News Release from Senator Robert Nichols

April 4, 2007
Contact: Alicia Phillips
(512) 463-0103

Bill to Halt Private Toll Road Deals Passes Out of Committee
Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee passes SB 1267

AUSTIN -- The Texas Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee today passed SB 1267, which places a two-year freeze on toll road contracts with private companies and establishes a committee to study the long-term affects of public/private toll agreements and offer a report next session.

Sen. Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville), the bill's author and a member of the committee, said he was glad the bill passed today.

"We don't have the luxury of time," said Nichols. "If we wait too long, these contracts will be signed and Texas will be trapped in agreements that will hold our transportation system hostage for the next half century."

Nichols, a former transportation commissioner, has three major concerns with proposed private toll road contracts:

Only private toll road projects would be affected. Public road projects would not be delayed. In fact, under a two-year moratorium, public entities would have an opportunity to pursue pending projects, both tolled and non-tolled.

"There are local entities eager to build these projects and use revenues to directly benefit the area," said Nichols." Taxpayers should ask themselves if their roads should be for the good of citizens or the benefit of shareholders."

The Transportation and Homeland Security Committee passed SB 1267 as a committee substitute exempting a limited number of managed road projects in North Texas.

To be exempt from the two-year freeze, roads must be:

"Managed lane projects add capacity to existing highways without posing the same risks as a new private toll project," said Nichols. "However, even with managed roads the local community should have final say in the terms of the contract."

The bill will now be sent to the full Senate where 27 of the 31 senators have signed onto SB 1267 as co-authors. The House version of the bill, HB 2772 by Rep. Kolkhorst, has over 111 co-sponsors.