Truckers speak up for lower tolls in Austin

By David Tanner, Land Line associate editor | 1/24/2012

With a reduced toll rate set to expire Wednesday, Jan. 25, truckers that travel the Interstate 35 corridor in Austin are hoping to persuade the Texas DOT to make the lower toll rates permanent on State Highway 130. Since mid-December, truckers have paid $9 to use the roadway compared to a rate of $25 to $30.

The reduction had the desired effect on traffic, a TxDOT spokeswoman said, but the agency has not yet committed to longer-term measures to keep trucks on the bypass and off the congested Interstate 35.

“I-35 is the fourth most highly congested road in Texas, and so any little bit of traffic relief we can offer that roadway is going to be a great help,” TxDOT spokeswoman Kelli Petras told “Land Line Now” on Sirius XM. “We did see a lot of trucks transfer from I-35 to State Highway 130 and SH 45 Southeast.”

Petras said the agency received plenty of feedback from truckers about the traffic situation.

“We did hear a lot of really positive things from all different sources, from receiving emails to phone calls to all of our social networks. We got a lot of support,” she said. “A lot of people were really excited and happy that we were offering this.”

Truckers typically won’t use a toll road unless they see a benefit in the way of time and money savings. At $29.32 in cash or $25.60 with a TxTag, Highway 130 is priced out of many truckers’ budgets.

Petras said TxDOT has no immediate plans to carry the discount past Wednesday, at least not until the final numbers come in. Even then, the agency is obligated to pay off the bonds used to build the roadway.

“Hopefully it’s something that we can look into or extend in the future,” she said. “We really enjoy our trucking community, and we know that anything we can do to help traffic relief on I-35 is going to be worth it.”

A year ago, TxDOT pondered a $7 discount for trucks on Highway 130, but truckers told Land Line that wasn’t enough incentive to use the toll road.

“Land Line Now” Staff Reporter Reed Black contributed to this report.

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