anti toll activists say Metropolitan Planning Organization violated the Open Meetings Act when plan was approved on Monday
The Texas Transportation Commission may have rubber stamped that nearly half billion dollar plan to build a combination of free lanes, toll lanes, and high occupancy vehicle lanes along Loop 1604 and Highway 281, but don't get your quarters ready to throw into the toll booths just yet.
1200 WOAI news reports that anti toll activists later today will announce plans to sue the Metropolitan Planning Organization, the group that approved the plan earlier this week, claiming that the meeting where the proposal was passed 14-1 violated the state Open Meetings Law.
"They cannot continue to get away with these generic agenda listings like 'action on federal and state funding opportunities'," Terri Hall, who heads the anti toll Texas Toll Party, told 1200 WOAI news.
She says the lawsuit to be announced today will be filed in state court and will seek to overturn the MPO vote. But Hall says more lawsuits could be coming.
"We definitely reserve the right to file another lawsuit on a number of fronts if this plan advances and become part of the federal plan," she said.
Hall points out that the proposal for the high occupancy vehicle lanes was just floated immediately before the Monday MPO meeting, and some members of the MPO board itself indicated they were not familiar with the plan, but voted in favor of it anyway.
The plan calls for construction of so called HOV lanes on US 281 which would be free to 'registered carpools' and to Via busses, but all other motorists would have to pay a toll to use. Local transportation officials continue to maintain that the HOV lanes would convince commuters to carpool and use the bus, a theory which is completely discredited, and which several peer reviewed studies, including one done by the University of California Berkeley in 2004, have concluded not only does not convince motorists to carpool, but actually has the opposite effect, by making the remaining lanes even more congested.
Hall points out that the vast majority of people who drive on US 281 today are not commuters anyway, they are moms taking their kids to school and people driving to the HEB. She says unless somebody wants to load a cartful of groceries onto the bus, the taxpayers who are paying for the toll lanes would be prohibited from using them.
The HOV lane concept was first approved one week ago today by the board of the Advanced Transportation District, the agency which is in charge of handling the 1/4 cent ATD sales tax extension that voters approved in 2004. The ATD board is, not surprisingly, controlled by Via.
Hall says a lawsuit against the MPO, which meets at a time when most working people cannot attend, and meets in a place where parking is almost impossible to find, is a slam dunk.
"It does not properly disclose to the public what our government is doing, which is the whole purpose of the open meetings act," she said.