DFW Connector Project – We Were Wrong

We originally wrote a 1,000+ word article to fit this space on what we have learned about tollways in Texas, House Bill 3588, and the DFW Connector.  But then we realized this website was not really created to discuss the new DFW Connector project so we are going to cut the original content way down. 

A week ago, we declared the DFW Connector Project a Trojan Horse because of the way it somewhat secretly taxes area residents for use of the toll lanes that will be added to the 121/114 highways.  Several of our readers asked about the need for required toll lanes and our research team decided to take a crack at this.

Let me be the first to be clear on one thing.  We were wrong.  The DFW Connector Project is not the Trojan Horse.  It appears a much larger Trojan Horse came to pass some seven years ago in the form of Texas Legislature House Bill 3588 aka The Trans-Texas Corridor.  Ever heard of it?  We had not until now.

Our Research

The first hint we could find about a law requiring toll lanes be included in the Project came from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram

While the DFW Connector project includes nontoll lanes and frontage roads, the two toll lanes in each direction were added to legalize the design-build arrangement.

After contacting them about the specifics of the law, they said they would get right back with us with an answer.  Now, two weeks later, we have not heard from them.  No fault of their own, the answer is not easy to find.

Our research team then contacted the good people at DFW Connector Project information office with the question and they pointed us in the direction of House Bill 3588 as the reason for toll lanes.

Without further adieu, here’s the link to House Bill 3588.

Our Conclusion

We can not find the exact wording in the bill stating that in order for a project to be completed under a “comprehensive development agreement” there needs to be a toll component in the project.  There are literally hundreds of pages in this bill.  Someone with better knowledge of the bill will have to help out here if we are to ever get the exact wording.  For now, we will just assume the wording is in there.

We did find these quotes from the various summaries of the bill to be a tad funny (or sad depending on your perspective) –

From the State Senate’s analysis document as to the purpose of HB 3588 – Link.

C.S.H.B. 3588 addresses the full scope of transportation issues facing the state.  It creates new financing tools to generate the funding required to maintain a working transportation system.  These include the use of bonds to generate immediate cash flow, mechanisms for funding the Texas mobility fund, and an increase in fines and fees levied for traffic violations.  Additional cash flow will be generated by increased reliance on turnpikes, both those funded by tolls paid by motorists and those built by local authorities and funded over time by the state.

This simply shows the intent of the bill is to generate funds for the state through various tolling, fines increases, and transportation bonds.  The bill in its gigantic entirety was not intended to require tolls on the highway projects that are already funded, like the DFW Connector Project.

The press releases for the DFW Connector Project says the managed toll lanes are a way keep traffic flowing at a speed of 50 mph.  Well, that may be true.  But it is also a bit disingenuous.  They are also a way to generate funds for the state as originally intended in HB3588.

Without this getting into any more boring legal detail, we only want to point out one other quote we found.  This is in the Bill Summary as opposition to the House Bill 3588:

CSHB 3588 is a tax bill in disguise. Texas taxpayers, especially low- and
middle-income families and inner-city residents, cannot afford the fee and
fine hikes this bill would mandate. The Legislature should be willing to raise
taxes if it needs more money for worthwhile projects, including highways.

We agree with whoever wrote that.  The bill summary does not give this legislator credit.

We still stand by our original assessment that tollways are a terrible idea.  They are in impediment to commerce.  You are giving people incentive to do the exact opposite of what you need them to do.  Tolls give people more reason to stay home, travel less, and spend less.  What does that do to already decreasing gas tax revenues?  What does it do to sales taxes?

Okay, so we did not really cut that much out of the original article.  We tried.

This is really just a simple website about the great city of Grapevine Texas.  Our sincere hope is that we can spend our time writing about Grapevine and all the exciting things going on here rather than scanning through hundreds of pages of legislative documents in the future. 

This article was the result of several readers asking similar questions.  And our motto (for now) is that when a reader asks a question, WE ANSWER IT.

1 Comment

  1. The reason that you couldn’t find any information about a comprehensive development agreement requiring toll lanes is because the requirement is that for the the project to be Design Build,not CDA, it must have toll lanes. Design Build and CDA are two totally different things. A Design Build project in a sense combines the design and construction of the contract and places them in the hands a an engineering firm and a contractor who work together from the start to fasttrack the project. In a normal situation, the owner (TxDOT) hires an engineer to design the project, then once the project is fully designed it is sent out for bid, then the low bidder constructs the project. With Design Build, the construction on the project can usually begin befor plans are 100% complete which can cut a large amount of time off the project. This is a method of construction widely accepted accross the US these days by many of the DOT’s. A CDA is the situation that LBJ and North Tarrant Express will be constructed with. While they too do their own design, they are more a developer, much like a housing developer. They design and construct the project with their own funds, then recoup the funds by selling the project, or in the case of a highway, by tolling the project. DFW Connector is being built with a combination of Taxes, Stimulus Money, and the third component, the toll money, which will come from those tolled lanes.