Toll rate increases stir up debate at Central Texas mobility agency

Toll 183A

Toll 183A

Two proposals to increase toll rates on some area toll roads were met with hesitation by a few board members from the Central Texas agency that oversees toll facilities.

The Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority usually increases toll rates each Jan. 1 based on the Consumer Price Index increase, which is 1.7%. Agency staffers proposed increasing rates by $0.01 to $0.03 per toll gantry to board members Oct. 30. The agency manages Toll 183A, Toll 290, SH 71, SH 45 SW, MoPac express lanes and Toll 183 South.

Ultimately, the board opted not to take action on any changes to the proposed staff-recommended increases. This means the toll rate increases will move forward as planned starting Jan. 1. The rates will remain the same on SH 45 SW and Toll 183 South. The board could still consider changing the staff recommendation at its Nov. 20 meeting.

The board also did not take action on changing its policy for increasing the base toll rate on the MoPac express lanes. The agency’s policy states it will increase by $0.05 per segment every year until the base rate reaches $0.50. The base rate will increase to $0.35 per segment Jan. 1.

Toll 183A


Executive Director Mike Heiligenstein said the agency has had conversations over the past couple of years about how to make toll rates on Toll 183A more equitable.

The Park Street toll plaza in Cedar Park has the highest rate in the agency’s system and is currently $1.54 for TxTag users or $2.31 for pay by mail. Drivers who enter Toll 183A at RM 1431 or Brushy Creek Road and take the next exit pay the same rate as someone who travels a much longer distance. The rate would increase to $1.57 on Jan. 1.

“Without [revenues from the] Park Street [toll gantry], we couldn’t have built [Toll] 290, he said. “The toll rate per mile there is significantly higher. Without that gantry there would be no RMA as we know it. This is an opportunity for us to readjust that.”

Board member Mark Ayotte, a Cedar Park resident, agreed and proposed moving the $0.03 increase elsewhere in the system and freezing the rate at Park.

“It doesn’t change the revenue model,” he said. “It’s just moving pennies around in the system.”

Mobilty Authority staffers recommended, based on analysis from traffic consultants, increasing the rate at three other toll plazas to make up an estimated $2.1 million in lost revenue: an additional $0.02 at Crystal Falls Parkway to $1.13, an additional penny at Lakeline Boulevard to $0.59 and an additional $0.02 at Giles Lane on Toll 290 to $1.22.

“Now we have a large enough system, and you’re talking one or two pennies, and it would at least show some consideration for the situation we have [at Park],” Heiligenstein said.

However, board member David Singleton said he was not comfortable with shifting the burden of increased rates to drivers passing through the Crystal Falls toll plaza.

“It kind of undoes what we’ve been trying to accomplish,” he said. “We’ve always tried to be fair across the board.”

Drivers wanting to bypass the Park plaza, however, will have relief in a few years. In May, the Texas Department of Transportation was awarded $75 million in funding to add the missing frontage roads to Toll 183A between RM 1431 and Brushy Creek. Heiligenstein said that project could open in 2021-22.

MoPac base toll


When the US 183 North toll project opens in 2025, the base toll rate per segment is proposed to be $0.50, Chief Financial Officer Bill Chapman said. The agency’s policy has been to increase the base rate in the MoPac express lanes incrementally each year instead of all at once, he said. The original base toll rate was $0.25 per segment.

“They will be connected roadways, and we’re trying to keep the rate policy the same for the minimum rate,” Chapman said.

Board member John Langmore and Heiligenstein both favored freezing the rate for a year.

“I have heard this more than a few times when [the base rate] went up a nickel that did resonate; [drivers] did notice,” Heiligenstein said.

The motion to change the policy failed, however, and the rate will increase Jan. 1.
By Amy Denney
Amy has worked for Community Impact Newspaper since September 2010, serving as reporter and then senior editor for the Northwest Austin edition and covering transportation. She is now managing editor for the nine publications in the Central Texas area.


MOST RECENT

Under the city of Austin's phased enforcement plan released May 10, citations at public encampments will begin in mid-June to be followed by arrests and clearances in July as necessary. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin's homeless ordinances back on books May 11, but arrests, camp clearings won't start until July

Austin announced a "phased process" to introduce Proposition B ordinances beginning with one month of outreach followed by one month of warnings and citations before arrests or clearances begin as necessary.

Pfizer vaccines could become available to kids 12 and up as soon as next week. (Courtesy Adobe Stock/Graphic by Justin Howell/Community Impact Newspaper)
FDA expands Pfizer vaccine authorization to children ages 12 to 15 years old

This is the first time people under the age of 16 have been granted access to a coronavirus vaccine.

Here is what you need to know today about COVID-19 in Williamson County. (Community Impact staff)
Nearly 60% of Williamson County residents have received one dose, plus more COVID-19 news

Here is what you need to know today about COVID-19 in Williamson County.

Butler Park Pitch & Putt reopened to the public in April. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)
Butler Park Pitch & Putt reopens in Austin; turf fields open in Pflugerville and more Central Texas news

Read the latest business and community news from the Central Texas area.

I-35 traffic
State now accepting public input on North Austin I-35 overhaul project

The public now has the ability to review and provide feedback on planning materials for a $400 million I-35 project.

Tents have become a common sight throughout Austin including along Cesar Chavez Street downtown, but with the passage of Proposition B the city may now consider moving unsheltered homeless individuals to designated sites. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin City Hall notebook: Designated campsites for the homeless are back on the table

City staff had previously dismissed developing official camping locations in 2019, but new directives from City Council this week could revive the concept in Austin.

Wag-A-Bag is headquartered in Round Rock. (Megan Cardona/Community Impact Newspaper)
Wag-A-Bag to operate under new ownership, name; Austin, TxDOT at odds over I-35 overhaul; and more top Central Texas news

Read the most popular business and community news from the past week from the Austin area.

Stephanie Hayden-Howard will become an assistant city manager in Austin on May 10. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
Role changes coming for health officials leading Austin-Travis County COVID-19 efforts

Dr. Desmar Walkes will take over as Austin's next medical director and local health authority as Dr. Mark Escott and Stephanie Hayden-Howard transition to new roles with the city.

Road closure stock image
TxDOT to demolish I-35 ramp in North Austin early Saturday morning

State crews will perform controlled implosions of the northbound I-35 to northbound US 183 flyover between 6-8 a.m. in the morning on May 8 and May 15.

Hand casting ballot stock image
What a potential election recount would look like at Pflugerville ISD

A race to determine a seat on the Pflugerville ISD board of trustees is separated by only 2 votes. What happens if a recount is requested? Read here to find out.