Image: Map of 3 mile Tx-249 Tollway (in red) from Spring Creek to Woodtrace Boulevard (also known as the Woodlands Parkway Extension) in draft CDM Smith engineers traffic and revenue study for the Tx 249 Tollway, dated December 22, 2017. The Montgomery County government had to release the study late on Friday, January 26, 2018, in response to an open records request from The Golden Hammer, Montgomery County’s leading daily newspaper.
Conroe, January 27 – Unfortunately, the Texas Open Records Act/Public Information Act got in the way of Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal’s and Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley’s secretive plans once again. The law forced the County government to release the draft CDM Smith engineers traffic and revenue study (“T&R report”) which Doyal and Riley had hidden from the public and from other members of the Montgomery County Commissioners Court since they received the draft on December 22, 2017. The Open Records Act request came from The Golden Hammer, Montgomery County’s leading daily newspaper.
Since Doyal had to release the report yesterday afternoon to The Golden Hammer, he tried to put a positive spin on the decimating (for taxpayers) news in the report, so that the Doyal-controlled Courier blog might follow his direction. Doyal’s “chief of staff” jim fredricks was Courier blog editor Andy Dubois’ boss at the Courier blog before fredricks found a higher-paying gig on the backs of Montgomery County taxpayers.
It’s now pretty obvious why Doyal and Riley wanted to hide the draft report.
Price gouging tolls planned for Tx 249 Tollway
The T&R report for the tollroad, which Texas Transportation Commissioner Victor Vandergriff admitted in the Commissioners Court on December 19, 2017, that TxDOT would otherwise build as a free road, will have tolls much higher than Doyal and Riley have promised for several years and which will be among the highest tolls per mile in the entire United States of America.
In the T&R report, CDM Smith said that the revenue projections to sustain the road economically would include tolls at $1.25 for the 3.00 mile section of Tollway from Spring Creek to Woodtrace Boulevard (also known as the Woodlands Parkway Extension). Those tolls are in “2017 dollars,” however, and do not reflect the 2% increase in the toll prices from that date forward forever into the future. The road will not open for business until January 1, 2020, at which time the tolls will be $1.33.
The T&R report stated,
“Toll rates on MCTRA 249 Tollway will be $1.25 (2017$) at the main lane toll gantry and $0.50 (2017$) at the two ramp toll gantries along the MCTRA 249 Tollway. Toll rates will be escalated annually by two percent per year. Toll rates will be rounded to the nearest penny. Toll rates will not vary by time of day. Commercial vehicle toll rates will be three times higher than passenger cars.”
It’s important to remember that the 3.00-mile Tollway section will connect to a 15.3 mile stretch of road, which Doyal and Riley lobbied TxDOT to build as a tollroad heading north, and to a shorter section of road in Harris County that is already partly a tollroad and party a free road.
While $1.25 may not sound like a lot of money, for 3.00 miles of road it’s actually an extraordinary price of 41.67 cents per mile. The actual price of Tx 249 Tollway when it opens, however, will be 44.33 cents per mile.
Comparing Doyal’s and Riley’s price-gouging Tx 249 Tollway to other tollroads
Doyal and Riley hope to charge 44.33 cents per mile for the Tx 249 Tollway when they hope to open the road on January 1, 2020.
In comparison, the Hardy Tollroad charges $3.00 to travel 21.6 miles, or a rate of $13.89 cents per mile.
The Grand Parkway, which is a tollroad which TxDOT operates, charges $2.49 to travel from Interstate 45 heading east to US 59 at New Caney, a 14.8 mile stretch of road. The Grand Parkway toll rate is 16.8 cents per mile.
The Tx 249 Tollway will actually sit among the most expensive tollroads in the United States. According to the American Automobile Association (AAA), the New Jersey Turnpike, which stretches over the George Washington Bridge just outside of New York City to I-295 near the Delaware Memorial Bridge in New Jersey, costs 11.4 cents per mile, in comparison.
In fact, Doyal’s and Riley’s Tx 249 Tollway, also known as the Decimation of Hope Highway, will be the fifth most expensive tollroad in the United States, according to AAA. Tx 249 will beat out the Delaware Turnpike between Baltimore and Philadelphia (36 cents per mile) but will be right behind the Chicago Skyway beginning in downtown Chicago at 51.2 cents per mile.
There are many reasons that citizens in Montgomery County have come to refer to the Tx 249 Tollway as the “Decimation of Hope Highway.” In fact, CDM Smith mentioned one of those reasons in the T&R report. CDM Smith included the following table in its draft.
CDM Smith had to recognize that per capita personal income in Montgomery County has actually declined during the period when Doyal and Riley came into office. Per capita income went down more than 5.8% from 2015 to 2016. Nevertheless, Doyal and Riley still intend to charge Montgomery County citizens some of the highest per-mile tolls on the Decimation of Hope Highway in American history on a tollroad that doesn’t even need to be a tollroad at all, according to TxDOT.