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TxDOT gets $100 million pay-off for 85 MPH speed limit

Category: Public Private Partnerships

Link to article here.

New Texas 130 section to open Oct. 24

By Ben Wear

Austin American Statesman - October 11, 2012

The southern 41 miles of the Texas 130 tollway will open on the afternoon of Oct. 24, according to a Facebook post Thursday from the company that built the four-lane road under a long-term lease with the Texas Department of Transportation.

The road, which runs from the southern end of the existing Texas 130 at Mustang Ridge to Interstate 10 near Seguin, will remain free to drive until Nov. 11, Seguin Mayor Betty Ann Matthies said in a video on the SH 130 Concession Company’s Facebook page. After that, it will cost cars and two-axle trucks about 15 cents a mile to drive the road, Matthies said. Larger trucks will pay up to five times that figure, depending on the number of axles.

At 15 cents a mile, the 41 miles will cost $6.17. The rates were set in a 2007 contract between TxDOT and the concession company, and are allowed to increase annually at a percentage tied to growth of the state’s gross domestic product.

The road will be the first in the state, and perhaps in the country, to have an 85 mph speed limit.

It does not have toll booths or any other method for people to pay cash for tolls, an emerging trend in U.S. toll roads and the case already with two of Central Texas’ five tollways. People who have an electronic toll tag will pay the 15 cents a mile rate. Those without a tag will pay approximately 33 percent more.

The concession company, headed up by Spanish toll road operator Cintra, built the road at its own expense — an estimated $1.3 billion — will operate the road and collect the tolls over the next 50 years. In return for that authority on state-owned right of way, the company paid TxDOT $25 million originally and will pay it another $100 million in January. The size of that second payment was tied to the Texas Transportation Commission approving the 85 mph speed limit on the road.

The commission has also approved, on an interim basis, a 55 mph speed limit on the tollways frontage roads between Mustang Ridge and a point north of Lockhart. That section was formerly U.S. 183 and had a 65 mph speed limit. The lower speed on the access roads has been unpopular with Caldwell County politicians and the public. That limit could be changed in the next several months after TxDOT conducts a followup speed study.