Everything You Need To Know About Austin Freeway Tolls

Special Interests, who profit off tolls are hard at work selling roads that shift Austin freeways to tollways. Sen. Kirk Watson and other tollers voted to spend $910 million tax dollars to shift our freeways to toll roads in Oct of 2007. Tolling freeways create traffic congestion. And, they are a wasteful way to collect taxes.


Conventional toll roads in the U.S. have always been perceived as being fair, since they supplement our public highway system, and they offer a public expressway as an alternative. It's also important to note that conventional tolls have always been whole new routes and primarily funded with investor dollars.

Freeway tolls don’t offer crucial free expressways as an alternative. Instead, frontage roads with stop lights and growing traffic congestion are touted as an alternative.

With freeway tolls, TxDOT has a financial incentive NOT to address traffic congestion on frontage roads since increased traffic congestion provides higher toll tax revenues. This is a severe departure for TxDOT, since its focus has always been solving transportation issues -- not generating revenue through traffic congestion. Freeway tolls simply shift public
highways intended to be freeways into tollways.

Those who support tolling public expressways never mention the true cost of public subsidies involved. The total cost to the taxpayer, especially the taxpayer-funded right-of-way (ROW), is never shared with the public. Freeway tolls create expressway monopolies and are the most expensive solution to our need for roads.

For the most part, the finances of conventional toll roads have been segregated from public funds. While freeway tolls are primarily funded with tax dollars intended for free roads.

Pro-toll advocate and TollRoadsNews.com writer Peter Samuel made this statement about TxDOT and its freeway tolls:

"It has no coherent explanation for its project selection, or for the way tax and toll monies are mixed. It has been cavalier in proposing tolls on highways already funded -- breaching a long-established piece of political wisdom about tolling."

At a TxDOT commission hearing in October 2004, TxDOT had admitted it costs 25 cents to collect a cash toll, and 11 cents to collect an electronic toll. So, if the toll tax for a short span of road is 50 cents, 50% of the money paid for that toll goes to collect the toll.


TxDOT and the local Regional Mobility Authority are on record promising a 12 to 15 cents/mile rate. Conventional toll roads in the US have an average toll rate of 9 cents/mile.

The Austin American-Statesman recently reported that the newly-opened Central Texas Phase I tolls cost as much as $1.50 per mile.

That's 10 times the cost promised, and 16 times the cost of the average toll rate in the U.S.


Toll roads cost much more for construction, right-of-way, utility relocation, maintenance, and service than do non-tolled roads. For example, Central Texas Phase II freeway tolls would cost $123 million more to build as toll roads than they would cost to build as free roads.

The footprint of a freeway toll project is larger than what's needed for the free road since toll lanes and free lanes must be separated. Therefore, extra land for right-of-way must be acquired and utilities must be relocated. Our existing roads have right-of-way corridors for expansion, but were never planned for the larger footprint required by freeway tolls.

To illustrate, a typical roadway project devotes about 90% or more of the cost to build the road. Compare that to TxDOT's toll analysis for SH 71 in Central Texas where only 35% of the cost of the project is for roadway construction. Over half the cost of the $168 million project goes to buying new right-of-way and having to relocate utilities for the freeway toll road.


In 2005, the State Comptroller came out with an investigative report showing how Regional Mobility Authorities that toll public highways are creating double taxation, by diverting tax dollars intended for free roads, into toll roads. The report also showed RMA board members giving NO BID CONTRACTS (using tax dollars) to themselves and their friends. Board members of RMA's have property in the vicinity of toll roads that have increased by as much as 989%.


Assuming your car gets 20 miles per gallon, and an increase in indexed gas tax was less than 20 cents a gallon, you would spend less than 1 cent a mile for an indexed gas tax. Compare that to tolls of 15 cents a mile, which would be 15 times the cost of an indexed gas tax. A 20 cent toll per mile would be 20 times the cost of an indexed gas tax, and so on.

The Texas Transportation Institute report says tolls are NOT needed, that indexing the gas tax and placing the incremental revenue in the mobility fund to pay off bonds allows us to build the roads we need now.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have been looking for a good list of the politicians that supported the toll roads in any aspect. Any person \politician whom chairs a position that made the decisions to create toll ways in Austin instead of creating new freeways, should be listed on a site. Further, any legislation that paved the way for this and the representatives who voted for it should be accounted for. The only real way to change the corruption in the political arena is to vow to never vote for any of these politicians. I refuse to vote for any bond. Good or bad. It is my tax money that the politicians are using and they can not use tax funds correctly. A bond simply gives these entities "flexibility" to do the damage they do to our society. No new bonds, and no votes for anyone who goes against the populous. I have had to change my opinions on many politicians that I actually voted for. I am not biased toward Democratic, Republican, or Independent. As it stands now. I am not going to vote for any incumbent, unless, I know they are firmly against the principles I share, and have the track record to prove it. I have no tolerance for lies, deception, or misuse of my hard earned money. People need to remember that government doesn't make money. It all comes from YOUR wallet. YOUR hard work. We just have very little choice or control in how our government (at any level) uses the money we give them. I support all legislation that will force politicians to be ethical. The problem is, that no legislation will be adequate when the corrupt politicians are the ones making the laws. We have to force these politicians to make these bold moves in order to get elected. A harder line on ethics, no deficit budget\balanced budget, and transparency to all money allocations of our tax dollars. I ask everyone that reads this, to please READ actual history of a any and all politicians track record before you vote. Do NOT believe a word any of them say during election year. Always go by their track record on how they vote on bills, laws, appropriations, etc. Look beyond the propaganda. One of the claims toll road advertisers say that are more than xxx,xxx texans have TXTAGs. How? They gave them away free to every place they could for the first few months. Just so that they could use this as advertising. I knew this and is why I did not take a free TXTAG from the company I work for. If you are against it, be smart and don't support it. Stop being a lemming and start thinking people. This government at all levels is out of control. Time to take it back. Vote smart and not affiliated with any party. They are both guilty of tax and legislative atrocities.