What’s happening to your toll fees during COVID-19? Here’s what you need to know

Investigations

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Stay at home orders has meant fewer drivers taking the toll roads and for some suspended late fees. 

“Late fees will be suspended from March 20, 2020 until further notice during this unique global health situation,” says the Texas Department of Transportation which operates the TxTag program. “To further clarify, if you received late fees prior to March 19, 2020 your late fees will not escalate/increase during this period.”

TxDOT operates:

  • MoPac (Loop 1) North of Parmer
  • SH 45 N
  • SH 45 SE 
  • SH 130

“In the past TxDOT has waived tolls at times when normal routes have been heavily congested due to crashes or evacuations. Those conditions do not exist today,” explains Adam Hammons with TxDOT. “We are monitoring the situation and will make any announcements should conditions change.”

KXAN is asking questions after a viewer wanted to know how bills and late fees are being handled during this pandemic. KXAN investigators discovered not all agencies are suspending late fees or waiving tolls.

Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority (CTRMA), an independent government agency tasked by the state to improve the transportation system in Travis and Williamson counties, says it is not suspending tolls. 

“The CTRMA facilities are built using bond proceeds paid for by tolls, which means our contracts with the investors gives us little flexibility for free or discounted tolls on our facilities,” explains Emily Gauci with CTRMA. “While the CTRMA is a public entity with strong financial resilience, suspending tolls would overburden an already significant revenue reduction on these important public assets.”

Gauci encourages customers that may be facing hardships to call customer service at (833) 762-8655, “… so that we may better support them through this time and answer any questions they may have regarding their CTRMA toll bill.”

CTRMA operates:

  • 183A
  • 183 Toll
  • 290 Toll
  • MoPac Express Lane
  • 71 Toll Lane 
  • 45 SW Toll

Since the shelter in place order went into effect CTRMA looked at a March 2019 to March 2020 comparison. Data shows there was approximately 10% reduction in system transactions. MoPac Express Lane had a 46% reduction in transactions from March 2019. 

“Due to the response to COVID-19, usage on CTRMA roads — and general purpose roads — has decreased, leaving drivers the ability to voluntarily choose between taking the general purpose roads and toll roads,” says Gauci. “The Mobility Authority has provided significant non-tolled elements throughout the Central Texas region, such as general purpose lane expansion and improvements, and shared use paths, in addition to the toll lanes to provide as many options as possible for drivers.”

In the Houston area the Harris County Toll Road Authority waived fees so drivers can ride for free until April 29th. The agency says online that unpaid tolls are still due, but no service or violation fees (penalties) will be added. 

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Austin-Travis County

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