Texans to pay tolls for out of state, Mexican drivers on SH 130

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Toll Road Blues--YOU Will Pay for Out of State, Mexican Travelers on new SH 130 Toll Road
WOAI Radio
Monday, November 12, 2012   

They started charging you to drive on that new 85 mph State Highway 130 toll road over the weekend.  It will cost about $12 to drive the 91 miles from Interstate 10 near Seguin to I-35 north of Georgetown, or about 15 cents a mile.

And congratulations, the people who run the highway say you will also be paying for people from Mexico and from many other states in the U.S. to drive on the highway.

"There is no cross country collection mechanism yet," Project Engineering Manager Guy Russell told 1200 WOAI news.

When asked by 1200 WOAI's Michael Board if that doesn’t mean the road is free for Mexican drivers, Russell responded, "Well, yeah, absolutely, I guess, that would be the case."

There are no toll stations or those annoying toll cards which you have to hand to the toll collector on eastern turnpikes on State Highway 130.

Russell says the way it works is that motorists who have 'toll tags' on their windshields are detected by ultra high speed cameras as they drive down the highway, even at high speeds, and they are billed at a discounted rate.

People who don't have toll tags have their license plate read by the cameras, and the registered owner of the car is mailed a bill.

But since not paying the toll is a 'civil offense' like a parking ticket, there is no criminal penalty for failing to pay the toll.  The Texas Department of Transportation will refuse to re-register your car if you have outstanding toll bills on your record, but if your car is registered in Michigan or Oregon, or, more likely, Mexico, Russell says right now there is no way to force you to pay.

"That's been something that has plagued us for a while," he said.  "We are able to tell that it is from Mexico, that is one of our requirements, but as far as what TxDOT is able to receive from that, I'm not sure."

That angers Terri Hall, who runs Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom, which plans today to announce a boycott of the State Highway 130 toll road.

"Everyone who comes from out of state or out of the country is going to get a free ride on this toll road," she said.

Officials of the State Highway 130 Concessions Corporation, which built the toll road and has a 50 year contract to collect tolls, say they are trying to work out 'cooperative agreements' with other states that would call for them to also refuse to register cars which have an outstanding toll debt from Texas.  But with states which have no toll roads, like New Mexico, or states where failing to pay the toll is a criminal offense, like Oklahoma, that is liable to be difficult.

And...on top of it all...the contract between TxDOT and the SHCC calls for TxDOT, meaning the taxpayers of Texas, to reimburse the corporation for any 'uncollectable' tolls.

"This is cronyism from Day One," said Hall, who says unless the concept of the private toll road is halted now, soon Texans will have to pay a toll 'to drive to HEB.'