AUSTIN (KXAN) — Come Jan. 1, Austin drivers will see an uptick in some of the region’s toll roads following action taken by the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority Wednesday.
CTRMA’s board of directors authorized a 5.39% increase in its toll rates beginning in January — the largest single year increase, board member John Langmore said. The authority’s policy code stipulates an annual inflation-based increase unless the board intervenes; after discussing the item on Wednesday, the board opted to allow the inflation-based uptick.
Starting Jan. 1, the increase will translate to an additional $0.02 to $0.09 toll charged “at each gantry for a customer in a twoaxle vehicle who uses a TxTAG or other transponder account,” per CTRMA documents.
Langmore told KXAN Wednesday the increased rate comes down to a rise in maintenance costs CTRMA has been facing, due to inflated construction costs. All CTRMA roadways, save for MoPac Expressway, will see a 5.39% increase in toll charges. These include 183A, 290 toll, Hwy. 71, 45SW and the 183 Toll.
CTRMA staff recommended a 10-cent increase in MoPac Express Lanes, with a minimum toll rate of $0.45 per segment. Traditionally, the policy for MoPac Express Lanes is an annual $0.05 increase until the base rate reaches $0.50. Last year, the board opted not to increase the base price due to COVID-19, so this year’s rate rose by $0.10 to make up for that loss.
“There’s no question that, you know, as an agency, we’re feeling the same price pressure and increases in prices that everyone in Central Texas is feeling,” he said. “I think it’s particularly acute in the construction industry. There is more demand than there are workers in the industry right now, and so of course the net effect of that is always that costs go up.”
At the height of the coronavirus pandemic in mid- to late-2020, Langmore said CTRMA wasn’t dealing with the same inflation levels or demand on roadways as the agency is experiencing now. When they opted against a toll increase last year, he said it was a combination of that lowered inflation rate and an awareness of the pandemic’s financial tolls on residents.
In February, he said the monthly increase in the consumer price index was 1%. By September, that monthly inflation rate jumped to 5.39%.
Now, he referred to the balance of keeping up with CTRMA’s own costs and maintaining affordable toll roads as “an art, not a science.” He said his hope is that, come next year, monthly inflation rates stabilize and the board can reduce that toll rate increase.
“The hardship still remains on a lot of people out there in the economy, and again, that’s just kind of the balance that we’re trying to strike,” he said. “It’s a tough decision to raise your pricing, knowing that it’s going to impact major sections of Central Texans.”