JAMES NOACK, Guest Editorialist
Toll roads are as well liked as a schoolyard bully. They both force behavior to their benefit and take your lunch money while laughing in your face. While bullying is no joke, neither is fleecing the taxpayer. Due to the growing opposition of toll roads and action by many this past week, the Texas 249 toll road conversation is roaring as loudly as the schoolyard playground at recess.
The Montgomery County Toll Road Authority seeks the issuance of revenue bonds to fund its portion of Texas 249. When revenue bonds are issued, there is no required referendum. Just last month, during the Republican primary, a proposition was overwhelmingly passed that stated: “No governmental entity should ever construct or fund construction of toll roads without voter approval.” For MCTRA to issue revenue bonds without voter approval not only defies the will of the voter, it isn’t congruent with the Republican Party platform, and it has ignited a firestorm yielding unintended consequences.
The first of which is that the statutory authority under which MCTRA is able to issue revenue bonds is subject to the right of referendum. That means that you, the voter, indeed will have a voice. If MCTRA moves forward with this ill-advised plan, I will lead the petition requirement, thereby forcing a vote on the toll road. It won’t be easy and I’ll need your help. But there is a better way: Have the state build the road without a toll.
Secondly, the hubris action to force this double-taxation toll road upon us, in defiance of the people, has banded together key local elected officials and the people. Last week, Sen. Brandon Creighton, state Rep. Mark Keough and I called upon Texas Department of Transportation to build the Montgomery County Toll Road Authority’s portion of Texas 249 without a toll. We are asking TxDOT to do locally what Gov. Greg Abbot and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has asked them to do at the state level: Build Texas’ roads without tolls!
It wasn’t long ago that Texans voted to boost funding for the state’s public roadways. Proposition 7 – supported by 83 percent of voters – provides billions in new dollars for road projects. In November 2017, Abbott stated he doesn’t want any more toll roads and that there are other ways to secure funds. Patrick, too, communicated his desire to TxDOT that they construct roads without tolls. TxDOT seemingly agreed, saying they are committed to use certain voter-approved funding for non-tolled projects.
Some have sadly labeled these actions as political. I believe those asking TxDOT to build, fund, maintain and not toll this roadway are doing the right thing. I’ve personally talked with TxDOT Houston District Engineer Quincy Allen and Texas Transportation Commissioner Laura Ryan. They are reviewing the request and the potential funding sources available.
While we have no way of knowing how they will decide. TxDOT is committed to serving the people of Texas and I’m giving them the chance to do the right thing.