The decision to restart collections was made in a unanimous vote by Harris County commissioners at an April 28 meeting. Commissioners voted to suspend all toll collections in March to provide economic relief to residents in the wake of job losses spurred by the coronavirus pandemic.
The suspension of tolls was originally set to stay in effect as long as the disaster declaration was in place in Harris County, but commissioners agreed to bring collections back sooner. A separate item on the April 28 agenda involves extending the local disaster declaration until May 20.
Roughly 95% of HCTRA's annual revenue comes from tolls with most of the remaining five percent coming from interest. Over the course of the 2018-19 fiscal year, the authority brought in about $828 million in toll revenues, $334 million of which went to operating expenses and $135 million of which went to support local mobility projects across the county's four precincts.
Officials also discussed plans to map out the use of roughly $426 million in federal relief money provided to Harris County by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act. At the April 28 meeting, Chief Budget Officer Bill Jackson said that money cannot be used to reimburse lost toll revenue.
"It’s fairly broad ranging as long as it had something to do with the COVID[-19] virus, but it does not cover supplanting lost revenue," Jackson said.