Central Texas mobility agency discusses easier ways to pay toll bills and an update on stalled toll projects

The SH 71 Express toll lane projects opened Feb. 28, 2017, near the Austin airport.

The SH 71 Express toll lane projects opened Feb. 28, 2017, near the Austin airport.

Easier pay-by-mail options for toll bills could be coming in the next months for Central Texas drivers.

Approval of a new pay-by-mail toll collection contract was one of several items approved or discussed at the Feb. 28 meeting of the board of directors for the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority.

Here are four highlights from the meeting:
1. New pay-by-mail toll collection contract approved

In an effort to provide some cost savings for customers and easier pay-by-mail options, the board approved a contract with Cofiroute USA, replacing its existing contractor, MSB.

Currently, drivers may pay for tolls using a toll tag. Those without a tag may pay by mail, as well as customers whose toll tag accounts do not have sufficient funds or the address associated with a license plate is out of date, said Tracie Brown, the Mobility Authority’s director of operations.

The new contract will allow the Mobility Authority to develop more convenient customer payment options, Brown said. Pay-by-mail bills will also be sent out every 30 days under one invoice number instead of every 15 days with a different invoice number each time to avoid any confusion, she said.

“We don’t have the ability to email a toll bill to a customer, so we will get that under this process,” Brown said. "We’ll also have more agreement on service level, such as call wait times, collections [and] all the things we had an informal agreement on [with MSB], and this formalizes it.”

The agency will test the new system starting in late summer and roll it out in November.
2. Several toll projects in the pipeline are still on hold, pending approval from the state

In late 2017, several toll projects that the Mobility Authority was planning stalled after the governor announced he did not approve of the Texas Department of Transportation using any voter-approved funding from Propositions 1 and 7 on any projects with a toll element.

This led to a pause on the agency’s projects while it awaits approval from either TxDOT staffers or the Texas Transportation Commission, which is the governing board for TxDOT.

Projects still on hold include US 183 North, Toll 183A Phase 3, MoPac South, Oak Hill Parkway and direct connectors at SH 130 and Hwy. 290.

For US 183 North, Mobility Authority Executive Director Mike Heiligenstein said he has not heard any word on when the state will approve the project development agreement or allow the agency to advertise construction bids. Once approval is received, the agency can begin constructing four tolled lanes on US 183 from Toll 183A at SH 45 N to MoPac.
3. MoPac sound wall construction continues

The contractor on the MoPac express lane project has been removing and reinstalling existing walls and has modified new walls to avoid any cracking after a deficiency was discovered in 2017 on the design of the sound walls along the corridor. The express lanes opened in October.

Work continues throughout 2018 on the walls. Other remaining work includes landscaping and replacing wooden fences between the roadway and homes.
4. A regional Park & Ride plan could come up for a vote later this year

The Mobility Authority’s Deputy Executive Director Jeff Dailey gave an update on the regional Park & Ride planning process that is underway to identify new locations for a facility.

The plan will outline ideal locations for facilities that could be built in the short and long term and how those facilities would tie in with the regional high-capacity transit plan called Project Connect that Capital Metro is working on.

Dailey said the plan will come back to the board at a later date with more information on potential new locations, including on the east side of the region from Pflugerville to Del Valle and in the Cedar Park and Southwest Austin areas.
By Amy Denney

Managing Editor, Austin metro

Amy has worked for Community Impact Newspaper since September 2010, serving as reporter and later senior editor for the Northwest Austin edition as well as covering transportation in the Austin metro. She is now managing editor for the 10 publications in the Central Texas area from Georgetown to New Braunfels.


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