Central Texas agency approves program to waive tolls for qualified veterans

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Starting in November, qualified veterans will be able to have their tolls waived when driving on certain Central Texas toll roads.

On Wednesday, the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority board approved the new program that will be available for those who meet the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles’ requirements for the Congressional Medal of Honor, Legion of Valor and Purple Heart awards as well as disabled veterans license plates.

“I think what we’re doing here is a token of appreciation of what veterans do for our country,” said board member David Armbrust, who is a veteran himself.

Toll agency staffers will be crafting the program over the next several months and setting up an online portal for those with a qualified plate to register for a TxTag through the Mobility Authority’s website.

The discount will be for only one license plate per qualified veteran, and the plate must be connected with an electronic toll tag account. The program will only waive tolls on Toll 183A, 290 Toll and SH 71 as well as on the future US 183 south toll lanes and SH 45 SW toll road when those open. It will not apply to the MoPac express lanes because those tolls are variably priced based on traffic congestion.

The Texas Department of Transportation already offers a Veteran Discount Program on its toll roads, including SH 130 from Georgetown to near Buda, SH 45 N, SH 45 SE and Loop 1 north of Parmer Lane.

Later this fall, the Mobility Authority board will still need to amend its toll policy code to allow for the program. In hopes that the Legislature ultimately finds money to fund the program statewide, the board members also added a sunset clause on the program for it to be revisited at the end of 2021.

Over the next eight years, the program is estimated to cost the Mobility Authority at least $14.3 million in toll revenue, or about $1 million up to $2.5 million per year. The DMV estimates there are 347,000 qualified veterans plates in Texas.

“It seems like a lot of money when we thought [the program]would be funded by the Legislature and now it’s not,” board member John Langmore said. “Although I’m in favor of supporting our veterans, I’m wondering if this is the best way to do it and if it’s appropriate for the Mobility Authority to spend $14 million by waiving tolls.”

The program passed unanimously despite Langmore’s concerns. Board member Nikelle Meade said she is supportive of waiving tolls for qualified veterans.

“I thought about the dollar amount, too, and supporting veterans in the community rather than taking this approach, but I came back to the fact that the veterans are asking us to do this,” she said.

In 2009, the Texas Legislature passed House Bill 3139 that allows toll authorities to offer discounted or waived tolls for certain veterans.

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Amy Denney
Amy has been reporting in community journalism since 2007. She worked in the Chicago suburbs for three years before migrating south and joined Community Impact Newspaper in September 2010. Amy has been editor of the Northwest Austin publication since August 2012 and she is also the transportation beat reporter for the Austin area.
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