Decker Prairie, March 21 – “They’re reeling in your local government officials with lies,” said Texans Uniting for Reform & Freedom President Terri Hall of San Antonio who came to Montgomery County Monday evening to discuss the fundamental fallacies and dangers with tollroad financing of roads before a large audience from the Montgomery County Tea Party. “Spending $100 million on only 3.6 miles of road sounds pretty extravagant and outrageous,” Hall explained in response to questioning regarding the $100 million 3.6 mile Tx-249 “Decimation of Hope Highway” project, for which Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal and Precinct 2 Commissioner Charlie Riley have passionately fought for the County government to build and finance.
The County government has already loaned more than $10.7 million to the Montgomery County Toll Road Authority over which Doyal and Riley also preside, including paying almost $2 million to Doyal’s best friend and business partner Bobby Adams’ engineering firm Halff Associates, Inc., just to “oversee the project.” Apparently the $169,000 and $168,000 per year which the County pays Doyal and Riley in salary is insufficient to expect the County Judge (Doyal) and a road and bridge commissioner (Riley) to oversee the project themselves. Adams and other engineers of Halff Associates, Inc., are major political and legal defense fund contributors both to Doyal and Riley.
Hall, who has led the fight against toll roads before the Texas Legislature in Austin as a lobbyist and as a grassroots organizer statewide for many years, explained that for Montgomery County’s government to provide any funding for the Tx-249 extension doesn’t make any fiscal or planning sense, because “federal and state gas tax funds are already available and set aside to build the entire Aggie Parkway from Beltway 8 in Houston to College Station.” Hall did note, however, that the Texas Department of Transportation will sometimes “lie to or along with local officials in order to reel in local elected officials with the false promise of future revenue from toll roads.”
The TURF President explained that economic data and state and national studies now support the conclusion that additional tollroads in Texas are not economically viable projects. In order to try to justify the economics of the $100 million they want Montgomery County to spend on this project – which TxDOT would fund and build even without Montgomery County’s participation (!!!) – Doyal and Riley commissioned an expensive engineering study to support the project, which provided economic projections of the toll revenue for that 3.6 miles that relied upon the following assumptions, among others:
1.The Woodlands Parkway Extension, which Montgomery County voters rejected in a May 2015 bond referendum, “is assumed to be constructed and fully operational by the year 2023
2. The Harris County Toll Road Authority, NOT the Montgomery County government or the Montgomery County Toll Road Authority, will set toll rates.
3. A large system of toll lanes will be constructed on IH 45.
4. The toll road authorities will conduct “effective” advertising and promotion to make you want to use toll roads.
5. Motor fuel prices will not “significantly exceed the overall rate of inflation.”
6. “No local, regional or national emergency will arise which would abnormally restrict the use of motor vehicles or substantially alter economic activity or freedom of mobility.”
According to Commissioner Charlie Riley, he has agreed not to proceed with The Woodlands Parkway Extension, although he appears anxious to find other road projects that will feed Woodlands traffic towards his Decimation of Hope Highway project. Therefore, assumption 1 likely won’t happen. Assumption 3 will be a fiscal disaster for Texas drivers. Assumption 4 is offensive government propaganda reminiscent of George Orwell’s classic “1984.” Assumption 5 is questionable, given the extent to which the OPEC nations are inflating oil prices. Assumption 6 is mere speculation.
In desperation to justify the County spending such massive funds on a tiny 3.6 mile road project on the far southwest edge of Montgomery County, since the project clearly has nothing whatsoever to do with community mobility, Halff’s James Baker and Doyal have falsely contended that TxDOT has not, in fact, provided sufficient funding to build the entire Tx-249 “Aggie Parkway” on its own. The massive drain of County funds and County credit is rapidly flowing into the pockets of the following outside-of-Montgomery-County engineering firms who have received contracts from Doyal, Riley, and Meador since 2015 for the massive boondoggle:
Contract, January 26, 2015, Halff Associates, Inc., $1,987,000.00
Contract, February 9, 2015, Geotest Engineering, Inc., $194,178.00.
Contract, April 21, 2015, SWCA Environmental Consultants, $142,300.00.
Contract, September 15, 2015, Brown & Gay Engineering, Inc., $710,000.00
Contract, September 15, 2015, Jones & Carter, Inc., $1,599,500.00.
Contract, September 15, 2015, Aguirre & Fields, LP, $1,599,500.00.
Contract, February 9, 2016, Landtech Consultants, Inc., $268,140.31.
Change Order, December 20, 2016, Halff Associates, Inc., $358,000.
The threat of this $100 million project is nothing less than the greatest fiscal nemesis Montgomery County and its citizens presently face.