Moratorium on Private Toll Roads Passes Senate
AUSTIN -- The Texas Senate today passed HB 1892 which includes a two-year moratorium on public/private toll roads and establishes a committee to recommend citizen protections for toll road contracts. The final Senate vote was 27 to 4.
"This is a major victory in our efforts to protect Texans from private toll road deals that would hamstring our transportation system for the next half century," said Sen. Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville). "A two-year moratorium will give an appropriate cooling-down time to evaluate the terms of these contracts before they cost Texans billions in penalties."
Nichols, a former transportation commissioner, has major concerns with proposed private toll road contracts including:
- competition penalties that cripple the state when building new roads or improving current roads for 50-plus years;
- a private tolling authority's ability to significantly increase toll rates;
- the lack of local input into the process; and
- The lack of a clear formula to determine cost should the state need to terminate the contract early and "buy back" the road.
"We must ask ourselves is if these roads should be built for the benefit of taxpayers or private shareholders," said Nichols.
Nichols is the author of SB 1267 which first proposed a two-year moratorium on private equity toll projects. Rep. Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham), who filed a companion bill for Nichols' moratorium, added the moratorium language as an amendment to HB 1892 by Rep. Wayne Smith (R-Baytown). With the moratorium language, HB 1892 passed out the House 137 to 2. SB 1267 passed the Senate unanimously.
"Given the broad support we have for a moratorium, I am very optimistic the policy will be official by the end of the legislative session."
With Senate approval, HB 1892 will now go to the House where it may concur with Senate changes or send to a conference committee before sending to the governor. The governor will have 10 days to sign or veto the bill.