Monday, January 09, 2006

The (Toll Road) Mobility Alternatives Finance Study

[The proposed Dec. 27, 2005 draft text of the Alternatives Contract with CRA International is at the bottom of this post.]

My reading of the alternatives study proposal gives rise to the following questions and issues:
(The next meeting of the alternative study advisory body is Jan. 18, 2006).

We were originally promised at the time of the CAMPO plan approval in June of 2005 an independent study taking one year, done by the Austin city council under the initative of Councilmember Brewster McCracken to look at alternatives to the proposed toll roads.

Yet now we see this same iniative being transformed into a study controlled by others close to the real estate and road conctracting interests, like the CTRMA and CAMPO. And now it seems like we are getting a much prolonged study to look at the much narrower range of policies limited to alternative financing of the same old roads.

It looks like all the alternative planning is pretty much limited to narrow satus quo-based data. status quo assumptions coming out of CAMPO’s 2030 plan, such as the sprawl land use patterns in that plan, the locations od the roads to be built, and using the same exponentially growing traffic projections. In other words, it looks like its going to use most of the same numbers and assumptions as CAMPO’s 2030 plan.

1. What is the major difference between this “Mobility Alternatives Finance Study and the same work behind the 2030 plan? It looks like its going to be a lot more similar than it is different from the previous plan because the financing is the major variable. Is this study going to be frozen into the old 2004 numbers or more current projections and parameters as a basis for its alternatives planning?

2. If the currently deteriorating economics of sprawl, and higher bond interest rates, and higher fuel prices are ignored under the terms of this study, then I suspect its going to result in worthless policy output that will perpetuate the current status quo. Why is that not so and how will this study be made into a meaningful use of public planning money?

3. How will this alternatives planning calculate fuel costs and plug them into the alternatives calculations?

4. What is the time frame of this study, and who is contributing how much, and what are the rules for the body that conducts the study?

5. What are the “related multipliers” on page 4? It looks to me like this may be trying to beg the conclusion that if you build a lot of roads real fast that it will stimulate the economy, no matter what the long range risk to our municipal credit ratings in case the road bonds default.

6. Is this study going to model and predict the frequency and risk associated with travel declines like we have seen in Texas during the last year?

7. This study seems to be limited to a financial study of alternatives that could be used for building the same road network as was in the CAMPO plan. Is it true that the toll road alternative study is limited to examining this one narrow policy issue?

--Roger Baker, 1/9/06


**********************************

MOBILITY ALTERNATIVE FINANCE STUDY
Scope of Work
December 27, 2005


Task 1 - Will the Phase 2 Toll Plan cover its costs and produce surplus revenues that could be used to fund additions to the system approved by CAMPO?
Review the CAMPO model, especially as it relates to managed lanes and toll facilities with parallel frontage roads, as follows:
The model data sets
The model toll forecasting compatibility
The model toll forecasting accuracy
In light of this review, analyze the following:
What usage level assumptions can be made on data currently available and based on the Traffic and Revenue analysis conducted by URS?
What cities and road comparisons exist to compare the proposed facilities and system and the usage/toll rates on existing managed lanes and /or toll facilities with parallel free frontage roads?
How do tolls at these prices affect the projections in the toll feasibility studies?
Based on what other toll agencies have done, what is a reasonable range of toll rates?
How do the toll rates for the roads in the Phase 2 Plan compare to the toll rates for urban toll roads in cities across the U.S.?
In the planning process, when and how are toll rates normally analyzed and then set?


How does the CAMPO area’s percentage of highway lane miles scheduled to be tolled compare to the rate of tolling in other American metropolitan areas?
What are the projected number of lane miles and projected percentage of tolled lanes in the comparison cities?
What is the current and projected congestion index in those cities?
What are the factors in the comparison cities (if any) that may impact this analysis (i.e. history of aggressively pursuing mobility plans and construction, state investment, high levels of public transit, addition of lane miles compared to addition of vehicle miles).

Task 2 - Will each Phase 2 Plan toll facility generate sufficient revenue to cover its costs of bond financing, extra construction costs as a toll facility and operations and maintenance costs?
Will the Phase 2 Plan toll facilities generate sufficient revenue as a system to cover the costs of bond financing, extra construction costs as toll facilities and operations and maintenance costs?"
Detail the assumptions underlying the analysis.

Task 3 - How much surplus revenue, if any, will each of the Phase 2 Plan toll facilities generate after all financing costs, construction costs and operations and maintenance obligations are met?
How much surplus revenue, if any, will the Phase 2 Plan as a system generate after all financing costs, construction costs and operations and maintenance obligations are met?
Detail the assumptions underlying the analysis, including the toll rate(s) for each facility, traffic assumptions, interest rates, construction costs and growth assumptions.

Task 4 – If the Phase 2 Toll Plan is not implemented, what are the alternatives? What are best practices from other cities to finance and implement infrastructure? Why and how are they different?
How does the TxDOT/CTRMA Phase 2 Toll Plan differ from the plans submitted to the Texas Transportation Commission in 2004 by the other seven Texas metropolitan areas?
What approaches are similar metro areas in the United States taking?

Could the capacity in the Phase 2 Plan be built without tolling using the funding described at http://www.ctrma.org/ppt/21.htm ?
What about the Phase 2 Plan, but excluding Loop 360?
What about the Phase 2 Plan, but for Loop 360 doing only the following:
building intersection improvements such as overpasses, underpasses or roundabouts to remove stoplights and
building no extra lanes?
Describe the options for the CAMPO Transportation Policy Board and the costs and benefits of each scenario.
What effect would each scenario have on the creation of a sustainable transportation system?
What is the overall sustainability of the region’s transportation network? Include in this analysis the future costs of local governments building new lane miles as well as maintaining current and future transportation systems? How will the liability be bonded? Can it be sustained?
What alternative financing and traffic management models exist to build this system?
Analyze options including, but not limited to:
A mixture of non-tolled lanes and high occupancy toll lanes.
A mixture of non-tolled lanes and managed lanes.
A mixture of non-tolled lanes and managed lanes with congestion pricing.
Shadow toll support.
Local option gas tax.
Analyze each of these above options under two scenarios:
1ST SCENARIO: TxDOT pays for the operation and maintenance of the entire highway through the region’s distribution of gas tax revenue, and the revenues from the managed lanes stay in the Austin area.
2ND SCENARIO: Any revenues realized from the managed lanes are required to be dedicated first to operations and maintenance.
What are the long-term impacts to the CAMPO 2030 Plan of not utilizing the tolling and system financing options analyzed in Number 4?

How could the strategies analyzed in Number 4 be used to first build the Phase 2 system and then expedite the improvements to Interstate 35 prepared for CAMPO? As part of your analysis, also include consideration of tolling all freight trucks (such as 18-wheelers).

Task 5 – Confirm the funds available for the Phase 2 Toll Plan projects in both tolled and non-tolled scenarios including the following.
That TxDOT/CTRMA will fund the right-of-way and utility relocation costs for tolled projects in lieu of the City of Austin and other local entities and the dollar amounts for each.
Identify the effect, if any, on projected toll rates and financing needs if TxDOT/CTRMA must borrow additional funds to pay for right-of-way and utility relocation costs in lieu of the City of Austin and other local entities contributing these funds.

Task 6 – Utilizing the information and analysis in Tasks 1 through 6, determine the following.
Which model and scenario in Task 4.4 does the most to reduce traffic congestion?
Which model and scenario in Task 4.4 has the best cost/benefit to Central Texas residents?
What is the cost-benefit to Central Texas drivers of the Phase 2 Toll Plan?
By tolling US 183, SH 71 and US 290W and thereby assuming the operation and maintenance costs for these highways and receiving access to toll revenues, will Central Texas residents realize a net gain or loss in total transportation funding, in the costs of mobility and congestion, and in new or additional facilities?
This analysis should be performed from the perspective of tolling’s impact on Central Texas local governments and Central Texas drivers - not from the perspective of the Toll Plan’s impact on the TxDOT budget. This analysis should also assess the ramifications and impact of the Phase 2 Toll Plan on Central Texas local governments, and in particular the ramifications of any loss of State highway funding and transfer of operations obligations to Central Texas local governments and residents.
How does the Phase 2 Toll Plan compare with the preferred options in Task 7.1 and 7.2 above?
What will the economic effects to the Central Texas region be from the construction of the Phase 2 toll plan, from the operations and maintenance of the plan, and from the related multipliers?

Exhibit

Background
The Central Texas region has experienced tremendous growth over the last twenty years. During that same time, local governments and TxDOT did not build adequate transportation infrastructure to keep pace with the increases in traffic. This is evidenced by the fact that the City of Austin has been voted the most congested city for its size in the United States for three years in a row.
Over the next twenty years, the Central Texas region, as defined by the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO), will double in population. The draft 2030 CAMPO Transportation Plan has identified $18.0 billion dollars in transportation infrastructure (roads, buses, rail) to both catch up and address the future growth.
In 2001, the CAMPO area in partnership with the Texas Turnpike Authority (a division of TxDOT) embarked on a $2.2 billion toll road program called the Central Texas Turnpike Project (CTTP). With local general obligation bond support for right of way, the State now has 72 miles of turnpike under development, including SH 130, Loop 1 North, SH 45 North, and SH 45 Southeast. The Phase I turnpikes, owned and operated by TxDOT, will be open to traffic in late 2007.
In April of 2004, the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority (CTRMA) and TxDOT presented a proposed Phase 2 Toll Plan. This Plan was prepared with direction from the Texas Transportation Commission regarding toll road development in the eight urban areas of Texas; the availability of additional funding for toll roads from the Texas Mobility Fund; and, a level commitment of construction dollars from TxDOT Administration for the Austin District.
The Phase 2 plan included finishing construction of two major corridors: US 183 from IH 35 to SH 71, and SH 71 (Ben White Blvd.) from east of IH 35 to Austin Bergstrom International Airport. Both of these projects have been in the regional plans and under development and construction since the late 1970’s; however, lack of funding and local political support slowed completion of these projects.
The Phase 2 plan also included the western extension of US 290 from east of William Cannon to FM 1826, including improvements to a segment of SH 71 west and the US 290 West/SH 71 west interchange in Oak Hill. Again, this project has been on the drawing board for a number of years and only partial funding was available for this project. The other major projects in the Phase 2 Plan included the upgrading/expansion of US 290 east from US 183 to SH 130 and the upgrading and expansion of Loop 360 from SH 71 to US 183.
The Phase 2 toll plan proposed $1.8 billion of construction over 5-7 years (not including Loop 360 funding), using a variety of revenue sources including additional State gas tax dollars, Texas Mobility Fund dollars, TxDOT operations and maintenance support, and toll revenue bonds.


There were three major assumptions in the Phase 2 Toll plan. They included:
The CAMPO region could quickly “catch up” on completion of important major infrastructure by tolling and leveraging limited resources;
By tolling major portions of the region’s roadway system, the CAMPO area, through the CTRMA, would have a future revenue stream (surplus toll revenues) to build the rest of the CAMPO 2030 plan (both roads and transit); and,
If all of the available TxDOT revenues forecasted for the next 10-15 years were used to complete only SH 71 and US 183, there would be no way to fund and complete the other major projects in the CAMPO 2030 plan.

Purpose of Study
In 2000, a community-funded Peer Review conducted by Cambridge Systematics compared CAMPO with other large metropolitan planning organizations. The Peer Review addressed policy board composition; the lack of a technical advisory committee; the long-range travel demand model; demographic forecasts; and, lack of a viable financing/funding program to assure implementation of the long-range improvement plan.
A number of the Peer Review recommendations were addressed by CAMPO. However, the Phase 2 Toll Plan continues to point out several deficiencies, including the travel demand model and toll road forecasts; adequate funding; and, a real regional implementation program. While the Phase 2 Toll Plan outlined a specific plan of action, it did not clearly outline the funding and implementation alternatives or the next steps that CAMPO would take to complete the remainder of the road and transit projects in the long-range plan.
The haste with which the State implemented the allocation of the Texas Mobility Fund deprived the community an opportunity to digest the major shift in highway funding. This lack of public discussion on alternatives and the absence of a comparable analysis (with other Texas cities, etc.) raised doubts about the validity of the proposal. These omissions, coupled with the lack of a clear presentation regarding the role of the Phase 2 Toll Plan in the larger implementation of the CAMPO plan, necessitate an independent review and analysis of not only the Phase 2 Toll Plan, but also of analyzing the Plan in the context of CAMPO’s long-range implementation strategies.

1 Comments:

At 8:45 PM, Blogger answer-man said...

ps I'm having a little trouble sending comments so if I do it twice please excuse me and I apologize.

 

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