In an effort to improve mobility, Harris County Toll Road Authority is widening the Hardy Toll Road to three lanes and has converted to all-electronic tolling.
EZ Tag and cash-based tags are the accepted tolling methods on the road.
“With the construction of the Grand Parkway and the increasing high demand on the area toll plazas and roadways, HCTRA is working to improve safety and enhance mobility in the corridor while meeting changing customer needs,” said Quinton Alberto, assistant director of maintenance and traffic engineering for HCTRA.
Converting to an all-electronic tollway could make the Hardy Toll Road safer, HCTRA officials said. Cash lanes create a hazard by adding a stop-and-go scenario as cash payers merge to the correct lane.
EZ Tag is an electronic toll collection system that uses a sensor to track vehicle activity. EZ Tag usage has grown to 80-90 percent of transactions on the Hardy Toll Road during peak hours, Alberto said.
“Traffic volume is expected to increase more than 20 percent by 2020,” Alberto said.
In addition to EZ Tag use along the Hardy Toll Road, cash-based cards, which are affixed to the windshield like EZ Tags, allow a pay-as-you-go option and can be reloaded in any amount, he said. Cash-based cards are already available at H-E-B and Valero Corner Store locations and will soon be offered at CVS/pharmacy locations.
Drivers who accidentally use the toll road without an EZ Tag can pay the toll violation and a convenience fee online at hctra.org/missedatoll. Once it becomes a violation, a $1.50 administrative fee per transaction will be added to the price of the toll.
The conversion to an all-electronic tollway is one of many improvements being made to the toll road. HCTRA is also widening the Hardy Toll Road to three lanes in both directions from FM 1960 to the Grand Parkway. The widening includes the construction of full shoulders and an interchange at the Grand Parkway. Signing and pavement markings will be updated, and bridge decks along the entire roadway are being repaired.
Crews began work on the $170 million widening project in 2015, and it is about 70 percent complete. Construction is expected to last until early spring 2017, Alberto said.
“Our city continues to grow, and we are trying to keep up the infrastructure and the necessary updates,” Alberto said. “We know that road construction is an inconvenience, but once this project is complete, we are confident the Hardy Toll Road will become a smoother ride.”