Central Texas Turnpike
Thank you, Chairman Williamson. I am honored to be here with Secretary Mineta, Chairman Krusee, and so many local leaders who have worked to make the Central Texas Turnpike a reality.
For Central Texans who are tired of wasting time and gas in traffic jams on I-35, we have some great news.
Today I am proud to announce that by this fall, Texans will have a safer, faster route around I-35 congestion when more than 40 miles of the Central Texas Turnpike are open for business.
This project is being completed nearly a year ahead of schedule, and more than $400 million under budget.
And if that’s not reason enough to celebrate, Texans trying to get from Georgetown down to 290 up the Mopac Extension, or across the new Texas 45, can look forward to faster commutes with fewer accidents.
The fact that these roads will be completed in less than 4 years is an amazing accomplishment that would not have been possible without the kind of public-private partnerships that the legislature authorized and voters approved in 2001.
With new and innovative ways to pay for transportation, we can build needed roads sooner, and at a lower cost to taxpayers.
Had we used the old transportation funding model and relied on gas taxes to finance this expansion, it would have taken an estimated 25 years to complete these roads.
If state and local leaders hadn’t embraced this modern vision for transportation funding, Central Texans would have only two options: pay at least a dollar more at the pump for each gallon of gas, or waste even more time in a rush hour parking lot that gets filled with more trucks and vehicles with each passing year.
But soon, Texans can leave behind the traffic jams, bottlenecks and jackknifed big rigs on I-35 in exchange for a small toll.
And drivers won’t even have to slow down to pay it, because TxTAG window stickers are already available for order.
With a TxTAG, there’s no hunting through your purse or wallet for a card, or digging around for loose change.
And those who purchase one will save 10 percent not just on the Central Texas Turnpike, but every tollway in the state.
When you consider all that gas we waste idling in traffic on the Interstate, and all the aspirin we buy to treat traffic-induced headaches, a toll is a small price to pay for quicker commutes, greater safety and peace of mind.
The fact of the matter is there is no such thing as freeways: there are tax roads, and toll roads.
Toll roads are built faster, sooner and cheaper.
Tax roads are built slower, later and at a higher price.
That’s because the cost of construction is always going to climb, the availability of tax dollars is limited, and the use of those tax dollars competes with other public priorities.
We face some unique transportation challenges in Texas.
Not only do we have a lot of places to go, but a lot of people trying to get there.
In fact, over the last five years our population has increased nearly 10 percent, and that means we have more than 2 million new Texans traveling our already congested highways.
While they haven’t all moved to Travis and Williamson Counties, sometimes it seems that way.
That’s why building the Turnpike was so important.
Good roads like this one are essential for the safety of our families, the health of our economy, and the preservation of our environment.
I am honored to introduce a man who not only understands the importance of this project, but who helped provide the financing for it with the largest federal loan of its kind.
Please join me in welcoming the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Norman Mineta.
At this time we would be happy to take your questions.
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