Nice article in the Press about Erik Slotboom and his work disputing the need for the Trans Texas Corridor. One thing I learned in reading this piece is that we already have a shining example of a private toll road in Texas, the Camino Columbia down in Laredo. How'd that work out? Not so well.
The state's only private toll road, a $90 million link to Mexico that opened just three years ago, was auctioned back to the bank Tuesday for $12 million and may close.
The 22-mile Camino Columbia route between Mexico and Interstate 35 had investors expecting to get rich because of increased Mexico-U.S. truck traffic linked to the North American Free Trade Agreement.
The landowners along the route invested a total of $15 million, in addition to providing strips of property 400 feet wide.
Tony Sanchez's International Bank of Commerce provided an initial $6 million funding for the road. John Hancock and New York Life Insurance Co. loaned an additional $75 million.
But motorists weren't buying the $16-per-truck, $3-per-car trip from a bridge 23 miles northwest of the city, and traffic was only 13 percent of expectations.
Less than a year after it opened landowners were filing lawsuits claiming they'd been duped.
Still, the state sees privately run toll roads in its future, as population growth puts a strain on existing roads. Gov. Rick Perry's proposed $175 billion Trans Texas Corridor, is a 4,000-mile network of superhighways, high-speed rail lines and private toll roads.
"Basically, across the state we've got a transportation crisis," TxDOT spokeswoman Gaby Garcia said. "The demand is growing exponentially. ... Tolls are an option that we're going to consider. We have no choice."
In any event, TxDOT bought Camino Columbia in May, and their diagnosis of why it crashed and burned is what should really be worrying us.
The state has agreed to purchase the 22-mile Camino Columbia private toll road that disappointed investors and ended up on the auction block.
The Texas Department of Transportation will pay $20 million for Camino Columbia, which cost $90 million to build.
TXDOT spokeswoman Gaby Garcia said the road was a good deal for the state.
"It's just a matter of waiting for the traffic to come in," she said in Friday's San Antonio Express-News. "Unfortunately, the previous owners weren't able to hang in for the long haul because they had debt to pay and the revenue they had coming in to pay it wasn't there yet."
Something to keep in mind here, going back to the original story:
He points out that the toll fee from Dallas to San Antonio would be about $40. "The nightmare scenario is that these highways are underutilized because the people won't pay tolls, and then they'll toll existing interstates to make up the cost," says Slotboom.
Finally, this snarky column by Ed Wallace, who if the picture is to be believed has a bit of a young-Johnny-Cash thing going for him, gives some more background on Camino Columbia and how Washington State solved its "transportation crisis". Check it out.Posted by Charles Kuffner on January 18, 2005 to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles | TrackBack