Thursday, February 5, 2009

Carona's integrated transportation approach--other methods over tolling

Patrick Driscoll, San Antonio Express News transportation writer, has a good analysis of Sen. John Carona's recent letter to legislators about his goals for this session's transportation issues, including an integrated transportation approach.

Driscoll says, "State Senate Transportation Committee Chairman John Carona, R-Dallas, sized up the Legislature's milieu of transportation options this session and has decided that toll roads and privatization suck mud."

Carona advocates stopping the diversion of the gas tax to other uses, which also was advocated by many on the Sunset Commission.

Another Carona goal is "scrub TxDOT and cut jobs." Given the recent reporting that outsourcing projects rather than having them performed by TxDOT employees costs taxpayers MORE money, this does not sound like a desirable goal.

Carona also wants to index the gas tax to inflation, which has been touted by other legislators trying to find a way to get more money to highway construction.

Carona wants to "issue all allowable debt, such as $5 billion in road bonds approved by voters in 2007." This is another goal that I would question, in conjunction with reducing TxDOT employees. If allowed, this money SHOULD go toward TxDOT-performed construction, which the recent report showed is more cost-effective for taxpayers, rather than going to road contractors who have evidently been either over-charging or wasting money or both.

The recent Statesman article on outsourcing reported that vast sums in the campaign to get voters to pass the $5 billion road bond measure were provided by the road contractors. Do NOT reward over-charging and mismanagement by giving them $5 billion more.

Carona hopes that the above "measures would also reduce reliance on, though not eliminate the need for, less efficient and unpopular:"

toll roads
private investments (public-private partnerships)
leasing toll roads to private firms

Carona would implement his preferred measures, but would not yet take the unpopular toll-related measures off the table, in case they are eventually needed.

Driscoll says that Carona points out "that the options weave together, each affecting the others. So it makes sense to integrate this session's transportation legislation."

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