August 18, 2005
Toll road testiness in San Antonio

The Jeffersonian points to this story about some friction between Bexar County Commissioners Court and the Texas Department of Transportation over funding for a regional toll road authority there. The war of words that County Judge Nelson Wolff and County Commissioner Lyle Larson are having with TxDOT is pretty entertaining.

The subject of toll roads continues to be a controversial one, as both Chris Bell and Carole Keeton Strayhorn have made a campaign issue of them and more online activists keep popping up to express their opposition. I think what bothers me as much as anything in the push for toll roads is the disingenuousness of the case in favor of them. I've touched on the funding issue before, but I continue to be annoyed at how lazy some public officials seem to be about doing the math:

But with gas taxes drying up and newer vehicles getting better gas mileage, toll roads might be the best answer to tackle traffic congestion, Wolff said. So it's important for San Antonio to work with the state in an effort to share profits and keep an eye on toll rates and other details.

"I don't know of any other way than toll roads," he said.

Dammit, the reason that gas taxes are "drying up" is because they haven't been raised in 14 years. Texas' gas tax rate of $0.20 per gallon is 36th highest among the 50 states, which just doesn't make sense. Raising it by a dime, which would still leave us with a lower tax than other high-population states, would generate over a billion dollars a year for transportation (and over a quarter billion for education, as 25% of your state gas taxes go to education funding), without being an excessive burden to the vast majority of people.

How can I say that? Well, suppose you're a two-SUV household that drives 600 miles a week combined. At 15 MPG, that's 40 gallons of gas a week, so a dime increase in the gas tax would be an extra $4 a week, or $208 per year. Compare that to what you might pay in tolls - the folks who drive the spiffy Westpark Toll Road from Katy to 610 and back home again pay $6.50 a day for the privilege, which is $32.50 a week (assuming no weekend toll driving) or $1690 per year. Which sounds better to you?

Now, given where I live and where I work, I don't anticipate being put in a position where a toll road might seem an attractive alternative for my regular driving. I'm just mystified that more of the people who are in that position haven't made a bigger fuss about it.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on August 18, 2005 to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles | TrackBack

I know that no one likes the thought of higher taxes, but a 10 cent gasoline tax is better than what New York has. Not only do we have the highest gasoline taxes (We're Number 1!) in the country, but we have loads of toll roads and bridges.

Let's just say that I'm looking forward to moving out of the state in early 2006.

Posted by: William Hughes on August 18, 2005 8:13 AM

Even with low gas taxes, the average household transportation expenditures of Houston residents are among the highest in the country. Tolls will only add to those expenditures. Will transportation costs become the same as health care costs - always on the rise at a rate higher than inflation?

Posted by: John D. Wilson on August 18, 2005 11:44 AM

Educate, Organize and fight!

Do the Toll Poll:

Sal Costello
News Here:

Posted by: Sal Costello on October 1, 2005 10:49 PM