Legislative Update: For Whom the Belle Tolls

“It’s the end of the world as we know it!!!!!”

“We are starting down the slippery slope of making every vehicle that moves down the road to pay a toll on any road in the state!!!!!”

“If we do not do this right now the entire highway system will be bankrupt within the near future!!!!!”

It took a lot longer, and the language was higher ranging, but that is the gist of a lot of the testimony before the Senate Transportation Committee last Wednesday.  That was occasioned by the public hearing on HB 1382 (Concerning the use of express toll lanes in the eastside corridor).  If you are a supporter of the idea of setting up temporary HOT lanes on IH 405 and then tolling them to garner the funding to do the construction of permanent HOT lanes and further construction, then you ascribe to talking points 1 & 3.  If you believe that the SR 167 HOT lane project is an abject failure and should be abandoned immediately instead of being used as a model for expansion then points 1 & 2 are yours.  Either way, it was definitely a fun show.

The support was led by State Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond and former State Transportation Secretary Doug McDonald.  The opposition was led by former Senator and Senate Transportation Chair Jim Horn.  (I told you that it was going to be an impressive array of players.)  Facts presented had been “cherry picked” by each group to such a point that it was almost difficult to discern that each party was discussing the same issue.  This sort of thing happens quite often during debates, especially when people have widely divergent views on the suitability of a proposal.  I have no doubt that the real picture lies somewhere between, and the ability to come to such a wide disparity in the conclusions indicates that there is still much to look at before this proposal goes forward.

Here is the good news: this bill does not look like a slam dunk.  While there is usually a lot of give and take during the testimony, Secretary Hammond was definitely questioned more thoroughly than if some sort of “fix” was in.  While the line of questioning was not hostile, it was by no means pro forma to elicit praise.  (little words: no love fest for the issue)

As a biker, my testimony concentrated on the traditional role of motorcycles in the HOV lanes, how motorcycles support congestion relief, and the safety factor of getting us out of the general purpose gridlock to minimize our rearward exposure risk.  Anyone who has been towards the end of the pack when traffic grinds to a near halt understands the fear of being hit from behind by the less attentive driver.  My point was that if, not when, the bill moved forward motorcyclists needed to be included in the bill.  The bit of feedback that I got from committee members indicated they were not really thrilled with what they had to look at.

Until next time,

Ride Safely and Legislate Well.

“Texas” Larry

Government Relations and Junior Blogger (new material)

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