Saturday, August 29, 2009

Southwest Parkway Funding

By Faith Chatham - DFWRCC - August 29, 2009
Funding of Southwest Parkway is still an issues in Texas. Planning for the freeway began in the 1960ies. By the 1990ies it was fully funded. Construction was delayed as some state and county "leaders" "identified it as a good candidate for tolling." As some in Austin began to dream of "creating revenue streams" from some of our public tax-payer financed infrastructure, the citizens of Fort Worth got shafted. A necessary freeway to serve that section of Tarrant county was planned, funded, affordable as a non-toll state highway. With George Bush and Rick Perry in charge, construction was delayed. Local leaders were shown that the only way to get necessary maintenance and expansion of state highways was as private public partnership toll roads. Road maintenance was delayed. Designated highway funds were transferred to other uses in the state budget. Dedicated funds in highway accounts were kept in the state treasury and not appropriated, showing false surpluses while roads all over Texas deteriorated. A crisis in road construction, congestion and air quality was created by planners and elected officials who were "sold on the advantages" of private investments in toll projects. The state and federal highway administration literally turned off the faucet on funding for road and highway and bridge projects to convince local leaders and citizens that there was a crisis in infrastructure maintenance and construction.

Now in 2009 funding of the Southwest Freeway is still being discussed (er red-stamped). Citizens in Fort Worth who paid for the right-of-way with tax money, who paid for the planning with tax money, who paid with their homes, land and businesses and suffered the strain of relocation, will have opportunity to use the Southwest Freeway...that is when they pay a toll.

Yes, it is good that it is nearing completion. It is a crime that those entrusted with the public good chose to rip off the residents of Fort Worth by delaying construction on a fully-funded non-tolled highway because it was "a good candidate for tolling!"

Toll Projects (continued from Minutes of Texas Transportation Commission, Aug. 27, 2009)
b. Tarrant County – Consider the approval of funds to pay certain construction and
right-of-way costs related to the crossing of the Southwest Parkway, a toll project
from I-30 to Altamesa Boulevard in the City of Fort Worth, over the Union Pacific
Railroad’s Davidson Rail Yard in Tarrant County, and to pay a portion of the costs
of a traffic and revenue study prepared for the Southwest Parkway (MO)
By Minute Order 111557 dated October 30, 2008, the commission approved a term sheet authorizing NTTA to develop the Southwest Parkway, subject to NTTA establishing its feasibility. By Minute Order 111889 dated July 30, 2009, the commission approved NTTA’s application for a toll equity grant of $49.87 million to be used to pay for a portion of the right of way and other costs to obtain access to the Davidson Rail Yard. The current order concerns three matters. The first is approval of $45.13 million to be used to pay the balance of the right of way and other costs to obtain access to the Davidson Rail Yard. The payment would be made if NTTA elects not to develop the Southwest Parkway. The second is approval of an amount not to exceed $40 million for the initial construction phase (as provided for in the Formal Agreement of January 2009 with the Union Pacific Railroad) of bridges crossing the Davidson Rail Yard, construction of retaining walls and other structures. The payment would be made provided the department develops the Southwest Parkway. The third is directing the executive director to enter into an agreement with NTTA under which the parties share equally in the costs of the preparation of a traffic and revenue study for Southwest Parkway.

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