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.

Do You Want A Sneak Peek At The DFW Connector?

 

We have done a lot of research on the Connector and wanted to share some of the better images that we have come across. 

The images and video below do a great job of painting a picture of what the DFW Connector will look like in 4 years.

First, these two  images are courtesy of the good people at Toll Road News:

DFW Connector

DFW Connector

DFW Connector

DFW Connector

And if you want to take a look a a video from YouTube of what the Eastbound Drive will look like see below.

DFW Connector Sounds Like A Lose – Lose For The Average Working Grapevine Resident

The cost of the the DFW Connector Project which will expand the 121/114 highways and other roadways in and around Grapevine will be a massive $1.05 billion.  That is billion with a capital B.  $250 million of this amount comes from federal stimulus dollars.  Who pays for this?  The answer is you, the United States tax payer.

Our tax dollars are finally being put to some good use.  That’s great news!  That is until we hear the details.  The expansion of the highway will be to add additional toll lanes.  The current number of lanes will remain free, but the expanded lanes will be tolls.  So if you are in a hurry, get out your checkbook.  You will be paying (again) for use of the newly created lanes.

And if it could not get any better, the rates are variable!  That is right.  The toll lane price can change based on the amount of traffic, time of day, time of the year, etc.  If you are trying to get through this area during rush hour, you can expect to pay more, in fact probably a lot more.  After all, who the heck would pay for a toll lane in the middle of the day when there are free lanes available?

In essence, the only times these additional lanes will be used at all will be during rush hour.  This sounds like another way to tax the people who work around here. 

I think we are being sold a Trojan horse here.  It sounds like an additional way to tax Grapevine residents.
Can we still send it back?

UPDATE (2/20/10):

Just want to clarify the point above about additional lanes being toll lanes.  We now have learned the intent of the DFW Connector Project is to have only two new toll lanes in each direction on the 121/114 connector. 

This still does not make it a good idea, but at least it is not all new lanes as toll lanes as we originally thought.

DFW Connector Project To Begin February 15th

Construction is set to begin on time in the DFW Connector project that will expand the 121/114 interchange and the north entrance to DFW airport.  This project will include the addition of both toll and non-toll lanes to the highways.

According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, any unused highway stimulus funds in the state of Texas will go towards this project.

The Regional Transportation Council on Friday agreed to designate the DFW Connector as the place in Dallas-Fort Worth where unspent Federal Recovery Act funds should go.

It’s not yet known how much, if any, stimulus funds will be unspent statewide by a March 3 deadline, although in Dallas-Fort Worth all the stimulus money has already been obligated. As of late December, $300 million statewide was still unspent, said Michael Morris, transportation director for the North Central Texas Council of Governments.

The project is planned so that the number of lanes that are available now continue to be open throughout the project.  It should be an interesting four years.