To Toll Or Not To Toll, That Is The Question Before State Lawmakers
Lawmakers at the state capitol are examining the benefits and liabilities of Texas’ toll ways and whether the state should be in the business of tolling drivers at all, that includes an examination of failing Texas Highway 130 that runs near San Antonio.
One of the tasks set by the legislature in 2015 was to have lawmakers and the state’s transportation authority, TxDOT examine the idea of eliminating toll roads from the over 80-thousand miles of roadway the state manages.
One of those roads being eyed by state lawmakers is State Highway 130. In 2015, operators of that toll road declared bankruptcy because the revenue being generated from the low-volume of driverswasn’t enough to pay off the debt the company had accrued by maintaining the road.
But El Paso State Rep. Joe Pickett, chairman of the House Transportation Committee says SH 130 is part of a network of toll roads and simply removing tolled lanes from this stretch of highway would be a difficult task.
“If we want to remove the toll on SH 130, then we have to remove it on SH 45 because we’ve tied them together,” Pickett says.
James Bass, TxDOT’s executive director told state lawmakers that eliminating toll roads in Texas is no easy or inexpensive matter.
“Because in order to build those toll roads we borrowed money from investors, so if the State of Texas were to say ‘we are not going to pay you, we are stopping the tolls, if and when the State of Texas needed to borrow money in the future, those investors likely wouldn’t be interested in loaning money,” Bass explains.
Bass says if the State of Texas were to pay off the debt on all toll roads it would cost close to $24 billion. Lawmakers plan to study TxDOT’s report on the issue of eliminating tolls and use it to craft potential legislation during the upcoming 2017 session.