Thursday, July 19, 2007

"It's a scam." Fines force 183A drivers to get 'converted' to TxTags.

Gas Tax Doesn't Meet Road Expenses, TxDOT Says

July 19, 2007

KXAN TV (Austin)
Copyright 2007

The Texas Department of Transportation released an audit Thursday saying the 20 cent per gallon gas tax is not enough to cover the costs of new roads because of rising costs of construction and cars with better gas mileage.

TxDOT said the toll roads are keeping drivers out of gridlock traffic, which includes MoPac and State Highways 45 and 130.

The department said toll transactions have surpassed 2002 traffic projections by 63 percent, but not all toll road drivers are satisfied.

The portion of toll road Highway 183A located off Ranch Road 620 gets the most complaints from drivers, because once they pass the last exit by Lakeline Mall, there are no cash lanes available on the toll.

Drivers must have either a TxTag or they will receive a citation, and according to the latest numbers, more than 30 percent of the drivers that pass through are issued citations.

Motorist Jeff Draper drives home through that portion of 183A every day, and to his suprise, the route he drives is costing him.

"I go through it every day," said Draper. "I've never seen signs or anything like that, I never thought anything of it. Apparently, I got six weeks of these citations trickling down from corporate to me."

Draper has been taking the route up 183A and exiting at Lakeline Boulevard, and said the last warning sign by RR 620 is not enough.

"It's a scam, because they are forcing residents to take the Lakeline exit and go through all the traffic in the mall, wind around little side streets to get home," said Draper.

"The last free exit is basically after you get across RR 620," said Steve Pustelnyk, director of communications at the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority.

That is where toll road 183A begins, according to the CTRMA.

Drivers without TxTags are still missing the last free exit despite warning signs placed one mile out, a half-mile out and the actual exit.

"At this location here, a portion of people don't have a tag, can't pay cash," said Pustelnyk. "Part of what we're working on right now is trying to bring down the violation rate, by getting them converted to TxTags."

Motorists who have a TxTag are charged 45 cents for each transaction, and those who pass through without a tag get a $5.50 violation each time.

The CTRMA said it is aware of the problem and monitoring the area with plans to make sign improvements.

The audit cost TxDOT $3.5 million.

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