Doesn't Like CTRMA's All or Nothing Approach

RECEIVED Tue., June 1, 2004

Dear Editor,
   I am a fan of toll roads, but Mike Clark-Madison's "For Whom the Road Tolls" [News, May 21] provided a simplistic view of the CTRMA.
   Instead of planning alternative roadways or HOV lanes, the CTRMA is trumpeting "additional capacity." As an Eastside resident, I enthusiastically watched as TxDOT began expanding U.S. 183 into a full-fledged highway, with two lanes of high-speed roadway and two lanes of stop-and-go access road. Now CTRMA is telling me the high speed roadway being paid for with tax dollars is additional capacity, and I can pay a toll for the "new road" or continue to use the same, inadequate lanes of stop-and-go road, now known as "access road." All right, admittedly TxDOT is in a cash crunch and we should all pay our way, but let us look to the west side of town, shall we?
   While the Eastside has stop-and-go lanes along 183, the west side has free highway along Loop 1. When CTRMA comes in, west-side residents will still have three lanes of free highway, plus two new lanes of toll way. While the Eastside has to choose between stop-and-go and a highway, west-side citizens will have nothing but highway to choose from. In other words, the citizens least able to afford tolls will have no choice but to use them.
   While I want to see some toll roads built in our region, I don't like CTRMA's all-or-nothing approach. Ask yourself: Where will the profits from the toll roads go? Will noncompete clauses signed to guarantee profits allow for improvements to I-35 over the next 30 years? Why aren't we spending this money on public transit projects? Do we want 45 to be connected over the aquifer? In the final analysis, CTRMA is thumbing its nose at ECT and is simply sounding the bugle call of the road warriors.
Lonny Stern
   [Mike Clark-Madison responds: I think the writer's right about the equity issue in the sense that the U.S. 183/Texas 71 East segments should have been done long ago, long before South MoPac or Loop 360, and weren't because they're on the Eastside (not the entire reason, but a big one). But we need to remember that we can solve the equity problem simply by tolling existing roads, up to and including I-35, which is politically threatening right now but by no means impossible. (I should note that TxDOT insists that nothing in the SH 130 noncompetes prevents the agency from improving I-35, and the CTRMA's current plan does not connect SH 45 over the aquifer.) Progressives can and must continue to be vigilant in ensuring that the road plan doesn't lead to further inequity (or further sprawl), but they can do that without opposing the current CTRMA plan itself. That's where I'm at.]
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