On the Austin, Texas Toll Study Report Recently Released to CAMPO by CRA International Somervell County Salon-Glen Rose, Rainbow, Nemo, Glass....Texas


On the Austin, Texas Toll Study Report Recently Released to CAMPO by CRA International

16 November 2006 at 8:38:01 AM

I've seen a couple of glowing news articles about the report that came out from CRA International about proposed toll roads; one fairly trumpets that opponents of toll roads have little comfort from the published results. After reading similar articles recently about a report by the Perryman Group, who, oh!, was being paid by TxDot, I thought it would be useful to make sure that this new report, so widely quoted, was all done on the up and up.

The final draft of the report, unveiled Monday to the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization board, says that because of the revenue that tolls provide, making full-fledged toll roads of five Austin roads would ensure that construction could start five to 10 years earlier than the alternatives.And given those delays, the report by Boston-based CRA International says, the financial value to the community would be greatest with the toll roads.

It appears to me that Brewster McCracken wants so-called "lexus lanes" which are managed toll lanes, rather than entire toll roads. Perhaps that's why he wanted the independent study, to see if CRA Int would be on board with his viewpoint. He had voted for toll roads in Austin in the first place, but apparently changed his mind after his constituents complained.

Now, get this. The study cost $300,000. The upshot?

"All other things being equal, the roads move faster with less congestion under the managed approach," McCracken said, referring to the study's findings that drivers would spend just over 1 percent less time in their cars with managed lanes than toll lanes.

Yes. Lexus Lanes work that way.

U.S. 183, Texas 71 and any other road with funding already secured, he said, "would be better with managed lanes."

However, the study also says that under the Phase 2 plan, by 2030 the roads would be producing about $46.5 million in excess toll revenue each year that could be used for other transportation projects. With managed lanes, the annual surplus would be at most $8.1 million, the study says.

"I think the study is a roundabout way of stating the obvious, which is that if you toll more lanes, you get more money," said Bruce Byron, executive director of the Capital Area Transportation Coalition, which supports the Phase 2 plan.

I believe I could have told them that for about $250,000. Next time I'll bid.

The main questions, to me, are, who did this study that is being shown around, was it truly an independent study, and is there any reason that people who are against toll roads rather than public roads should *have* to shut up now?

After briefly reviewing the bleak funding situation statewide and nationally, the CRA study attempts to compare the Phase 2 plan to other options, principally that of adding managed lanes.

Ah, now there's the rub. Bleak funding situation. To me, this is a matter of priorities. If highways aren't being funded but other items are, why does that make it a given that one MUST go to toll roads? How about re-prioritizing money for public infrastructure. It isn't like the money isn't there, it's just not going for what it's supposed to. Let's kick THAT tire, first.

On that *independent study*, referencing an article written by Sal Costello.

March 3, 2005- City of Austin approves an independent review of the Toll Authority's plan for Austin. From Costello:

City pays majority of the study but majority of votes come from outside the city, and the same people that voted to toll roads we've already paid for! 
The Toll Authority (CTRMA) is the Project Coordinator!

• Process not open: Secret meetings are allowed,
 public cannot speak at all meetings, and review committee not subject to open meetings act.

GET THIS: The pro-toll committee can decide NOT to accept the study results! 

I see one can request the transcripts and pdfs of the meetings, above, from Campo to verify. My point is that these so-called authoritative studies are so often not what they would appear to be, and there's no reason in the first place not to challenge their findings.

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