Today’s the big day for the “T4 Plan” (Tommy and Terri’s Toll Termination Plan). The MPO board will vote tonight on whether to go foward with their proposal that removes the toll option from proposed expressway projects on US 281 and Loop 1604. I was prepared today to summarize why this is a bad idea, but lo and behold, the Express-News Editorial Board did a fantastic job in an editorial in yesterday’s editions.
After the introductory summary of the current situation and the price tag to fix it, it rips through all the fleshy propaganda and cynical fat and exposes the true guts of the toll road issue: that it’s not some get-rich scheme by Rick Perry and TxDOT, but rather is the direct outcome of years of the Legislature kowtowing to voters’ most primal of fears: increased taxes. In the editorial, they correctly state that funding for major improvements to 281 and 1604 ”will not come from the state of Texas unless lawmakers find the courage to end the legislative diversion of motor fuels tax revenues and raise the motor fuels tax.” If you didn’t know, the state’s motor fuels tax, known colloquially as the “gas tax”, has not been increased since 1991, which means it has lost a good deal of its spending power to inflation. Meanwhile, the Legislature has also been raiding the Highway Fund to pay for other things only marginally related to transportation, such as DPS. But stopping that dipping isn’t the sole solution as many would like to think: ”Ending the diversion alone doesn’t begin to bridge the state’s transportation funding shortfall, currently estimated at $8 billion per year” the editorial reminds us.
The editorial goes on to discuss all the faulty assumptions in the T4 plan, such as the fact that it’s based entirely on a 2001 plan that hasn’t been updated; that any changes now will require the process to reset again, thus delaying relief even longer; that the changes may jeopardize stimulus funding for the 281/1604 interchange and super street projects; and that while tolls aren’t a perfect solution, they are the only currently viable solution and that there will still be plenty of time to hash-out a financing plan while the required environmental studies are completed over the next three to five years.
In short,they call the T4 Plan “a pipe dream.”
My friends, that should tell you everything. The fact that the Express-News, which has previously been critical of toll plans, has called the T4 Plan bunk says more about it than I ever could.
If you haven’t read it yet, be sure to read fellow OnTheMoveBlog.com blogger Patrick’s sagacious take of all this. I’ll be at tonight’s meeting and will post the results here as soon as I get home, and on my Twitter feed even earlier than that.