Sunday, April 08, 2007

A Not-So-Minor Detail on Racketolling Left Out of the Tennessean

While the Tennessean referred us to a TDOT exploration of toll-road feasibility, it failed to tell us of some of the costs of TDOT's study-commissioning. Leave it instead to the Knoxville News-Sentinel (via Brian A.) to divulge the figures:
Gerald Nicely, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Transportation, is expected this week to release a study of three projects seen as potential candidates (including Nashville-Hendersonville) for tolls . . . .

"We would have a great deal of educating to do with the public and the Legislature before we would be able to enact a toll," Nicely said.

"Some people say they're already paying gas taxes, so this would be double taxation," he said.

Nicely in May 2006 commissioned a study by the engineering firm Wilbur Smith Associates to look at the feasibility of charging tolls on three potential routes. The study cost $453,000, said Julie Oaks, spokeswoman for TDOT.
$453,000 is a significant detail to leave out. It also makes me wonder if taxes or new toll roads are or will be paying the hundreds of thousands of dollars for state conducted study on privatizing our public roads.

1 comment:

  1. The alleged financial crisis that TDOT is facing is artificially contrived by policy within the Long Range Plan. They are broke because they plan to spend more than they have on things that they do not need. An audit that was demanded by the governor about four years ago became the basis for making many of the changes that have thrown the system into financial problems. The only problem was that it was not an audit in the traditional sense, it was an environmentalist manifesto justifying the abandonment of the fact that our real mass transit system is the car. In that document was the wonderful idea that the state should engage in objective scoring for transportation projects. But, that would put the legislature, the governor and toll lobby out of the loop. So that never happened.
    Other state legislatures have tried with varying degrees of success to reign in road projects that cost more than the income they produce by demanding objective scoring of projects.

    Objective Scoring would also prevent TDOT from operating the highway department as a welfare and economic development organization. The long range plan states that road building has an economic development component. A properly designed road does that anyway. An improperly designed road becomes a financial cripple that must be supported by other congested and dangerous roads that must wait for upgrades because that money was spent trying to hatch the latest economic fad.

    TDOT is in trouble financially. The real, inflation adjusted income per centerline mile peaked in about 2002, and only then because it was a period when gas prices were low. Only once since then was gas prices lower and that was in 1998. TDOT continues to get more money every year from the gas tax but in real terms it is rising only about 1.1% per year. Inflation, CAFE Standards, congressional rescissions have been balanced by increased population, per capita vehicle miles driven and a slight bonus from wasted fuel in congested areas. TDOT has sabotaged itself so that it can justify getting more money through tolls. We already have a toll system and that toll is taken at the gas station while the vehicle is already stopped. If TDOT can not run the existing toll system, what makes anyone think they can run another one that is highly similar except it has toll booths? The libertarian side of me is all for tolls, but overlaying a toll system on this culture of incompetence at TDOT is like putting new vinyl over a rotten floor.