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Senator Robert Nichols Dubbed Mr. Trans Texas Corridor

Under the influence of lobbyists for private companies, State Senator Robert Nichols sold out Texas citizens by actively supporting the massive give-away of Texas assets known as the Trans Texas Corridor. As you may recall, the TTC called for 4000 miles of infrastructure corridors crisscrossing Texas. These corridors were to be the width of four football fields and carry everything from cars and trucks to oil and gas pipelines, power grids and even broadband internet data. And guess what? Everything that traveled these corridors would pay a toll: your electricity, your gas, your internet data, everything you buy that is shipped by road and, of course, you personally when you drive across Texas. And who receives most of the tolls? You guessed that also – the private companies that lobbied State Senator Robert Nichols and contributed to his election in an amount that made him the top lawmaker recipient of their largess behind only Dewhurst and Perry. If that is not enough to make you sick then consider this – the private companies are primarily foreign and not even Texas companies creating Texas jobs.

The TTC was indeed a massive give-away of Texas assets to private foreign companies. As estimated by these companies, the project as was expected to collect $114B in tolls but create only $8B in infrastructure for Texas. Living in Texas, you would pay this toll one way or another either directly or through added prices for everything that traveled the TTC. If paid by Texans, the share of this toll for a family of 4 would be $18,240.

The TTC idea was so bad that citizens became enraged and demanded an end to the project. Lawmakers responded and appeared to kill it. State Senator Robert Nichols stated as much in a press release that claimed “Nichols votes to abolish the Trans Texas Corridor”. However, he then brokered a deal with a Spanish Company that keeps it alive for one of the major corridors proposed in the original plan. It is not popular now to appear to support the TTC so Mr. Nichols introduced a bill, SB 220, with wording that apparently outlaws the project. After passage, another press release stated “Nichols’ bill to prevent the conversion of existing roads to toll roads passes Senate”. The wording in the bill does outlaw this conversion UNLESS a few things are true; and those things, when true, create a loophole as wide as a Trans Texas Corridor.

This loophole could allow the publicly funded roads that you have used for years to drive to work or the grocery store to become toll roads. For example: to improve traffic flow, private companies under state contracts can build a new road with an overpass to skirt a traffic light. This new road, including the overpass, becomes a toll road and the old road becomes the access road. So the misleading claims by Mr. Nichols are strictly true – the existing road is not a toll road, it just becomes a congested low speed access road paralleled by a high speed toll road.

Mr. Robert Nichols has been an advocate for toll roads in Texas including the TTC since 2005 when he was transportation commissioner for the state. SB 2702 (which he supported then) has the same loophole as SB 220 (which he authored recently as State Senator) allowing existing roads to be replaced by toll roads.

But why stop at just giving away our roads to private companies? If you think this is a good idea why not give away the rest of public infrastructure like schools, hospitals, and libraries? Mr. Nichols apparently believes this is also a good idea because he voted for SB 1048 written and advocated by, yes, a foreign company that grants authority to sell off every kind of public infrastructure. Once sold off you pay user fees to these new property owners for entering the buildings.

Really, why are Mr. Nichols and other lawmakers actually thinking of selling Texas to foreigners? If we are in that bad of financial shape then we need to stop spending, not start selling. Lawmakers that don’t understand this simple conservative principle do not deserve our support. Re-electing Robert Nichols, who advocates selling Texas, will most certainly put your free access to public Texas highways – and who knows what other public building – in jeopardy. He does not deserve your vote. Travel the smart road and elect Tammy Blair.

Donald Mellon
May 10, 2012

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