Texas governor signs toll road incentive effort

| Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Gov. Rick Perry signed a bill into law that allows local communities in Texas to assist in the financing of turnpike projects through tolls.

In return for footing some of the expense, the new law allows cities and counties to keep a percentage of tolls collected. The money must go for transportation projects but not necessarily the toll road that generates the revenue.

Senators voted 31-0 May 25 in favor of the bill – HB2650 – which passed the House 85-54 in April.

This effort is in response to a 300-plus-page measure approved by legislators 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.

Supporters said toll roads are needed to relieve congestion at a time when the state does not have enough money to build roads. They contend toll roads would cut the time in half that it takes to build roads, the El Paso Times reported.

Opponents complain TxDOT is trying to change tactics after first “bullying” towns into supporting toll roads by threatening to cut off road funding. The department and others now are pushing toll roads by offering towns money.

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