Nichols' Bills Aim to Rein in Private Toll Projects
25 Senators co-sponsor legislation to freeze public/private toll contracts
AUSTIN -- State Senator Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville) today filed a pair of bills aimed at public/private toll road contracts. SB 1267 places a two year moratorium on the privatization of toll roads. SB 1268 prohibits converting existing roads to toll roads.
"We must closely evaluate private toll contracts before we sign away half a century of control of our transportation system. Many provisions in recent toll contracts are alarming," said Nichols, a former Texas Transportation Commissioner.
Nichols' bills place a two year freeze on the privatization of state toll roads or the sell of existing toll roads to private interests and prohibit the conversion of existing roads to toll roads.
Under current law, a road can be converted to a toll road if approved by local voters even though many roads have regional and statewide use.
"These roads were built with public money for public use," said Nichols. "Converting existing roads to toll roads would break a promise to taxpayers. No one should have to worry that the roads they drive on today will be tolled tomorrow. Tolling provides a valuable tool for expansion but should be reserved to add new capacity," continued Nichols.
Nichols suggests three key guidelines for any toll road contracts with private companies:
- Elimination of competition penalties that cripple the state when building new roads or improving current roads.
- Provisions to ensure toll rates remain reasonable.
- Establish a formula to determine cost should the state need to terminate the contract early.
- Establishes a 24-month moratorium on the privatization of state toll roads or the sell of existing toll roads to private interests, including roads planned as part of the Trans-Texas Corridor.
- Establishes a study group appointed by the Governor, Lt. Governor and Speaker of the House to evaluate the long-term affect of privatizing toll roads.
- Prohibits conversion of existing roads to toll roads.