June 23, 2017 – Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack’s June 20, 2017, letter to Texas Governor Greg Abbott out the “249 Toll Road” raises some major Republican and conservative philosophical issues. The letter follows:
“Dear Governor Abbott,
“As you know, the Texas Department of Transportation has plans to build SH 249 from FM 1774 to the Montgomery County line. On behalf of my constituents, I am asking that you do everything in your power to prohibit the Texas Department of Transportation from tolling this roadway.”
“Montgomery County takes pride in being one of the reddest counties in Texas. The Republican Party of Texas Platform plainly addresses toll roads and asked the state to fully fund roadways in Texas. When you ran for office, a plank in your platform was no more toll roads. Since your election, you have stated several times your opposition of these roads. Please continue to follow-through on your campaign pledge to stop toll roads in Montgomery County and throughout the State of Texas.”
James Noack, Commissioner, Precinct 3″
What really is the Tx-249 tollroad issue?
Fundamentally, the Tx-249 issue is whether a group of local politicians – County Judge Craig Doyal and Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlier Riley – should take a fully-funded (from already paid state and federal gas taxes that would return to our local community) road project away from the Texas Department of Transportation (Tx-DOT) and turn it into a locally-operated toll road, so that they can funnel the $73 million price tag into the hands of their favored political contributors and legal defense fund supporters, Halff Associates engineers, Jones & Carter engineers, Land Tech surveyors, and more, all of whom contribute many tens of thousands of dollars to Doyal and Riley for their criminal legal defense and for their political campaigns.
The Tx-249 extension is a total of 15 miles of road from Spring Creek (to the south at the County line Harris County) northward. Since Montgomery County could not possibly obtain sufficient credit to finance the full 15 miles of road, Doyal and Riley and their County vendor buddies have cut out 3.6 miles of road, at a cost of $73 million, for which they want Montgomery County to exercise “primacy,” meaning that the County Commissioners Court will control that small portions payments to vendors.
Have they already spent your tax dollars on this project? You betcha. The Commissioners Court has already spent more than $13 million out of the County’s general revenue, a nice term meaning “your tax dollars,” to pay their favored engineers and contractors for this complete waste of money.
Will this folly tax the County’s resources further? Yes, of course. Since Doyal and Riley know that they could never get Montgomery County voters to approve general obligation bonds, they’re trying to issue revenue bonds – at a substantially higher interest rate – which the County’s credit will need to back, in the likely event that this road going to nowhere will fail to meet the debt obligations.
Was there anywhere else we could have spent that $13 million, perhaps on a more important project? Unquestionable, as Riley has admitted in the Commissioners Court on April 13, 2017, the single greatest mobility need in Montgomery County is the widening of F.M. 1488 from the Waller County line to Mostyn Manor, because it’s a 2-lane road now that is massively congested during long periods each day. Riley diverted much-needed resources from the 1488 widening project to the ridiculous 3.6 miles of road folly, the Tx-249 Taxway, instead, so that he could funnel the money to his favored political contributors.
What does the Republican Party have to do with this issue?
Doyal and Riley, have pushed through the $13 million of funding for a $73 million 3.6 mile Tx-249 “Decimation of Hope Highway” Toll Road project, also known as the Tx-249 Taxway at the far southwest edge of Montgomery County. The primary beneficiary of that funding has been Halff Associates, Inc., engineers, the firm of Bobby Jack Adams, Doyal’s best friend and business partner. Halff has enjoyed an approximately $2 million contract to provide oversight of this unnecessary spending project.
Voters have never approved the Tx-249 extension toll road and Doyal has no plans to submit the issue to voters. Doyal has publicly stated that the $100 million extension toll road would be a money-maker for Montgomery County after the tolls pay off the expenses of the massive project in the decades it will require to recoup the massive expenditures. Since Doyal’s current proposal is to finance the Tx-249 extension with revenue bonds and possibly with County certificates of obligation, the taxpayers’ credit will squarely be at risk with this spending project to benefit Doyal’s and Riley’s engineering and contracting political cronies.
The 2016 Republican Party of Texas Platform holds that “tolls should come off the road when the debt is retired…We oppose the use of taxpayer money to subsidize, guarantee, prop-up, or bail out any toll projects, whether public or private.”
Doyal and Riley are squarely violating core Republican tenets with their desperate activities to build the $100 million Tx-249 extension. No other spending proposal presents a greater threat to the fiscal health of Montgomery County than this free spending waste of tax dollars.