Harris Co. commissioners approve $37.7M in engineering design contracts for all-electronic tollways

ByRachel Carlton Community Impact Newspaper logo
Sunday, August 7, 2022
HCTRA unveils $53M 'tollways to trailways' program
The program connects about 236 miles of trails for walking or cycling in areas around the Harris County Toll Roads including the Sam Houston parkway.

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas -- Harris County commissioners unanimously approved six separate contracts totaling $37.7 million in service of the Harris County Toll Road Authority's transition to all-electronic tollways, or AETs, during their Aug. 2 meeting.

The video above is from a previous report: 'Tollways to trailways:' HCTRA unveils new $53M plan to expand off the roads

A map of potential tollway transition areas from a page on HCTRA's website shows 11 segments of interest of the tollway system countywide. The Aug. 2 contracts assign five separate engineering firms one segment of the tollway system to design, including segments 1, 2, 4, 6 and 7 along the Sam Houston Tollway and their corresponding entrance and exit ramps.

A sixth contract with Kansas City, Missouri-based infrastructure design firm HNTB Corp. awarded $5.52 million for work on all segments excluding 10 and 11 along Westpark Tollway, although the contract with HNTB states the HCTRA may request additional support along Westpark Tollway, the northeast part of the Sam Houston Tollway and the airport and downtown connectors of the Hardy Toll Road.

Transition to AETs

Commissioners first approved a HCTRA request to solicit engineering services in April 2021 to initiate the transition away from cash toll booths to AETs. Since then, court members have approved multiple expenditures for the transition.

In August 2021, commissioners approved a $19.8 million agreement with Entech Civil Engineers Inc., a Texas engineering consulting firm, to manage the overall program across the entire tollway system over a five-year period. The contract tasked Entech with a range of responsibilities including project supervision, cost estimation and public engagement.

And on June 14, commissioners approved four $1 million contracts for traffic modeling around the tollways over a 1,480-day period, just over four years.

According to a statement from Roxy Sibrian, head of communications for the HCTRA, a system of all-electronic tollways is safer, more efficient and less costly to manage than staffed toll plazas.

"HCTRA's investment in AET will save lives, prevent crashes and injuries, and reduce property damage," Sibrian said in an email. "By eliminating these plazas and converting to all-electronic (tollways), experts tell us we can expect to see the number of crashes decline."

Sibrian said the community should expect to see cash signage removed or modified on the Sam Houston Tollway in August and continue through the next couple of months.

As for drivers wanting to pay with cash, Sibrian said they are encouraged to create an EZ TAG account on the HCTRA's website and use a prepaid debit card, which can be purchased with cash. She added that the HCTRA is continuing to evaluate additional options.

This article comes from our ABC13 partners at Community Impact Newspapers.