The Trouble With Tolls

RECEIVED Mon., July 26, 2004

Chronicle,
   Fire Madison, since he ignores the facts. Maybe the soap operas can hire him, and you can hire a reporter that investigates and reports and is in touch with 93% of the public!
   CAMPO asked for public feedback ["Austin@Large," News, July 23]. Ninety-three percent said no, find a better plan (www.campotexas.org). CAMPO ignored the 93%.
   What is wrong with the toll plan CAMPO passed?
   1) The toll road plan forces toll roads on almost every major arterial route throughout the city. That has never been done before in this country; we should not be the experiment.
   2) It seizes a number of roads that we have already paid for with our taxes and converts them to toll roads (William Cannon overpass, I-45 South, 71 from 35 to the airport).
   3) And, when you compare toll road miles per million: Dallas has 12.7, Houston has 16.9, Austin will have more than 113. That is absolutely unacceptable.
   It's not a toll plan, it's a revenue plan, and we will stop it.
   First there was the Boston Tea Party ... on Thursday 29, we begin to take back our city with www.austintollparty.com.
Sal Costello
   [Mike Clark-Madison replies: If I ignore the facts, that puts me in the good company of Mr. Costello. Right now, of course, Austin has zero miles of toll roads, compared to the Dallas and Houston figures he cites. Both of those cities have likewise proposed huge expansions of their toll road networks – much larger and more expensive than what Austin has entertained – so his argument utterly fails. Likewise, it is thoroughly false (no matter how many times it gets repeated) that the specific roads he cites are already fully funded and are being "seized." Even if this were so, local citizens already pay user fees or tolls or taxes or whatever you want to call them, on other tax-supported parts of the transportation network (Capital Metro's fares, the city's street-maintenance fee on the utility bill). And I don't think anyone is silly enough to believe that the organized e-mail campaign waged by Mr. Costello and his allies is an accurate index of regional opinion; if toll roads were put to a three-county vote today, they may not pass, but they certainly would get more than 7% of the vote.]
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