Shh! No Speaking at Toll Road Public Hearing

TxDOT holds hearing on first private toll road in North Texas

A public hearing Tuesday night into the first privately funded toll road in North Texas included no opportunity for members of the public to speak.

The hearing into the North Tarrant Express, a 13-mile toll road along northeast Loop 820 and Airport Freeway, was organized by the Texas Department of Transportation. It was held at the North Fort Worth Baptist Church.

Often, microphones are set up at public hearings so people can make public comments. But at Tuesday’s hearing, people instead were invited to make comments to three court reporters who would transcribe their comments.

Only one man chose to do so. But a TxDOT spokesman defended the meeting’s format.

"The input we get from the public will be important," Michael Peters said. "It will be on the record. We will respond."

State officials will summarize the transcribed comments and respond to them later on the Internet, he said.

The controversial toll road is being funded by private investors known as the NTE Mobility Partners. The group is led by a Spanish company.

Critics said Texas should build its own roads and that private companies shouldn’t profit from them.

"We can do it. We always have done it,” said Beverly Branham, of Fort Worth.

The toll road will charge a sliding toll based on the amount of traffic. The busier the traffic is, the higher the toll will be. Tolls for the entire 13-mile stretch will top out at $6.89 the first year and go up in future years.

Discounts will be offered for HOV drivers. Drivers will also have the choice of using existing free lanes.

The contract between the state and the investors was also released Tuesday and showed how the $2 billion project will be funded.

NTE Mobility Partners will leverage $458 million with $570 million in gas tax dollars plus $1 billion in financing, according to the contract.

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