Dear Editor, On Wednesday, members of the Texas Senate Committee on Transportation and Homeland Security held a hearing on the private toll road deals used to fund the unpopular Trans-Texas Corridor. Local state Sen. Kirk Watson, vice-chairman of this committee, will play a critical role in deciding the future of private toll road deals, which promoters have dubbed "comprehensive development agreements." Private toll roads offer a hard-to-resist "quick fix" for lawmakers facing big budget shortfalls. Without strong public protections, these deals are fraught with problems and typically cost taxpayers more money in the end. Their financing often involves the same leveraging of debt, conflicts of interest, and reckless shifting of risk that triggered the financial crisis. Road privatization places transportation policy in the hands of private investors seeking to maximize their profits through rising tolls, which they can collect for more than 50 years. Sen. Watson must protect the taxpayers of Austin, putting to rest irresponsible road privatization once and for all. If the state moves forward with any private toll road deal in the future, it will be the responsibility of Texas lawmakers, including Sen. Watson, to insist on the strongest possible public protections.
Emily Slatter Texas Public Interest Research Group Field associate