The Toll Road Authority isn't making many friends

The Harris County Toll Road Authority -- of which I am no fan -- is continuing to generate controversy with its toll road plans:

The toll road authority is a massive operation, generating $298 million in tolls last year, but critics say plans to build more roads could destroy their neighborhoods.

The Fort Bend County toll road project will eventually extend to the corner of the 610 Loop in southwest Houston. Residents there are very upset.

"To bring this through our neighborhoods without letting us know, we had no way of knowing this," said resident Christine Levin.

Levin says the toll road construction is going to eat up local communities.

"Westbury, Willow Bend, Willow Meadows, Meyerland, and ultimately West U and Bellaire," said Levin.

But finally, it appears some organized opposition is beginning to gain a voice:

"We feel that a city like Houston should have a say about toll road projects happening within their city limits," said Polly Ledvina with the Citizensí Transportation Coalition.

Ledvina says the toll road authority has too much eminent domain power, and is making decisions without public input.

"The public needs to know that right now, that Harris County Toll Road Authority can build a toll road without even telling them," said Ledvina. "No public meetings are required."

[snip]

Houston City Councilman Mark Goldberg says the toll road authority won't even deal with the city of Houston.

"It's very scary because they don't even have to coordinate with us," he said. "They've even refused to meet with us for a public meeting, and said basically they don't have to, and they're not going to."

And the best news, in my book at least, is this:

State Representative Martha Wong has filed two bills addressing the toll road authority's jurisdiction. One would mandate public hearings for a proposed toll road conversion.

"The toll road authority needs to give the public more information before they build a toll road. In some instances, the toll roads threaten to go right through neighborhoods," said Wong.

The Toll Road Authority needs to do more than give information -- it needs to be subject to the the same checks and balances as TXDoT; and cities and communities affected by HCTRA projects must be able to have a say in toll road projects. The HCTRA should not have the build-at-will power it currently enjoys.

As readers know, my interest in the HCTRA's ability to build toll roads whenever and wherever, began with the Grand Parkway segment scheduled to run through Spring where I live. State Sen. Jon Lindsay has pushed for the project to be fast-tracked and the HCTRA is now conducting a study to determine if it can take over the Grand Parkway project from TXDoT.

Also, in our forum recently, Connie pointed out that state Rep. Debbie Riddle has introduced a bill to change the makeup of regional mobility authorities. Charles Kuffner also recently commented on Riddle's bill, after I forwarded it to him.

Posted by Anne Linehan @ 03/18/05 08:54 AM | Print |

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