Monday, February 27, 2012

toll roads

------ Original Message ------
Received: 08:55 PM CST, 02/27/2012
From: Vince May
Subject: [TCLPActive] IRS deduction


     IRS will allow a standard BUSINESS travel deduction of 55 cents per
     mile for 2011 tax returns. It is widely accepted as an accurate
     average cost of operating a vehicle in America. One penny of that 55
     cent cost is for the gas tax collected that pays for roads. (About
     27 cents of each gallon of gas pays for highways. The average car
     gets 27 miles per gallon.)


     CTRMA will hold environmental impact hearings
     for the MoPac toll project on March 1 and 6 to assess the impact of
     tolling on people and the local economy. CTRMA proposes to collect a
     toll of approximately 55 cents per mile. (It could go as high as $1
     per mile. The toll will be dynamic, although a floor of 26 cents per
     mile will apply at all times.) The toll rate will automatically
     escalate every year.


     It is easy to see that the toll tax will raise the cost of driving
     by 100%. In the same way it is clear that the new tax raises the
     cost of road provision by 5,500%. (1 cent vs 55 cents per mile.)
     Some people think we should be kind to toll road users by refunding
     the 1 cent that they pay in gas taxes but that still leaves a 5,400%
     tax increase. The argument is irrelevant since both state and
     federal law prohibit a gas tax refund. (Business travelers will be
     able to claim a deduction for tolls paid.) BTW: a 55 cents per mile
     toll is equivalent to a $15 per gallon gas tax.


     Some people believe that the higher cost will be worth the privilege
     of driving at higher speeds. This might be an illusion. CTRMA has
     not set the target speed for the toll lane but stated that 40 to 50
     mph is under consideration. The latest info, which will probably by
     stated at the hearing, is that a minimum of 50 mph will be the
     target. (This is a computer generated number that will be revised
     when the lanes open so as to maximize profits for the private
     operator.) A similar HOV lane in Atlanta that was recently converted
     to toll resulted in much slower traffic on both the toll lane and
     free lanes. (Some people reject the tern "free" lane. I suggest they
     be called prepaid lanes but that is not how the public speaks. If
     they are to be called tax lanes then toll lanes should be called
     double-tax-plus-user-fee lanes.)


     Why do toll lanes cost so much? A single tolled lane on MoPac takes
     up a minimum of 19 feet of pavement and 26 feet in other
     places. That is partially gained by reducing the width and reserve
     space (shoulders) on the free lanes. Expensive bridge work will have
     to be done, which would not be needed if a fourth free lane is
     built. There will be a need for very expensive flyovers that would
     not be needed for a free lane. All of this must be financed at
     approximately double the rate that would be paid for state
     bonding. A swarm of (private) bureaucrats are needed to operate the
     lanes. That is in addition to an increased number of public
     bureaucrats to oversee the private bureaucrats. To curry public
     approval, an expensive sound wall must be built. To win approval
     from enviros, bike lanes will be built on precious real estate. (Not
     seen in the graphic below.) For some reason the engineers specified
     expensive jersey barriers on both sides. I'm not sure if this is
     toll related.





     Note the generous shoulders that promote safety. The 11 foot lane
     width would only be needed on several miles near downtown. This plan
     allows deferral of some bridge work and eliminates the rest. It
     could operate at 65 mph but I would propose 55 mph. This promotes
     safety and reduces sound impact. I would specify asphalt in the
     areas where sound walls are proposed. (This greatly reduces sound
     impacts.) The most important thing is that this free plan can be
       built for less tax money than will be put into building a toll
       road. It does not include bike lanes or sound walls.


     CAMPO has been asked, by CTRMA, to approve "investing" $70 million
     of our tax dollars in the MoPac toll project. (Keep in mind that
     taxpayers have already paid for the $100 million worth of real
     estate being donated to the private company that will be given
     a monopoly to operate the toll lane.) Another $110 million of
     government funds will be put into the project but I am not certain
     which pool it comes from. I will find out.




     CTRMA will ask a private company to add $70 million to complete the
     toll project cost of $250 million. I propose that we could build the
     lanes as a free project with our $70 million of tax money and avoid
     a host of problems that come with the toll plan. Why would TxDOT
     prefer the toll plan? TxDOT has already signed a contract with CTRMA
     that requires CTRMA to repay the $179 million you see in the
     graphic. It was tax money when it was put into the toll project but
     will become "surplus revenues" when TxDOT gets it back in 20 years.
     Texas law allows TxDOT (and CAMPO) freedom with how surplus revenues
     can be spent.


     The money could be spent on more toll roads or train lines or bike
     paths. In essence, the money has been laundered through the toll
     road. TxDOT and CAMPO don't have to actually wait 20 years. JP
     Morgan will happily monetize the future money in 2014. Will we get
     another toll road or another Red Line?


     Here is the kicker: The private company will get a turnkey contract
     that allows them full control over design, finance, construction and
     operation. They might be able to build the project for $179 million.
     They wouldn't have to invest a single penny. You would never know
     because they are not accountable. How do you know that TxDOT's
     estimate of $250 million is good? I can show you the contracts for
     the free flyovers just built on IH 35 @ Ben White. It cost $25
     million. The contract for the nearly identical flyovers on US 183 @
     290E was let for $52 million. Politicians hail this as a great
     success because users of the 290E flyovers will pay $125 million in
     "user fees", AKA toll taxes. CAMPO put $90 million of Obama money
     into the 290E flyover project. Does your head spin? Welcome to


     After the $179 million is repaid the private company will begin to
     earn large profits. It is plain to see that this is more fascism
     than the free market at work. The private company has minimal risk
     and primarily serves as a "tax farmer" for the state. The fascism is
     evident to people who visit the legislature, in session, and see the
     hordes of private companies writing our laws. has a
     page online explaining why they are lobbying the Congress to raise
     the federal gas tax; they say that private companies can't afford to
     build toll roads unless taxpayers are forced to pay for more of the
     construction cost. But, as the 290E project shows, we are already
     paying twice as much tax money to build toll projects than we would
     have paid to build free projects.


     Who pays for the toll roads that fail? Not the fascists. Taxpayers
     do. Virtually every private
     toll road ever built went bankrupt. Fascist toll roads are a
     guaranteed loss for taxpayers, who are already forced to subsidize
     truckers and trains. Stop the subsidies for private leeches. If a
     private company wants to buy the MoPac right of way and build a toll
     lane, show me your $350 million. (That's right, pay for the ROW


     Fifteen years ago the state was asked to approve private operation
     of prisons. The state said that any offer to build and run prisons
     for 10% less than the state spent would be granted. Now the state is
     proposing to turn over our roads to private interests if they can
     increase the cost of building and operating the projects to several
     times what citizens are currently charged. Give me a break.





transportation bills

------ Original Message ------
Received: 06:40 PM CST, 02/03/2012
From: Vince May
Subject: [TCLPActive] House Committee on Ways & Means

The House Ways and Means Committee (very powerful) voted in a new
transportation funding formula today. It strips _all transit funding_
out of the Highway Trust Fund, meaning about 20% more federal money will
be available for roads over the next 5 years. (More funding _may_
actually materialize since the bill would also divert certain oil and
gas royalties _into the Trust Fund_.) Transit would be funded out of
general revenues which are getting tighter.

HR 3864 passed out of committee today 20 -17, with 2 republicans joining
the 15 losing dems.
The text:

A dem amendment failed 22 - 15. (Probably a pro transit amendment.)

Another dem amendment also failed 22 - 15.

Looks pretty good, so far. But other committees and the full house have
to vote in coming weeks. Then it becomes a fight with the Senate.