Toll Roads Are Necessary - Deal With It. --Express-News Editorial Board
There is some magical thinking out there that somehow this region can continue to grow without the use of toll roads.
Our roads on the fast-growing North Side are pure gridlock, which will only be exacerbated with the addition of 1.1 million more people in Bexar County over the next 25 years. Tolls are simply one more tool to help address that gridlock and growth. Other alternatives include using public transportation, bike commuting, carpooling and developing light rail. We support them all.
Bexar County officials, and those in outlying exurban counties, would have been foolish to not include tolls in a group of 12 priority projects for the region. The 1604 project is expected to cost $882 million, but tolls would reduce that cost to taxpayers to $326 million.
The angst over toll roads is nonsensical and reactionary. A toll does not raise your taxes — but it does reflect that your taxes are not covering the true cost of our transportation needs.
A toll is a user fee. If you want to use a road to speed up your commute, then you can pay for that opportunity. But you can always choose to go a different route, and you will benefit from those drivers who do opt for tolls.
Those who find tolls unpalatable will undoubtedly voice their frustrations and concerns — as they have in the past. But rather than railing against the prospect of toll roads here, ignoring the dire state of congestion, toll opponents should really advocate for an increase in the gas tax.
It hasn’t been raised since 1991, when it went to 20 cents a gallon. Ann Richards was governor. The minimum wage was $4.25 an hour. Thanks to inflation, that 20 cents doesn’t go near as far as it used to, even though Texas’ population has surged from 17.4 million to 26 million.
The gas tax isn’t a perfect vehicle to fund transportation. Improved fuel economy creates diminishing returns, and electric vehicles don’t pay anything. But it is a proven funding option, sorely in need of an increase. It would certainly help mitigate the need for toll roads.
But state lawmakers have shown zero interest in raising the gas tax, which is exactly why toll roads need to be on the table.
The goal here is to keep people moving. Toll roads help make that happen. We only slow ourselves down when we frame the issue any other way.