James Oberstar and Pete DeFazio (Ob & Faz) chairmen of the House of Representatives transport committee and a subcommittee respectively don't want the states entering into bad toll concessions.
Reason has just published two powerful pieces on the Texas toll controversies and legislation to which your editor contributed nothing but the odd comment.
One is a terrific, insightful and inspired piece by Robert Poole on what is at stake in Texas:
Building New Roads through Public-Private Partnerships: Frequently Asked Questions
Leasing State Toll Roads: Frequently Asked Questions
The political game in Austin TX now is to shoot holes in a moratorium so the toll concessions you need are exempt. A moratorium bill SB1267 passed the Texas Senate unanimously according to reports. Texas Legislature Online says the vote information is "currently unavailable for display." The bill was sponsored by Sen Robert Nichols, the former Texas Transportation Commissioner who turned from pro-concession to anti-concession.
Exempted in the senate bill are:
Opponents of private toll concessions in Texas often suggest that it is a new and radical idea, that governmental ownership has been the norm. On the contrary most of the early toll facilities in Texas were charters or concessions to private operators. Government couldn't raise the money to build the facility so they granted entrepreneurs the right to collect toll revenues in return for investing their money - toll charters they were usually called then.
Texas legislators seem to be working toward a moratorium on new private toll concessions with exemptions for areas where concessions have local support - notably the Dallas-Ft Worth metro area.
In those areas regional organizations will have control. TxDOT is emasculated by the House bill which passed overwhelmingly - 130 or so to a handful in the final vote.
Last week he said a moratorium was bad legislation and he wouldn't move it from his committee, even though he was one of the authors of the bill.