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Texas Lawmaker Proposes Bill To End Most Toll Roads Once Debt Paid Off

COLLIN COUNTY (CBSDFW.COM) - Love them or hate them, toll roads are a fact of life here in North Texas.

But now, a State Representative has filed a bill he hopes will ultimately slam the brakes on most toll roads in the state for good.

For many, especially in Collin County, they're the only way to get around. But that doesn't mean they like it when the bill comes.

Nancy Claborn said, "Way too much. I think I spend like $40 a week and I'm only taking 121."

Thus, State Representative Matt Shaheen, Republican of Plano, has filed a bill that if passed, would end the tolls on the roads operated by the NTTA once the debt is paid off.

"I constantly hear from citizens they've got toll fatigue."

NTTA Tollway Gate
(credit: North Texas Tollway Authority)

The roads include the Dallas North Tollway, President George Bush Turnpike, Sam Rayburn toll road, Chisholm Trail Parkway, among others.

Shaheen said, "Once that debt is paid off, those transponders come off, the state assumes responsibility for that."

The NTTA said the remaining debt is $9.25 billion and will be retired in 2048.

But even after the toll road debt is paid off, money will still be needed for maintenance and improvements. The agency pointed to the new I-30/State Highway 360 interchange being built in Arlington.

I-30 was once the Dallas-Fort Worth Turnpike, which stopped collecting tolls in the 1970s.

A NTTA spokesman said in a statement, "Here we are 40 years later and a long-needed interchange at I-30 and S.H. 360 is just now under construction, because the region had to wait for funding."

Shaheen acknowledged the state has underfunded transportation, but said one idea would be for the state to ramp-up spending. "We start preparing for that now. We start incrementally over a period of time increasing our funding for transportation."

Director of Transportation for the North Central Texas Council of Governments, Michael Morris said, "I'm not convinced."

Morris said there's no guarantee there will be enough money to maintain and improve both non-toll and toll roads.

"When the bonds are paid off and a facility ages, and that particular point, you need a revenue source to rebuild the facilities. What is wrong with the users of these transportation projects self-funding the reconstruction of that particular facility?"

Representative Shaheen said he understands Morris' point.

As a result, Shaheen said he's adding a provision to his bill that would also require the Legislative Budget Board to certify the state does have enough money to assume maintenance of each toll road once the debt is retired.

One toll road customer CBS 11 News spoke with, Robert Jackson, said he's willing to compromise: reduce the toll rates once the debt is retired. "We still need the roads to be maintained so if they can't maintain them out of a normal budget, then they can do a small toll and maintain them."

But Shaheen disagreed, saying it's the state government's job to pay for transportation.

His bill was referred to the House Transportation Committee, but it hasn't received a hearing yet. Shaheen said he's working with the committee chairman and is confident the legislation will get a hearing.

Follow Jack on Twitter & Facebook: @cbs11jack

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