I have three things to say about this.
Starting in September, that jaunt on a Harris County toll road might save you time, but it won’t spare your change.
Unless Commissioners Court intervenes, rates at main-lane toll plazas on the Sam Houston, Westpark Tollway, Hardy Toll Road and the one toll booth on the Fort Bend Parkway inside Harris County are scheduled to increase Sept. 8 from $1.30 to $1.40 for EZ Tag users and from $1.50 to $1.75 for cash customers.
Rates would jump from $4 to $5 during peak hours on the Katy Managed Lanes. Westbound peak hours are scheduled to shift one hour earlier, to run from to 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Off-peak rates on the Katy managed lanes would not change, nor would rates on the Ship Channel bridge.
Harris County Toll Road Authority Director Peter Key explained the need for the increase by pointing to the $1.9 billion his agency plans to spend on capital projects through 2020.
“We feel like we have a compelling argument to make that, for the region’s continued prosperity, there have to be funds available to fund regional infrastructure improvements,” Key said. “The county toll road system happens to be one of the entities that’s still solvent to be able to do that.”
County Judge Ed Emmett said he supports the increase, noting that the county will be able to improve mobility at a time when the Texas Department of Transportation is hamstrung by insufficient gas-tax revenues.
“Like it or not, there’s no highway fairy in the sky that’s going to pay to build new roads or maintain the roads that we have,” Emmett said. “This is just keeping up with inflation, and it allows us to continue expanding the toll road system.”
1. I’m glad I don’t have a daily routine that requires the use of toll roads.
2. Despite Judge Emmett’s comment, it doesn’t actually take a magic highway fairy to pay for the kind of transportation infrastructure the state of Texas needs. It just takes a Legislature and a Governor that recognize the need for it and the willingness to index the gas tax to inflation. Having said that, I must admit that a magic highway fairy is the more believable option.
3. It sure would be nice if Metro could get the resources it needs for the capital projects it has planned this easily, wouldn’t it?