The new VIA smartphone app, Go VIA VIA, has a real chance at changing the landscape of transportation in San Antonio by making it easier for long-time riders and new riders to navigate the intricate maze of bus routes and schedules. (see note about new riders at bottom of post*)
The 85 mile-per-hour toll road that connects Austin with San Antonio is getting less traffic than planners hoped for.
In turn, Moody’s Investor Service lowered the credit rating of Cintra, the company that operates SH 130 toll road, by four grades. Moody’s says unless traffic increases significantly, the credit rating will continue to fall.
Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, said his plan uses a portion of the Rainy Day Fund without actually taking money out of the Rainy Day Fund.
"What it does is once you pass a certain threshold and as the fund approaches filling, which it got pretty close, then it would splinter part of that off for constitutionally dedicating some of that revenue stream to transportation," Nichols said.
Nichols says this will allow the Rainy Day Fund to continue to grow, but not as quickly. Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, helped solidify the financing portion of the plan.
Tensions between the House and Senate over education funding have hit an all-time high this session, and that along with an added provision related to fees charged to overweight 18 wheelers worries Rep. Drew Darby, R-San Angelo, because of the transportation dollars tied to those same spending bills.
At this point in the legislative calendar many bills are facing a looming demise, but Rep. Drew Darby, R-San Angelo, said he has found another way to get money for transportation needs.
"One of the obvious ways is to take some money in the budget and devote it to our energy related zones that have borne the burden of most of the oil and gas production. They are just simply deteriorating and they’re not safe anymore," Darby said.
At this late stage in the legislative session, most bills that haven't made it out of at least one chamber are left to the wind, but there is still a chance for a bill with bipartisan support that proposes to provide immigrants without legal documentation a driver’s permit.
Rep. Roberto Alonzo, D-Dallas, is carrying the bill, which was authored by Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands.
The Senate has passed a bill that prohibits the state’s transportation department from turning free roads into toll roads, but the "do-or-die" deadline is approaching fast for it to clear the House in time.
Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, authored Senate Bill 1029, which addresses the conversion of existing state roads into tollways. She said there are several highways throughout the state being eyed for this type of tolling, one of which is Hwy. 281.
Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, a house leader on the Legislative Budget Board, said the joint committee has hit snags in several areas, but has reached a tentative agreement on some key spending issues in regard to Senate Bill 1, the state budget bill.
"Hopefully we will have an agreement sometime today on public education," Pitts said, adding that they were discussing $3.2 billion for public education would be taken from the state general revenue and property tax appraisals.