Tollapalooza


Officially incompetent

After the leaders of both houses of the Texas Legislature sent a very strongly-worded to the State Auditor in late February calling for review of TxDOT‘s “questionable accounting procedures,” including TxDOT’s projection of a $3.6 billion shortfall by 2015 without accounting for some $8 billion in already-approved road bonds, and its admission of $1 billion “error” in its budget forecasting, the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission (the “Commission”)–charged with recommending every twelve years whether targeted state agencies should be done away with–unsurprisingly issued a stinging rebuke of TxDOT early last month:

Sunset staff found that this atmosphere of distrust permeated most of TxDOT’s actions and determined that it could not be an effective state transportation agency if trust and confidence were not restored …. Significant changes are needed to begin this restoration; tweaking the status quo is simply not enough.

In its report, the Commission called TxDOT “out of control” in pursuing its toll-road agenda. So disgusted with TxDOT was the Commission that it recommended abolishing altogether the five-member Texas Transportation Commission which oversees the agency and replacing it with a leaner executive structure composed only of the agency’s executive director and a single commissioner. The final major recommendation of the Commission was that TxDOT undergo sunset review again in just four years’ time, instead of the normal 12-year review cycle.

Thx to the Statesman

Boondoggle

Ever get the feeling that the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) and TxDOT are flat-out lying to you about the supposed nirvana that will be a future Central Texas criss-crossed by toll roads?

Yeah, me too.

Well, here’s the proof. Austin American Statesman reporter Ben Wear cajoled a colleague to drive I-35 during rush hour while he cruised worry-free down the SH 130 toll road and then record who arrived at the toll road’s southern terminus first. According to Wear:

The tollways have been sold as a speedier alternative to the ravages of I-35 rush hour traffic. Toll road proponents have said that truckers, in particular, will flock to Texas 130 (and, eventually, Texas 45 Southeast) because time is money to them. Even with a $24 cash toll for truckers ($6 cash for passenger cars and pickups, $5.40 with a toll tag), the argument goes, it’s worth it to save the time.

So I decided to test that claim. I’d drive the tollway during rush hour and recruit a colleague to drive I-35 at the same time, then compare notes.

* * *

So last Monday morning, after synchronizing our watches on a frontage road just north of Texas 130’s departure from I-35, and agreeing that both of us would drive no faster than 70 mph in unrestricted traffic, we headed off, me to the tollway and Andrea on I-35. Who got to the intersection of FM 1327 and I-35 first?

* * *

Taking the toll road cost me nine minutes. And the toll I paid. But that’s not all it cost.

My total mileage: 54.8 miles, 11.5 miles more than the direct I-35 route. My Taurus tells me that I got 23.7 miles per gallon, so the extra mileage cost me a little less than a half-gallon of gas. That’s another $1.75 or so. I averaged 60.6 mph, Andrea 57.7 mph.

So, at rush hour, I paid almost $6 to get there 20 percent slower.

Fantastic. Small wonder the brain trust at TxDot was recently forced to admit a $1 billion “error” in its budget forecasting.

Thx to the Statesman’s Ben Wear

Officially a joke

Seeming to finally tire of nonsensical fiscal explanations offered up by TxDOT as to why it can no longer perform its statutory duties without the financial beacon of toll roads, Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst and Speaker Tom Craddick sent this letter Tuesday to the State Auditor asking him to initiate “a comprehensive review” of TxDOT’s “questionable accounting procedures.” Among the irregularities were TxDOT’s projection of a $3.6 billion shortfall by 2015 without accounting for some $8 billion in already-approved road bonds, its claim of 60% increase in highway costs between 2002 and 2007, and its admission of $1 billion “error” in its budget forecasting.

Thx to Lt. Gov. Dewhurst, Speaker Craddick, and Texas Politics

[my apologies on the NSFW picture below, but it was too perfect to pass up]

Honeysuckle this

So says my favorite Texan singer/songwriter, Willie Nelson, in a recent interview with conspiracy-minded talk show host Alex Jones in response to an effort last Session by former Sen. Barrientos to name a toll road after Willie. The interview with Jones regrettably also touches upon the ridiculous and despicable 9/11 truther nonsense, into which Willie has apparently now bought.

Nonetheless, no matter how much dope Willie smokes or what crackpot theories he endorses, Willie will always be the man in my mind, and I couldn’t agree more with him on his disdain for the questionably-legal adventure in toll road construction to which Central Texas is currently being subjected.

Thx to Willie and (can’t believe I’m saying this) Alex Jones

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