State Rep. Joe Pickett is ramping up a campaign against toll roads in Texas. He’s written a letter to the city of El Paso, asking for support in doing away with the toll lanes now and in the future.
In the letter, Pickett said of the toll lanes on the Cesar Chavez Border Highway, “It is very doable since the history of the project shows it was political, not a toll viable initiative.”
ABC-7 obtained a copy of the letter the state representative wrote on Thursday, where Pickett argues there is no need for any toll roads in the city.
He closes out his request by saying “We need to do this, as well as discuss the bigger project of Boarder Highway West; which is also planned as a toll and should not be. I am available to help.”
But some local government partners aren’t so sure Pickett’s plan will work. As described, it hinges on Texas Department of Transportation support, which Pickett said he has, attaching a letter from TXDoT describing the possibility. Another important aspect would be dealing with funding and debt, which not everyone is convinced is addressed yet.
“The only problem I would see with it is if TXDoT or the (Texas Transportation Commission) said ‘Hey, there was an agreement, you agreed to pay us back over time for building of the road,'” County Judge Veronica Escobar said. “If TTC forgives the debt, absolutely, lift the toll. But if TTC doesn’t forgive the debt, and the toll is lifted, who’s going to get stuck with paying the Texas Transportation Commission back?”
County Commissioner Vince Perez has been the chair of the Camino Real Regional Mobility Authority that oversees the tolls on the road right now. He said that given how the state has handled transportation funds, tolls have proven important in future projects as well, like the Border Highway West Extension.
“The state of Texas simply isn’t providing sufficient funding to meet transportation needs in Texas,” Perez said. “We’re fortunate to have the transportation projects we have in El Paso. See, we’ve had to raise vehicle registration fees as a county to help construct more roads to accommodate the growing population here.”
Speaking on the phone today, Pickett told ABC-7 that there are already more funds coming for road projects, such as from the successful Proposition 1, and that removing tolls was just “one part of a larger continuing plan.”
But Raymond Telles, executive director of the CRRMA, said he doesn’t know if Pickett’s plan will work, because noone has approched him with any plan to try an remove the tolls.