Convenience about to get more expensive

September 6, 2009 8:53:57 PM PDT
The cost for driving on Harris County toll roads is about to go up. The increase is targeting drivers with the EZ Tags. The Harris County Toll Road Authority is changing the price at the toll plazas in just a few days. The increase will be a nickel per pass. Some drivers are worried the extra money could really add up.

Most drivers say they use the toll roads for one reason -- time.

"Convenience because I don't want to go through all those stop lights," said EZ Tag driver Christian Sandoval.

And many are willing to pay a price to be able to leave home for work a little later or get home sooner.

"I use it twice a day and about 20 miles round trip," added EZ Tag driver Lou DeLeon.

But now EZ Tag drivers will pay even more. This Saturday, EZ Tag rates will increase from the current $1.25 to $1.30 at each main lane toll plaza.

The increase will affect EZ Tag customers only. The cash rate of $1.50 at the Hardy and Sam Houston toll plazas will not change.

"It is a consideration," said Lawanda House with the Harris County Toll Road Authority. "You consider what your time is worth. You consider what your needs are and based on those needs, you determine whether or not to use the toll road."

The increase is based on a toll rate increase policy approved by Harris County commissioners' court in June. The formula bases any toll increases on the regional consumer price index, which is basically the local cost of living.

"Well, I wish we could do that where we work, just say we need to raise our prices because of inflation," said EZ Tag Driver Miguel Quirch.

The Toll Road Authority says the increase is part of a larger management plan designed to help the toll road system keep pace with inflation and fund future improvements.

"We want to increase mobility for our drivers," said House. "Drivers will see in the near future where we are doing ramp improvements."

Some drivers say they'll rethink taking the toll road.

"Trying to stretch the budget as, is three dollars or two dollars extra a day," said EZ Tag Driver Chris Clifton. "It's ridiculous."

While others say the extra nickel through each booth won't stop them from taking the toll roads.

"It probably wouldn't, but I'm not happy about it," said EZ Tag driver Jillian Richards.

The Katy managed lanes and the Ship Channel Bridge are excluded from this rate adjustment.

The last toll increase was back in 2007 when tolls went up 25 cents system wide. That's when the cash rates went up to $1.50 per toll plaza. The HCTRA has raised the rates only three times in its 25 year history.

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