April 8, 2018 Montgomery County Commissioners Court.
Agenda Item 16 CONSIDER, DISCUSS AND TAKE ACTION ON 242 FLYOVERS RELATING TO THE REMOVAL OF TOLLS AND TXDOT ASSUMING RESPONSIBILITY OF ONE AND/OR BOTH FLYOVERS.
Agenda item 16 on the subject of eliminating tolls drew yielded supporting pleas in public comment and drew higher than average discussion in Commissioners court today.
Those in support of ending tolls were Commissioner Clark and Commissioner Noack. Commissioner Meador knocked the idea down immediately arguing he would possibly agree if the project was complete but that the 242 flyovers project which are part of a 2005 pass through revenue agreement with TxDOT was incomplete owing to ” phase 2″ of the Flyovers still waiting to be constructed.
Commissioner Riley contributed to the discussion by adding that he had discussed the ramification of ending tolls with TxDOT and that such action could impact on the County’s access to $56 million in funds to be placed in escrow by TxDOT.
Commissioner Clark’s motion to consider ending the tolls subject to clarifying if those millions were at stake based on ending tolls or not. Commissioner Noack seconded the motion which failed.
The Pass Through Agreement
Montgomery County inked the first ever Pass-Through agreement with TxDOT in 2005 as the basis for the 2005 $160 Million road bond election, of those proceeds $100 million was designated for state highway projects that TxDOT should have been made to pay for. the balance of $60 million was divided between Commissioner precincts.
The big idea sold to tax payers was that in exchange for taxpayers taking on the debt Montgomery County would earn back loads of “FREE MONEY” from TxDOT who claimed to have none. TxDOT promised to pay back $176 Million at the rate of .07 cents per vehicle mile.
TxDOT sort of made good on their promise beginning in 2011 where they emitted a check for $7.9 million dollars, short of the contractually agreed minimum of $10 million! Never-the less “county and project officials were pleased” with the free money.
but there was a catch……
THREE IMPORTANT COMPONENTS OF THE CONTRACT
Three major financial elements of the 2005 agreement were promoted how ever the fourth is not widely known.
1. Seven Cents ( .07) per vehicle mile revenue component to a max of $176 Million
2. Authority for Montgomery County to TOLL and manage the 242 flyovers
3. Any tolls must be used to pay down bond debt
4.The County must agree to spend $76 million on additional TxDOT approved projects.
WHAT CAN GO WRONG?
County Citizen has long been a critic of the pass-through agreements pioneered by former County Judge Alan Sadler and the commissioners court of 2005.
The first huge mistake made by Commissioners Court was to outsource the entire pass-through project to Pate Engineers who managed to drag the projects out for ten years while extracting a in excess of $25 million in management fees. In fact the management fees appear to be a major cause for the project cost to blow out of the original $100 million budget to the point that Commissioners were forced to find an additional $20 million in funding beyond the bond proceeds to complete the final project pieces, namely the 242 flyovers.
Once that additional expenditure was made the County reopened their original pass-through agreement for those aforementioned escrow funds designated for future additional TxDOT approved projects and adjusted down the escrow amount from $76 million to $56 million owing to the additional $20 million out-of-taxpayer-pocket expense.
FRANKLY MY DEAR THE PROJECT IS ENDED
Contrary to Commissioner Meador’s assertion that the pass-through projects were not over and any attempt to end toll would amount to breaking an agreement with TxDOT we have definitive proof the project is completed since the scope of work is defined in exhibit B of the pass through agreement i.e. (WB SH 242
to SB IH 45 and NB IH 45 to WB SH 242) and all the highway projects under the plan are open to the public.
The seven cent per vehicle mile escrow agreement is a distinct and separate component from the collection of tolls.
The is no clause in the agreement that would jeopardize county access to the escrow funds accumulated under the per vehicle mile section of the agreement.
There is no risk to the county of losing txDOT funds if they drop eliminate tolls on 242.