Associated Press – November 20, 2017

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — An advocacy group troubled by scarce funding to ease traffic congestion in Texas’ metro regions is taking on tea party activists who oppose toll roads.

Business groups, local elected officials and highway industry interests have formed Texans for Traffic Relief. The group targets commuters to raise awareness about the lack of funds needed to ease traffic in North Texas, Houston, San Antonio and Austin, the Dallas Morning News reported.

“Common-sense solutions” that add to available road money and embrace innovation are important to easing congestion when the state’s highway budget remains inadequate, said David White, spokesman for the group and a GOP lobbyist.

“The Legislature has made historic investments in transportation, but with our exploding population growth it is not enough,” White said. “Raising taxes is off the table, so if we aren’t going to take advantage of innovative opportunities to fund our roads, then I guess we can just ask Santa Claus to pick up the tab.”

White’s nonprofit plans to educate commuters on toll roads, or what members call “managed lanes.” Managed lanes rely on private companies or government toll agencies to put up capital or take on debt for up-front construction costs. Drivers’ tolls are then used to repay those costs over time.

Members of the tea party oppose the tolls. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Republican Sen. Bob Hall of Edgewood have denounced tentative plans by the Texas Transportation Commission to add managed lanes to 15 major projects in the Unified Transportation Program, the state’s 10-year highway plan.

“The Texas Legislature and voters have made additional revenues available,” Patrick said. “In fact, Texas is spending record amounts on transportation.”

The Texans for Traffic Relief will travel to political meetings around the state to rebut criticisms of the Unified Transportation Program. White said the group has no financial commitments yet.