Toll roads are solution to growing traffic problem

If you’re from Houston, Dallas, Austin or any other major city in the U.S., you know that traffic is a major hassle. As a native Houstonian, there are few things more frustrating than sitting in the literal parking lot Interstates 10 and 45 become every morning and evening.

Luckily, there’s a simple solution to our traffic woes – local and state-operated toll roads.

The idea is simple – drivers who want to avoid the horrendous traffic on busy highways and interstates can simply pay a fee to use a cleaner, faster, better-kept and quieter road.

Many people in Texas, however, feel that such tolls are a double-tax by local governments, and thus have worked for years to eliminate toll roads altogether by making current roads for use by all people free of charge.

While such an idea sounds great in theory, it will do little to solve the traffic problem the construction of such roads sought to eliminate in the first place. In fact, it may turn out to be even more expensive for taxpayers in the long run.

The Texas Department of Transportation currently has or has had jurisdiction over 51 toll roads and bridges in the state. According to a report brought before the Texas House Committee on Transportation on March 30, the maintenance and bond debts the state would have to pay to make these roads free for all would top $21 billion. If the state were to pay off these debts over time, which is more likely than not, the cost would top $30 billion according to the report’s findings.

There are definitely some cases where toll roads were built at too steep a cost for the service they ended up providing to taxpayers, and measures should be put in place to keep such projects from getting off the ground in the first place. Eliminating tolls altogether, though, will just exacerbate the traffic issues toll roads were designed to ease.

So yes, toll roads are oftentimes expensive for those who use them. But to make all taxpayers in a locality pay for a road that will become just as congested as a free interstate highway doesn’t seem like a great deal.

Eric Vining is a junior political science and journalism major from Houston. He is a reporter for the Lariat.