Proposed policy change could make toll roads cheaper for drivers in Houston area

Commissioners Rodney Ellis and Adrian Garcia proposed a policy change that will reduce local toll-rate for the first time by about 10%.

Gail Delaughter
Central Toll Plaza on the Sam Houston Tollway.

Harris County Commissioners will vote next week on a proposal that would make local toll roads cheaper.

The proposed plan says toll road prices would be cut by 10% and EZ tags would be free permanently with up to eight free tags per household. The toll reduction would apply to passenger vehicles and not larger, commercial vehicles that use local toll roads. Commissioner Rodney Ellis said enough commercial users are driving on the toll roads to give other users a discount.

"More people are going to get on our toll roads," Commissioner Ellis said. "The bulk of our revenue comes from those commercial users, and you'll have ample commercial users who are paying and they'll be using those toll roads."

Commissioner Ellis said the goal is to save drivers money during a high inflation period since the county can afford it.

"When it comes to transportation, we know it's not a luxury. It's a necessity. People have to get from A to B, from work to school, to baseball practice, doctor's office, and it's expensive for everybody in our county," he said.

Commissioner Ellis also noted the proposed policy change could potentially decrease the city's carbon footprint, as well. Various Harris County roads require an EZ tag and some Houstonians were forced to take the backroads in the past. Commissioner Ellis said with more accessibility to EZ tags, more people will reach their destinations faster.

If the policy change passes, it will be the first time a county reduces toll road prices. The Harris County Toll Road Authority and Commissioners Court expect for the change to go into effect by September 2023.

"We want to give ourselves enough time to make sure no glitches hit the system," said Commissioner Ellis.

Harris County Commissioners will vote for this new policy next Tuesday.

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