Thursday, December 06, 2007

Freeway tolls stop in Comal County 'but drivers heading south into Bexar County on U.S. 281 could face tolls by 2012'

San Antonio toll plans could affect Comal

December 6, 2007

From staff reports
The Herald-Zeitung (New Braunfels and Comal County)
Copyright 2007

Comal County officials have said they won’t allow TxDOT to convert existing highways within the county to toll roads, but drivers heading south into Bexar County on U.S. 281 could face tolls by 2012.

On Monday, The Metropolitan Planning Organization met in San Antonio and gave the go-ahead to toll U.S. 281 from Loop 1604 to Comal County, approving a 17-cent per mile rate for the highway in Bexar County. State transportation officials expect tolling to begin in the next four-to-five years. The project is expected to cost a total of $476 million, with $112 million coming from Texas Mobility Funds. The remaining $363 million is expected to be issued through toll bonds.

The San Antonio-Bexar County MPO, a regional agency tasked with planning transportation needs for the area, approved the rates for the proposed U.S. 281 tollway by a vote of 12-4.

In Comal, it appears the vote will impact only drivers who use U.S. 281 heading into Bexar County. A 6.8 mile stretch of U.S. 281 in Comal County will not be converted into a tolled road, county commissioners have said. A portion of the improvements to that stretch of road, between Farm-to-Market 311 and Farm-to-Market 306, will be paid for by the county to prevent TxDOT from moving in with plans to toll the road.

County Commissioners have reached an agreement with local TxDOT officials that will prevent them from pursuing toll road projects on existing highways in Comal without Commissioners' Court approval. As part of the pass-through agreement, the county has agreed to loan the state $16 million for two separate projects: improvements to U.S. 281 and Texas 46. The state will pay back the principle of the loan over a four-to-five-year period, but the county will “eat the interest,” commissioners have said.

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