Toll road rates increase on Saturday

HOUSTON - Traveling on Houston-area toll roads will soon be more expensive.

Beginning on Saturday at 12 a.m., plaza toll rates for standard, two-axle passenger vehicles will go up 10 cents for drivers with an EZ TAG, from $1.30 to $1.40.

The cash rate will go up 25 cents, from $1.50 to $1.75.

The increases will apply at toll plazas on the Sam Houston Tollway, Westpark Tollway, the Hardy Toll Road and one plaza on the Fort Bend Parkway Extension between US 90A and the Sam Houston Tollway.

Exit tolls will remain the same.

Toll rates on the Katy Managed Lanes are also going up. The peak-hour rate, which is applied from 7 to 9 a.m. and 4 to 6 p.m., will go up $1 for a full trip, from $4 to $5. The shoulder peak-hour rate, which is applied from 6 to 7 a.m., 9 to 10 a.m., 3 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 7 p.m., will go up to $2 to $2.50 for a full trip. Off-peak rates will remain the same.

Many drivers said they were tired of the tolls going up.

"I want to know where that money is going," one driver said. "I don't see it benefitting me."

Officials said the tolls are here to stay, and they will keep increasing every few years. According to policy, tolls increase on an annualized 2 percent basis, but actual increases are only implemented every three or four years.

"This region is growing. The economy needs to remain healthy. To be able to maintain that growth, this agency has got to have the financial strength to fund infrastructure in this growing region to help the economy remain healthy," said Peter Key, the director of the Harris County Toll Road Authority. "This is an increase that keeps pace with inflation."

Key said the additional funds will pay for widening the Sam Houston Tollway from the Southwest Freeway to Highway 288 and will maintain systems already in place.

"It costs a lot of money to maintain roadways in good condition. We hope people driving in this region, when they transition onto the toll road system, they see that the system is maintained in a superior condition," he said.

Local 2 investigates recently obtained the salary and benefit figures for HCTRA's top earning employees. Key, the agency's director and highest-paid employee, makes just over $202,000 total annual compensation, according to records provided by HCTRA.

Between 400,000 and 500,000 drivers use Houston toll roads every day.

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