I do not like Brussels sprouts. But, if I had nothing else, I would eat them in the hopes of living to eat a better meal in the future. The creation of a Regional Infrastructure Fund (RIF) from excess revenues generated by MoPac Managed Lanes is a plate of Brussels sprouts. I have never liked the policy of generating excess revenues from toll roads in order to fund other major infrastructure projects. I have said time and again that a road user fee (odometer tax) is the most equitable funding mechanism for road infrastructure projects. Barring that, an increase in the state and federal gas taxes would be more appropriate than the narrowly exacted toll tax. And, barring that, a local option gas tax would at least be helpful in the highly urbanized areas of the State.
But none of these policies are on the table. Only the Brussels sprouts of excess revenues from toll ways. The opportunity to create a $230 million RIF from the $130 million dedicated to the MoPac Improvement Project will at least arguably make excess toll revenues available to our region for projects other than toll roads. Unlike revenues generated on toll roads in the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority (CTRMA) system, RIF dollars will not be restricted by CTRMA bond indentures to other tolled projects. The RIF dollars may be used on almost any Travis or Williamson County project within the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) Transportation Improvement Program. And, the CAMPO Policy Board is the final word on how the RIF dollars will be spent.
While future CAMPO Policy Boards may vote to spend the RIF dollars on other tolled projects, non-tolled projects will compete for those dollars as well. Without the RIF, we will have nothing but Brussels sprouts. With the RIF we may have a little more variety on the table next time.