Truckers traveling through central Texas could soon get another enticement to avoid driving on Interstate 35.
In an effort to reduce congestion on I-35 through the Austin area, multiple Texas state lawmakers are behind an effort to reduce truck tolls along a 49-mile stretch of state Highway 130.
The 90-mile highway connects the state capital with San Antonio to the south. It is split into six segments. Segments 1 through 4 link Georgetown to south Austin and are run by the state Department of Transportation. Segments 5 and 6 are closest to San Antonio and are run by a private group.
Sens. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, and Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, and Rep. Celia Israel D-Austin, have filed bills for consideration during the session that begins Tuesday, Jan. 13, that would reduce the expense for truckers to travel along segments 1 through 4. Specifically, vehicles with three or more axles would get a discounted rate to use the stretch of roadway.
The Texas Transportation Commission and Texas Department of Transportation would be responsible for developing a program to discount or adjust toll rates. It is estimated the toll reduction would cost the state $20 million annually starting in September 2015.
Truck drivers have received cost breaks in the past to access the private portion of the toll road.
Most recently in 2013, an 8-month rebate program permitted large trucks to access segments 5 and 6 for the same price as personal vehicles. TxDOT reported a nearly 50 percent increase in truck traffic during that time along the 41-mile stretch but the program was cut short because funds dried up.
An ongoing enticement for truckers and other drivers to use the privately run stretch of toll road is an 85 mph speed limit – the fastest in the nation.
The bills, SB270 and HB594, await assignment to committee in their respective chambers.
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