Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Open road tolling is proving to be penny wise and pound foolish

Toll tags urged for travelers on 121

State trying to work kinks out, end bills for meager amounts

January 3, 2007

Denton Record-Chronicle
Copyright 2007

The Texas Department of Transportation is urging exasperated motorists using the new State Highway 121 toll road to purchase toll tags, which can cut the cost of using the road by a third and eliminate the hassle of a monthly bill.

Department spokeswoman Kelli Petras said drivers have objected to receiving bills of as little as 25 cents for using the road, the first all-electronic toll road in Texas.

"There have been some complaints about being billed small amounts," she said.

The Texas Turnpike Authority Division in Austin, which governs the billing process, is working to resolve bugs in the system so that bills won't be sent out for totals that low, she said.

Motorists have also complained about toll tag malfunctions, Ms. Petras said, while others have said they didn't realize the 5.9-mile stretch of Highway 121 had become a toll road.

Motorists have two options to pay the toll: purchase a toll tag or receive a more costly monthly bill.

Toll tag users have a windshield transponder that deducts the toll from their account. For vehicles without a toll tag, a camera records the license plate number and the vehicle's owner receives a bill, which amounts to about 33 percent more than toll tag users have to pay.

The Transportation Department began collecting tolls on the road Dec. 1.

Gas taxes, the traditional funding option for highways, are not generating enough revenue to keep up with demand, said Mark Ball, a spokesman for the department. He said toll roads could help offset the funding needs and prevent gas taxes from rising.

New sections of Highway 121 are to open as toll roads in the coming years, including a portion of road from Old Denton Road east to the Dallas North Tollway and a section east of the tollway to Central Expressway.

Denton County Judge Mary Horn said tolls are the only sensible way to get funding to build the roads the county needs.

"Building roads is just outrageously expensive, and bridges are even worse than that," Ms. Horn said. "If we were to wait on TxDOT to build these roads, they wouldn't get to it until around 2030."

To purchase a toll tag, call 972-818-6882 or visit the North Texas Tollway Authority's Web site at


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