Today’s Laredo Morning Times has a lengthy article discussing the wrangling over whether or not the various local government agencies should create a Regional Mobility Authority to help advance local transportation projects in a more timely fashion. Frankly I find this passage in the article to reflect the lack of contact with reality in the discussion:
Because other cities and counties in the state have created RMAs to build toll roads, RMAs are sometimes associated with tolls, according to Jerry Garza.
“I want to stress, and I cannot stress enough that we here in Laredo, Webb County would never consider a toll road,” Jerry Garza said.
He meant turning the loop into a toll road, but added that he personally would not support a toll road in any part of the county.
I think realistically, if Laredo wants anything beyond the bare minimum of transportation improvements, it is going to have to turn to using tolls to finance them. Certainly Laredo’s experience with tolls has been mixed—the spectacular failure of the Camino Colombia under private ownership being the most obvious example—but all four international road bridges are tolled with few objections in evidence. Tolls may be the only way to ensure that truck traffic—which is the user group most likely to see economic benefits from overpasses and direct ramps along the loop—is paying its fair share for avoiding congestion.
More to the point, despite the mini-revolt over tolls in Austin at the legislature, it is highly likely that federal and state transportation funds derived from gas taxes—to say nothing of carbon taxes, or however “cap-and-trade” will be implemented for motor fuels—are going to be diverted away from road construction to other efforts such as urban mass transit and high-speed rail (projects that, frankly, Laredo will see little benefit from in any realistic time horizon, unless private investors can be conned into building a high-speed rail line from Monterrey to San Antonio and building a station here too) or general fund demands like shoring up Social Security and Medicare. Like it or not, I think more tolls are coming sooner rather than later.