Toll ban bill advances in Texas

| 4/6/2007

A bill that is intended to buy the state more time to review the effects of handing over roadways to private groups is advancing in the Texas Senate.

The Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee unanimously approved the bill, which would place a two-year moratorium on toll road leases with private groups.

Sponsored by Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, the bill also would require a study of the long-term effects of public-private partnerships.

Supporters say the state needs to buy more time to review leasing plans. Passage of the bill is needed because of concerns the state is giving away too much in toll road leases, they say.

A little more than a week after saying he didn’t plan to let the bill out of his committee, Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, voted in favor of it. However, he questioned the relevancy of the effort.

“With the time it covers, and the amendments, it does little more than make a political statement,” Carona told the Austin American-Statesman.

The bill – SB1267 – now heads to the Senate floor where it is expected to be approved. It would then head to the House for further consideration.

If it were to make it through the Legislature the bill likely would get a veto stamp from Gov. Rick Perry. He has condemned the concept because of concerns about congestion and the complications it could create for attracting business.

The governor also said the state will always own the land beneath private toll roads – and toll-free alternatives will be available for drivers.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor