Toll Decision Needs Citizen Vote

RECEIVED Tue., Sept. 14, 2004

Dear Editor,
   The toll road plan approved by CAMPO in July was thrown together with almost no time spent making area residents aware of it, how much it would cost, and how it would improve traffic congestion. Since it was approved, tens of thousands of citizens have voiced concern that this plan will do little to alleviate traffic and that it punishes local residents financially.
    The toll plan will cost many Austin area families hundreds of dollars per year, and some will pay over a thousand. Many of the toll roads in the plan are a double tax because planning and construction were already under way with tax dollars. Most importantly, the plan affects us throughout our lifetimes, and for generations to come.
   The promise of toll-free alternatives rings hollow, and even if it were true, does not justify a poorly conceived plan. Area businesses favor the tolls because their employees pay the tolls and they pass the cost on to customers. The cost of everything goes up because of tolls, and so we get to pay even if we don't ride the toll roads ourselves.
   Poor choices made more than 25 years of no-growth policies by our "leaders" have led us headlong into the current traffic crisis. In the Nineties boom, they chose not to build the traffic infrastructure that we needed. Now more shortsighted public leaders decide the solution to the problem is to toll us into financial oblivion. Where are the public leaders with vision?
   The enormous cost increases to area residents imposed by the toll plan is the largest in a generation and deserves more study, better planning, more citizen input, and yes, a vote of the citizens.
Mike Gauthier
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