Toll Fees in TX

toll fees are so expensive in TX! I lived in Illinois most my life and never payed more than 50 cents at a time–here it’s $1.25 for the first 3 miles and thereafter! Ridiculous! Why are they higher in TX vs other states?

Where is this expensive toll road? That might give some context.

These are the only one’s I have experience with, they seem about par for tolls unless you drive a truck.

I can only speak for Houston. Here the toll is usually $1.00 (if you use the electronic tag system, anyway). Tolls booths seem to average about 10 miles apart. About 1/4 the per-mile cost you’re seeing.

I also lived in Illinois for a long time, and I’d also have to note that the use of toll roads is very different. Here, the toll roads are a supplemental system - there is a perfectly good network of free expressways and major thoroughfares that can get you anywhere you want. Toll roads are an option you can use if you care to pay extra to get there faster.

In Illinois (at least, Chicago), if you wanted to go any major distances, you pretty much had to use the toll roads. The only option (if you could call it that) was to just creep along the side streets. Very different situation.

I’ll second this. If you knew how much time and aggravation the toll saved you by not having to use an incredibly clogged expressway or interstate, you’d gladly have paid twice as much as you did.

I suspect because Texas has no state income tax. They are still going to extract money from you one way or another. Texas also has fairly high property taxes.

Well, toll roads are the model for financing new urban expressways and bypasses in Texas. I don’t know as much about it as I should (I’m a civil/structural engineer at a consulting firm) but everyone and his dog is hopping on the tollroad bandwagon and it’s a hotly debated issue in Austin right now.

Here’s the mission statement of the North Texas Tollway Authority which is the Dallas area.

(bolding mine)

And this:

The new tollroads are sold to the public as a free way to get new roads built.

Here’s a more in depth summary of the Texas tollroad situation from the Austin Chronicle (the free weekly alternative paper). Here’s a relevant quote:

I’m kinda torn on the issue. I hate to see a two-tiered society where you can drive on the “good” roads only if you can afford it. On the other hand, historically, drivers don’t really pay their full-share of the cost of driving as roadway construction is subsidised by the federal government and therefore spread over the entire US population. (and, selfishly, new toll roads mean more employment for me) But then you could debate that a good, freely available roadway system benefits everyone, not just the drivers.

The lack of a state income tax doesn’t really create a tax vacuum, though; most states without a state income tax can afford to do without one because they have a large local industry to tax instead. Florida has tourism, Nevada has gaming, Alaska and Texas, oil. We get enough revenue from the oil industry to pretty much wholly make up what we’d pay in a state income tax.

I don’t see a lot of correlation between income tax and highway funding. The lion’s share comes from gasoline taxes, either directly to the state or funneled through FHWA. Most of the rest is going to come from vehicle registration. Some states like toll roads because they can milk the out of state cash cows as they pass through. Some think they’re more trouble than they’re worth since these roads are discounted when federal apportionment is done.

I live in Pennsylvania where exists the (in)famous Pennsylvania Turnpike.

Currently, the condition of the PA Turnpike is MUCH better than other free highways, at least in the part of the state I drive in.

The turnpike is self-sufficient, raising all maintenance and construction costs from tolls.

In my personal opinion, I’d be delighted if all “super-highways” converted to self-sufficient tolls which would allow the gasoline tax to be used on the secondary roads and bridges, some of which are near falling down in a large portion of the state.

the problem isn’t with the tollroads themselves, its that the Government (and the people) are allowing the toll road companies to screw the public by not removing the tolls once the road is paid for.

In theory, the tolls are exacted to pay for the road and after the road is paid for it becomes a public highway. The NTTA though has decided that they can not only keep the tolls-but increase them-after the roads are paid for so long as they keep ‘building’ more. So they keep planning and doing half-ass construction on the roads, so they can continue to gather the tolls.

It’s a great scam they’re running.

Do you really think they do a half-assed construction job? I don’t live in Dallas so I don’t see any of the day-to-day activity with the toll roads but I have done some design for them. In fact, there’s fairly substantial a rairoad overpass (8 or 9 spans, IRC) that I designed. (can’t remember exactly which road it was tho’)

It was odd working for them. TxDOT has got roadway and bridge design down to the basics and can get a bridge designed very cheaply. NTTA had weird aesthetic requirements that didn’t make a lot of sense and added substantially to the design cost. (geeky bridge designer aside: like the outside columns all had to have a reverse taper yet equal 4’ width at the ground. So depending on the height of the column, the top width would vary. Yet they also required evenly spaced columns so as the height of the terrain changed the column spacing would also change. This meant that every single bent had the be individually designed and the spacing were really tricky to figure out. Plus we kept telling them it was gonna look like ass to have 8 bents in row with differing colum spacings but they insisted.)

in Houston, this particular toll is called, “Beltway 8.”

It’s not that the construction is shoddy, they are very nice looking roads and seem to be built quite well (as well as you can build a highway in Texas due to the shifting earth). But they spend a great deal of time “planning” and delaying construction, as well as a lot of money designing them as you said.

NTTA is an interesting project. As I understand it, its a private corporation that build public works. Originally it was supposed to build a road and use the tolls to recoup it’s cost (plus some extra) and then it was supposed to make the toll road a free public road.

Now however they’ve paid off their first toll road and are not only continuing to charge for it, but have raised the toll. Their reasoning is that the extra money will be used to construct future toll project (such as the George Bush highway and others they’re starting on), but as long as they continue to plan and/or build new highways they can continue to profit off of the old ones-that’s the problem.

On it’s face it seems like it would be a perfect blend of public/private interests, but right now the public is getting screwed by having to pay for roads they may never use after having already paid off the one that they do use.

Toll roads suck big time. I live in MI, and we don’t have them here. But on the few times I had to use the Ohio Turnpike I did comment to my passengers: “Gee, this road is good shape!” :wink: However, my biggest shock was travelling through the Virginias and noticing the map mentioned “tunnel”. The only tunnel I had ever known was underground to Canada. It hadn’t occurred to me if a mountain was in the way they might cut a hole through it.

My understanding of the laws governing toll roads in Texas (which may not be perfect) is that tolls may be collected on a highway until the cost of the highway and x years of maintenance have been recouped. The loophole in the law that let’s NTTA continue charging tolls after that period is that tolls may continue to be collected if the money is used to extend that tollroad or for construction of a connecting tollroad. This is why the only tollroad in Dallas (the North Dallas Tollway) suddenly got to be twice as long and has the George Bush Tollway connected to it as well as the new State highway 121. At the rate they are going, the tolls will NEVER stop.

As for how much they are allowed to charge, I don’t have any facts, but I’m guessing it involves a complicated formula that adds up to all the market will bear.

Get a Toll-Tag and spend less in tolls and spend less time in line at the toll booths.

I don’t know what the NTTA’s subjective motivations are, but there’s a legitimate need to extend the tollway. The areas to the north of the tollway (beyond its current end point) have been rapidly growing for some time, and there’s currently no good high-speed route into Dallas. I know some people who live up there, and they’re very much looking forward to the time when the Tollway reaches their part of town.

the Ohio Turnpike, IIRC, was close to being paid off so they scheduled a huge repave and widening project and are redoing all the plazas. Its great, nice pavement, wide roads, plenty of potties, short toll lines, still reasonably priced. Indiana and Illinois are cheaper, but their roadways show that they aren’t spending as much either. The tollways in Chicago and NW Indiana are horrible. There are car-swallowing holes, there are falling bridges, there is not enough road surface for the vehicles on the road, etc, etc, etc. I once had to wait about 10 minutes to park at a plaza and then another half hour to actually pee before getting back on the road. I’d gladly pay a little more to pee when I need to pee.

The private corporation is in it for money. Are they supposed to ‘give’ the already paid for road to the public, borrow money from the bank, and build more road? That will make the entire road more expensive in the long run because the tolls will have to pay for the construction costs, the interest on the loan, and the profit for the company. If the company continues to get revenue from the existing road, the tolls just have to pay for the construction cost plus profit margin.

I’m trying to picture this, having designed more bridges and reviewed more plans than I care to count. First of all, are they round columns? I rather doubt it since that formwork would be close to impossible. If rectangular, do they taper in both directions, along C/L pier only, or transverse to C/L pier only? If they taper in transverse direction, does you cap width also vary? Also, don’t your contractors complain about the formwork? Seems like you’ve got a tail wagging the dog here. Why aren’t bridge designers in charge of bridge design?