Politicians, TxDOT, tolling authority boards get free pass on toll roads

Link to article here.

I’ve had this sneaking suspicion in the pit of my gut that somehow the toll pushers at TxDOT like District Engineer, David Casteel, would NEVER have to pay the tolls they’re foisting upon the rest of us. Well, this article confirms it. Not only do the higher-ups at TxDOT and those driving TxDOT vehicles get a free pass, state legislators and tolling authority board members do, too. All of the people ramming toll roads down our throats WILL NOT HAVE TO PAY THE TOLLS they instituted! Isnt it just like government to write themselves loopholes so they don’t have to live under the laws they pass? Even worse, the contractors, like Zachry I assume, didn’t use to pay tolls either until these recent reforms. If this doesn’t infuriate you, I don’t know what would!

On some toll roads, it’s time for change
By Tony Hartzell
Dallas Morning News
Sunday, July 2, 2006

The free rides have ended for some on local toll roads.

The North Texas Tollway Authority in June adopted its first written policy for “nonrevenue” use of its toll roads, cutting out some of the people who used to get free passes through all area toll booths.

Now, those motorists must cough up a few quarters every few miles, just like the rest of us.

“Different people at different times would ask for different things,” said the tollway authority’s executive director, Allan Rutter. “This will give us the ability to say, ‘Here are the rules.’ ”

The biggest change is the removal of tollway authority contractors and consultants from the free-pass list.

The number of elected officials with TollTags that allow free rides also is being reduced, but over time. In the future, only state legislators will be granted new special TollTags. Elected officials not in the Legislature will get to keep their free-ride TollTags until they are no longer in office.

“We’re not going to yank them out of their car,” Mr. Rutter said.

Free rides on toll roads account for fewer than 1 percent of all transactions. Total cost per year: about $1.3 million.

Even with the new policy, the budget for free toll road usage is expected to stay about the same. The bulk of the use probably comes from current and retired tollway authority employees, each of whom is granted one TollTag for personal use.

If they are in another vehicle, they can present their tollway authority identification to get a free pass.

Current and previous tollway authority board members also get a special TollTag for free passage.

Thankfully, military vehicles and emergency vehicles get free passage. I can’t imagine requiring police officers, ambulance crews and firefighters to fish for quarters while responding to a call.

The new policy also addresses free use of tollway authority roads by employees of the agency’s new toll road competitor, the Texas Department of Transportation. All state transportation department vehicles are eligible for the TollTags that allow free passage.

The tollway authority also sets specific rules for who in the state Transportation Department may be eligible for special TollTags. Any state employee doing business in North Texas is eligible, but the tags must be requested by the top officials in the department.

“This is a way for both of us to be able to manage it more carefully,” Mr. Rutter said. “This will make sure all of us are doing a better job of knowing where the tags are and what vehicles they are in. It’s not only a courtesy; it’s a fact of doing business together.”

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