A Texas lawmaker says awarding contracts to private
toll-road builders is not worth the long-term costs to taxpayers.
In a statement released Thursday, March 8, to Land Line Magazine, Texas state Sen.
Jane Nelson, R-Lewisville, says disdain for private toll roads is growing among
"There is a growing discomfort among citizens about the rush
to toll so many roads in our region and about turning over highway construction
to a foreign company," Nelson stated.
Nelson chose to speak up following an announcement in late
February by the Texas Department of Transportation that private investor Cintra
Concesiones de Infraestructuras de Transporte of Spain was first in line to get
a building contract for state Highway 121.
The contract for the 26-mile state Highway 121 from
Lewisville to McKinney carries a $5 billion price tag, including a $2.1-billion
concession fee the winning bidder would pay the state to get the contract.
"Acting in haste now is not worth the long-term costs to
taxpayers," Nelson said.
Texas lawmakers Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, and
Rep. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, filed bills earlier this week to place a
two-year moratorium on privatized toll roads.
Nelson supports the legislative effort because the toll
contracts often contain non-compete clauses that jeopardize taxpayer assets.
"Non-compete clauses prevent the state from building roads
that would compete with toll roads, buyback provisions require us to repay the
up-front money and the operators have unlimited authority to raise toll rates,"
- By David Tanner,