TxDOT buys back SH 288 from foreign toll operators

Link to article here.

TxDOT ends agreement with private company overseeing Highway 288 toll lanes

ABC13 Houston
March 30, 2024

The Texas Department of Transportation is moving forward with a plan to end its agreement with the private company that oversees the toll lanes on Highway 288. So what does that mean for you?

The question is: When the state takes over the tollway, could you get a better deal or wind up paying even more?

TxDOT says it’s too early to say. That’s not necessarily the answer drivers want to hear while this is getting sorted out.

“[The drive is about] $17, $18 one way,” Darren Dixon, the owner of a BBQ restaurant right next to Highway 288, said.

Dixon drives the toll road daily.

“I do it every day, back and forth,” he said.

For Dixon and other drivers, a toll decrease would sure be welcome.

It’s the most expensive toll road in the area,” Shelly Nixon, another driver, said. “It’s so expensive. Surely they can make money and save us money at the same time.”

About eight years ago, TxDOT signed a contract with a private company called Blueridge Transportation Group that allowed them to build and run the toll lanes on 288.

The deal was supposed to be good for 50 years, but now, the state plans to pay that company $1.7 billion for the lanes over the next few months. That total is more than $600 million more than it cost to build and maintain, according to our partners at the
Houston Chronicle .

Buying back the tollway and creating a nonprofit corporation to oversee it could make the state money in the long run.

Since the toll lanes opened in 2020, the Chron reports drivers have had to pay more and more, from around $6 to more than $15 during peak commuting.

When ABC13 asked TxDOT whether the buyback would mean lower prices for drivers, the agency made no promises.

“If the agreement is terminated, toll revenue collected after the date of termination and future decisions regarding tolling policies, pricing, and operations, will be at the authority of the Texas Transportation Commission,” TxDOT said in a statement.

In the meantime, Dixon’s bills are adding up.

“I would say, $120, $150 a day, in tolls,” he said. “For my business, I see the receipts and gulp a little.”