Gov. Rick Perry signed
a massive transportation bill into law Tuesday, June 14, that includes
requiring public votes on the conversion of tax-funded highways in Texas into
The bill is the
follow-up legislation to a 300-plus-page measure signed into law in 2003 that
radically changed Texas code by giving the state Transportation Department
powers to build toll roads or convert free roads into “pay-to-play” roads.
Since then, toll
roads have been met with public furor in some areas, as residents complained
roads that were promised as freeways later were set to become tollways, The
Associated Press reported.
The new law,
previously HB2702, not only requires a public vote on any attempt by the state
to convert a freeway to a tollway, but private operators of state-owned toll
roads must get approval from TxDOT for how they will set toll rates.
It affects the
Trans-Texas Corridor, a $184 billion pet project of Gov. Perry. Plans on the
route call for thousands of miles of tollways, railways and utility lines
across the state.
The state already is
under contract with the Spanish firm Cintra to begin designing the first
600-mile phase to run roughly parallel to Interstate 35 from San Antonio to the
Plans call for Cintra
to operate and collect the tolls for 50 years.
The state also would
be required to provide access to the corridor where it intersects other state
and federal highways, The AP reported.
In addition, the new
law prohibits movers from hauling household goods for compensation in a vehicle
of any size without registering with the state.
“Today we are not
only improving upon the Trans-Texas Corridor plan by adding new protections,
but by expanding the state’s ability to tackle complex transportation problems
faster and cheaper,” Perry said in a released statement.
The new law takes
effect Sept. 1.