“Nothing Ventured Nothing Gained,” but who benefits from a costly and unnecessary toll road?

Published 9:04 am Saturday, April 16, 2016

Duane Gordy has another column promoting the proposed SH 105 Toll Road in the April 9 edition of the Orange Leader.  His notion about the private proposal, i.e., “ nothing ventured nothing gained,” sounds risky when you’re looking at the number of failed toll roads attempted in the state of Texas. What Mr. Gordy fails to mention, and one of the  main areas of focus of the groups, such as the Big Thicket Association, which are organizing in a coalition to defeat this proposal, is the history of Toll Road companies consistently going bankrupt leaving the citizens of Texas to pick up the tab.  Randy Salzman, associate editor of Thinking Highways North America, has reported extensively about tollway deals and their aftermath, saying it’s common for privately financed roads to go bankrupt. His research shows  that firms  constructing infrastructure typically provide very little of their own cash. Additionally,  because of a complicated mix of their fees and tax breaks, they may even benefit financially when the deals go sour.  Promoters of the 105 Toll Road say if the project fails, financial and operation and maintenance responsibility will fall on the state.  Which sticks us—Texas taxpayers—with a failed project to finance.

Earlier this year, vigorous protest by residents in the area northeast of Dallas defeated a private toll road project proposed by this same company, Texas Turnpike Corp. /Public Werks, Inc.  Citizens in Jefferson and Orange counties need to be asking the same questions posed by the Dallas area folks. Who is being asked to take the risks in this project? Who will reap the financial benefits?  What will our neighborhoods be like with a toll road through them?  How many businesses will have to move or shut down?  What will be the environmental impacts?  Will trucks really use the alternate route when Hwy 105 near Conroe is already slow and congested?

Jan Ruppel, President

Big Thicket Association