December 8, 2012

Toll roads expanding in Texas

NY Times - The first major toll road in Texas, which opened in 1957, was a 30-mile, six-lane stretch of highway between Dallas and Fort Worth. A drive from one end to the other cost 50 cents.

By 1977, tolls had generated enough revenue to recoup the cost of the road’s construction, and the tollbooths were dutifully removed. Drivers know the Dallas-Fort Worth Turnpike as Interstate 30.

Fast forward 35 years and I-30, while still free, is surrounded by billions of dollars in road projects featuring toll roads or lanes. It is a similar story on a smaller scale in the state’s other urban centers as well as in some communities along the border with Mexico.

As public officials across fast-growing Texas look for ways to build more roads in the midst of a lack of public financing, toll revenue or investment from private firms hoping to collect that toll revenue are repeatedly emerging as the antidote.

But many critics say charging tolls in Texas has shifted from an if-we-absolutely-must option to the default approach for major road projects.

“The day will surely come when, if you want to get from point A to point B, you’re not going to have a choice but to get on a toll road,” State Senator John Carona, Republican of Dallas, said at a panel discussion at the Texas Tribune Festival in September on transportation financing. “Well then, suddenly, a toll is just another tax. Let’s not kid one another.”

1 comment:

Mark Robinowitz said...

The new model for toll roads is all electronic tolling. Those who frequent these roads will have electronic RFID tags that are automatically scanned and the fee deducted from an account. Those who don't have the toll tag will have their license plate photographed and then a bill will be mailed to the car's owner (with an extra fee for the privilege of getting it in the mail).

It's part of the larger plan to track all travels all the time. Automatic license plate readers are being installed in countless places (toll roads and non toll roads). Cell phones generate "locational intelligence" that is shared with the No Such Agency and Fatherland Security. Even if you take transit instead of driving you may use an electronic fare card that tracks when you got on the bus or train, and there are facial recognition cameras in the station or on board the vehicle.

It's the J. Edgar Hoover Memorial Highway.