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Commissioner: TxDOT’s tolls a 'taxation scheme'

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TWC News: Commissioner: TxDOT’s tolls a 'taxation scheme'
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Increased tolls on State Highways 130 and 45, and even MoPac, came as a surprise to Travis County Commissioner Sarah Eckhardt.

Aside from her work on the commission, Eckhardt is the vice-chair of the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, and says the Texas Department of Transportation is more concerned about making money than easing congestion.

"SH-130 was built on the promise it would be a bypass and relieve trucking traffic, and it's doing nothing of the kind," Eckhardt said.

Also approved Thursday, Central Texas Tolling System is getting rid of toll booths for cash-paying customers.

Beki Halpin is with the anti-tolling group, Fix 290.

"Life is getting to be so expensive just for your normal expenses like transportation that people aren't able to save money," she said.

Toll road officials say closing the toll booths will save about $8 million a year in operating costs, but they still need to increase rates to be more competitive with CTRMA roads like Highway 183A.

"What they need to do is pay attention to what is right for the taxpayer, what is right for the people in this area. It needs to be affordable," Halpin said.

Central Texas Tolling System declined an on-camera interview with YNN, but in a response to written questions, Spokeswoman Kelli Reyna said, "We think more and more drivers in Central Texas are becoming accustomed to using toll roads and like the convenience of getting where they need to be without driving in congested areas."

Even going into the Labor Day weekend, minutes would go by before YNN cameras could catch a cluster of cars on SH 130.

Eckhardt calls it a "toll taxation scheme."

"It frustrates me incredibly,” she said “I've said for years that the more appropriate transportation funding mechanism is one that is broad-based and sits on the shoulders lighter."

The new toll rates take effect Jan. 1 first. TxDOT officials say the tolls will increase every year after in line with the consumer price index.

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