Harris County toll roads generate hundreds of millions a year. Hidalgo, commissioners changed how money will be used
HOUSTON – The Harris County’s toll road system is described as one of the best and most financially successful urban toll road systems in the country. The system, which includes the Sam Houston Tollway, Hardy Toll Road, Westpark Tollway, Tomball Tollway, and Katy Freeway Toll Lanes, covers 128 miles across the county. In 1983, Harris County voters approved the Hardy and Sam Houston toll roads with the intent that the toll money would be used for expansion, maintenance, and improvements. But last month, Judge Lina Hidalgo, along with County Commissioners Rodney Ellis and Adrian Garcia, passed a new measure from the Harris County Toll Road Authority, or HCTRA, to create a publicly funded corporation to fund the system. “Our tolls should be spent on the people of Harris County,” Hidalgo said.
Debate over future of Harris County Toll Road Authority
Commissioners Court voted 3-2, along party lines, in support of the measure, which creates a corporation that will oversee duties currently carried out by Harris County Toll Road Authority, or HCTRA. HCTRA, created in 1983 following a voter-approved bond referendum, manages all aspects of the county’s tolled highway system. A local government corporation, or LGC, will manage the county’s toll roads, under the restructuring. Under the agreement, the LGC would pay Harris County an initial $300 million franchise fee to manage toll roads and an additional $90 million annual franchise fee. Other area counties use similar local government corporations to oversee its toll roads, according to HCTRA, which cited Fort Bend, Brazoria, and Montgomery Counties.