June 20, 2007 6:36 AM

Somewhere, Marie Antoinette is smiling

As Westpark tolls rise, so do tempers: Drivers up in arms after officials double the fee at peak hours to ease congestion

Harris County Commissioners Court’s decision Tuesday to fight congestion on the three-year-old Westpark Tollway by forcing some drivers off the road with higher rush-hour fees drew the ire of cash-strapped commuters. And a dismissive response from Commissioner Steve Radack ‚Äö√Ñ√Æ “Let them go down Richmond Road” ‚Äö√Ñ√Æ made the new $2.50 tolls even less palatable for some. Commuter Vic Stewart, in an e-mail, said of the Commissioners Court, “And ‘Let them eat cake!’ They’ll certainly have time.”…. Commissioners Court voted unanimously to hike fees to $2.50 from 6-9 a.m. and 4-7 p.m., hoping fewer drivers will use the tollway.

I rarely use the Westpark Tollway, except on the occasions when I’m working in SW Houston, and then my employer pays the tolls. This toll increase will have little effect on me personally, but what concerns me is the “(&^% you” attitude that the Harris Country Commissioners Court seems to be displaying toward their constituents. When initially proposed and sold to Houstonians, the Westpark Tollway was to be the first piece of a network of toll roads designed to reduce congestion. Now that the tollway is itself becoming congested, apparently the time has come to disincentivize the use of it during rush hour, thus forcing more cars back on to free roads. Am I missing something here?

Uh…WTF?? I know I’m not the only one incensed by the Commissioners Court and it’s cavalier attitude toward their constituents/customers. People are already upset because they’re being squeezed by record high gas prices while oil companies enjoy record profit margins. Now those who use the West Park Toll Road will be squeezed even further by rate increases that will in some case DOUBLE. This won’t even impact me directly and I’m upset. Silly me; I’d always thought government existed to serve the people, not to participate in the aggressive reduction of their disposable income.

With the toll roads already known among some area residents as “Lexus Lanes,” the new prices left some drivers wondering whether the court has forgotten about working people.

“There are people who have budgeted a certain amount for tolls and need to use the tollway to get to work by a certain time in the morning,” said Carol Ann Shipp. “These are not affluent professionals for whom the doubling of tolls is negligible. These are hardworking middle-class workers who must count every penny.”

Perhaps Radack and the rest of the Commissioners Court ought to take a crash course in reality. The responsibility and the consequences for their lack of proper planning and their inability to secure an adequate right-of-way to handle traffic volumes now and into the future is not something that should be placed on the shoulder of working men and women. The customers of the Westpark Tollway deserve better, and they certainly don’t deserve to be squeezed yet again. If they can’t get it right, then the members of the Commissioners Court should do the right thing and resign…because the people they were elected to serve deserve much better than a “let them eat cake” attitude.

The network of toll roads to be built throughout the Houston area has been sold as a means of reducing traffic congestion. If the Westpark Tollway clusterf—k is any indication of what’s to come, Houstonians may want to rethink allowing their tax dollars to be used so wastefully. Clearly, the Harris County Commissioners Court isn’t going to have the welfare of their constituents in the forefront of their minds.

Hey, we’re from the government…and we’re here to help. ‘Course, it’s going to cost you…a lot….but you weren’t doing anything with that money anyway, right? If you need to feed your family, you can always get a second job….

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This page contains a single entry by Jack Cluth published on June 20, 2007 6:36 AM.

Be afwaid...be vewy afwaid was the previous entry in this blog.

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