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Managed Toll Lanes Are Taking Over North Texas

The News published this story on Sunday about the proliferation of managed toll lanes. Just now getting to it. My apologies. The story has a look at “plans to build the nation’s largest network of managed toll lanes into the region’s existing highways,” and it notes that “virtually every major highway project in the Dallas-Fort Worth area involves a tolling component.” I get it. We’ve run out of money to build more roads. No one has the stomach to talk about raising taxes the traditional way. So the road builders say we need a per-use tax. But two things in this story caught my eye.

First, NCTCOG honcho Michael Morris attempts to use the safety force field. How can anyone argue against safety? If you’re against safety, then you’re for danger. And especially if you bring up the danger of a terrorist attack, then, as a good American, you must support safety.

Here’s what I’m talking about. From the News story:

Officials also say the lanes will allow them to manage traffic better during major sporting events, catastrophes, or terrorist attacks.

[Michael] Morris said the lanes could be closed to the public so emergency response vehicles have guaranteed mobility during a major event. Morris said the concept began, in part, after the needs were illustrated through the 1985 crash at D/FW of Delta Flight 191, which killed 137 people.

“In that case, it was difficult for all of the ambulances and firetrucks to get where they needed to go,” he said.

So we’re going to managed toll lanes based on something that happened 30 years ago? This doesn’t make sense to me. I don’t buy the safety explanation.

The second thing about the story that caught my eye was the way that Morris responded to opposition from Collin County to turning Central Expressway’s carpool lanes into tolled lanes. From the News:

All of Collin County’s commissioners, state representatives and state senators oppose the plans to toll Central’s carpool lanes. They wrote a letter to the Texas Department of Transportation asking the agency not to go through with the plan. That part of the region is inundated with toll roads. Besides Central, its major highways are all toll roads.

“The taxpayers are making their position on this quite clear: They’re tolled and taxed enough already,” said Collin County Judge Keith Self, who presides over the county’s Commissioners Court.

Morris’ response:

“We probably haven’t done a good enough job of keeping new elected officials informed in regards to this item,” said Morris.

In other words, it’s a problem of communication. As in: “No matter what the elected officials and the taxpayers think, we need to communicate to them that we are going ahead with this plan.”

So what does it take to keep the road folks in check? A legislative act?