The Tow and Go program, which was launched in 2018 by the Houston-Galveston Area Council, previously only covered freeways inside the city of Houston's city limits.
In a statement, Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said the program helps lower the chances of a stalled vehicle on the road causing a second accident.
"We respond to several accidents with stranded motorists on the freeways or on the side of the road a year that put both the motorists and our first responders at risk," he said. "The expansion of this quick clearance program is another step toward reducing secondary incidents, keeping traffic moving and, most importantly, saving lives."
Drivers who find themselves stranded because of a mechanical failure can call 713-881-3333 to request the service or download an app from the Apple App Store or Google Play store. The freeways covered by Tow and Go include portions of I-45, Hwy. 59, Hwy. 290, I-10, Hwy. 288, Loop 610 and pieces of Hwy. 249 in Northwest Harris County, Hwy. 246 in La Porte and Beltway 8 in the Spring area. The service is limited to parts of the freeway that can be monitored by cameras.
Tow truck drivers are authorized by law enforcement officers with help from the Houston TranStar Traffic Center, where officials use cameras to monitor vehicles in real time. A tow truck then tows the vehicle to a safe location within one mile of the nearest exit.
Tow truck drivers involved in the program are required to complete roadway safety and traffic incident management training, according to an Aug. 5 press release from H-GAC.
Vehicles involved in an accident or other law enforcement incident, vehicles that flooded and vehicles that were abandoned are not eligible for the service. Motorcycles are eligible, and trailers can be towed when possible, according to the release.
H-GAC officials said the program will eventually be expanded to freeways in neighboring counties where camera footage is available.
Kristina Michel, a senior writer and editor with H-GAC, said there are no immediate plans to expand the service to toll roads such as the Grand Parkway or Westpark Tollway. However, she noted that the Harris County Toll Road Authority provides its own motorist service patrol for the Sam Houston Tollway, the Westpark Tollway and managed lanes on the Katy Freeway.
As of June, H-GAC officials estimate 67,891 no-cost tows have been provided since the launch of the program. The program is managed by H-GAC with congestion relief funding made available through the State Highway Fund and the Texas Department of Transportation.