There's something about toll roads that just isn't very fun. It's probably that part where you have to pay to drive on them. Of course, we help pay for the roads we drive on through taxes and other fees – but it's more in your face when you roll through the toll plaza.
At least one Texas lawmaker is urging the state to pump the breaks.
House Transportation Committee Chairman Joe Pickett says the argument for toll roads in Texas doesn't always add up. He authored a bill to get the numbers on Texas toll roads, and he says that he felt that the Texas Department of Transportation was too quick to add tolls to new roads.
"A few years back the Texas Department of Transportation started really, really putting on the heavy, full-court press on looking at any new capacity as a possible toll," Pickett says. "It was just, 'You gotta toll or we're gonna cut your funds.'"
The numbers he requested compare the costs of operating toll roads to the revenue they bring in. Pickett says that he believes the numbers will give a better understanding of which toll roads are actually costing more money to run than they bring in. He offers El Paso as an example.
"We've got a small toll project here that we were forced into doing – it costs us a dollar to collect a dollar," he says. "So, who's benefiting from that?"
Pickett says he hopes that getting the information on toll costs will help the state's roads be more cost- and time-efficient.
"I'm guessing – and this is just a guess – when we get more numbers we can do better," Pickett says. "There's probably 20 to 25 percent of tolls out there that aren't necessary. There are some that could start to be pulled back. There's some roads like 130 that's a major state highway – if we took the toll off of 130, it would have the same effect as adding a lane on Interstate 35."