regarding Transportation in the DFW Region are in the archives.

A government big enough to give you everything you want, is strong enough to take everything you have. - Thomas Jefferson

The Opnions On this Site are Diverse

DFW Regional Concerned Citizens attempts to examine issues from all directions. When a story says "By Faith Chatham" it contains my viewpoint. When it is by others, but posted by Faith Chatham, it is from someone else's viewpoint. When I discover contents which is on topic for this site, I frequently link to other sites. Usually those sites contain content which differs from my viewpoint (and frequently that of other members of DFW-RCC).