Commissioners vote on new ‘equitable, affordable’ policy to save Harris County toll road drivers money

HOUSTON – Harris County commissioners unanimously approve cutting toll road rates by 10%. The approval comes days after Commissioners Rodney Ellis and Adrian Garcia, along with Harris County Toll Road Director Roberto Trevino, announced the proposal last Tuesday aimed at helping local drivers feel less burn due to the hike in inflation.

“You don’t think about lowering cost and worrying about a financial impact,” said Garcia. “We’re thinking about our consumer’s number one, and secondly, we believe lowering the rates creates a discussion in the thought process among our users, which may inadvertently create more use of the system.”

“Transportation is not a luxury; it is a necessity. Getting from (point) A to B, to work, to school, to baseball practice, to a doctor‘s office is a very expensive transaction,” Ellis said. “While gas prices are high and vehicle prices soar, and toll prices around the state continue to soar, we are going in an opposite direction in Harris County and providing some relief for Harris County residents and anybody else who gets on our toll roads.”

During the news conference, Ellis outlined the following:

  • The discount is expected to be implemented by Labor Day 2023.
  • The discount will apply to EZ Tag customers that are 2-axle (commuter and passenger) vehicles, which is 95% of the county’s transactions, according to Ellis.
  • Under the new policy, the EZ Tag will be free with up to eight free tags issued per household. The tags were previously $15 each.
  • Over the next few months, the plan is to phase in many options where residents can obtain EZ Tags, in addition to making payments, at retail stores across the region.

The new payments, Ellis said, will bring “a little relief” to those who need to use the time-saving roads. He added that, based on records, this is the first time in history that a rate has ever been approved for the toll road.

“These are smart steps, and they are big steps designed to provide safe, equitable and affordable mobility options for everyone in Harris County,” Ellis said.

Garcia echoed Ellis’ excitement.

“Commissioner Ellis and I wanted to see if we could demonstrate to the public that we understand the times that we are in, so we charged Mr. Trevino with the idea of, versus the standard trend of raising tolls, fees and costs, how can we have an anti-inflation initiative here in Harris County?” Garcia said.

During Tuesday’s commissioner’s court, Garcia discussed how the policy will impact the county budget, “we’re going to see a reduction in revenue, but we’ll see how long that is the case. Right now, we’re being mindful that inflation is with us.”

Trevino said with the increasing growth of the community, this plan will hopefully ease traffic burdens.

“Every action that the toll road has proposed, and every policy has been to be less punitive and to benefit the public,” Trevino said. “The toll road is a vital function of the county, and we are doing everything we can to keep the tolls low, and every policy gives our users the benefit of the doubt and we are not penalizing anyone from using the system or where their economic levels are.”

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