Texas governor signs bill for public votes on toll roads

| Friday, June 17, 2005

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 toll roads.

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 Oklahoma border.

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.

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