The privately operated section of the Texas 130 tollway south of Mustang Ridge is attracting about half the predicted traffic, according to Moody’s Investor Service, prompting it to investigate downgrading credit ratings for more than $1.1 billion in debt attached to the toll road.
TxDOT’s contract with the concession company lays out complex procedures to determine how much TxDOT would pay the concession company to take over the road in the event of a default or for any other reason. The Moody’s report doesn’t mention the possibility of default.
Chris Lippincott, a spokesman for the concession company, said it is meeting “contractual obligations to operate and maintain a world-class highway. We remain confident that the recently opened SH 130 … will benefit our investors and the people of Texas.”
The transportation commission — which has operational control of Texas 130’s northern 49 miles but not the Cintra-Zachry section — [approved on Thursday] cutting truck tolls by two-thirds for the next year on the tollway as well as on connecting toll road Texas 45 Southeast. Multi-axle trucks, beginning Monday, would pay the same tolls as passenger vehicles and pickups.
The concession company has agreed to charge all vehicles the car rate as well during that period. That means that a truck, rather than paying as much as $61 to travel the entire 90 miles of Texas 130, would pay just over $17. In both cases, those are the pay-by-mail rates. A truck equipped with an electronic toll tag would pay 25 percent less.
TxDOT, in announcing the toll reduction for big trucks, said it was done to ease congestion on parallel Interstate 35. But the change, which TxDOT estimates will reduce toll revenue on Texas 130 and Texas 45 Southeast by $11 million over the next year, also could introduce some truckers to the high-speed tollway. The speed limit is 80 mph on the TxDOT section and 85 mph on the Cintra-Zachry section.
So maybe this isn’t the pathway to prosperity that the city of Lockhart dreamed it would be, though it is good news for the hogs. Maybe it’s just that the idea of driving 85 MPH isn’t quite as appealing as we thought, at least not at these prices. Who knows? Let’s just hope TxDOT doesn’t get stuck holding the bag. The Trib notes a side issue relating to the speed limit on the service roads for SH 130, and EoW has more.