In what is being called “a stunning betrayal of open government,” the Cibolo City Council voted 6-0 to approve a 50 year development agreement with Texas Turnpike Corporation (TTC), granting it the exclusive right to build, operate and maintain what’s been dubbed the Cibolo Parkway.
According to Terry Hall, spokesperson for Texas for Turf-free Highways and TURF (Texas Uniting for Reform and Freedom), the tollway will link “I-35 to I-10 through mostly rural farmland northeast of San Antonio. The agreement was negotiated behind closed doors and was kept secret from the public until it was approved last night.”
“TTC has never successfully built a single road project, and the company was chased out of east Dallas two years ago by angry landowners when it proposed the Blacklands/Northeast Gateway tollway from Garland to Greenville,” Hall said. “Even worse, the city council gave TTC the rights to develop a project the taxpayers have already paid for, the expansion of FM 1103, the city’s primary connection to I-35.”
“By doing so, they’ve granted a private corporation a virtual monopoly over the existing non-toll competitor to its private toll road. TTC can intentionally slow down the free option to force more cars onto its for-profit toll road by manipulating speed limits, access points, and stop lights. It’s a developer’s dream and a commuter’s worst nightmare.”
Hall said “the city tried to reassure residents there is no non-compete clause, prohibiting or penalizing the city from building any competing free roads..The agreement offers no way out for the city, except an eventual buy out opportunity after the road gets built. But those buy out agreements are just as thorny as these complex development contracts. Most private toll road developers require the public entity to pay them for any future loss in toll revenue, often making it more expensive to buy them out than the original cost to build it.”
Cibolo’s city officials “acted so desperate for new economic development, it signaled to TTC that it would sell out its current residents for the promise of a higher tax base from its new ones,” Hall observed. “The southern boundary of the city that was most recently annexed occurred over the objection of many landowners. Now their worst fears have been realized as a private developer who cozied up to the mayor and council got himself an iron clad contract to mow them over and change their way of life.”