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FAQs

Following are some of the most frequently asked questions we receive. If you don't see your question addressed below, please feel free to contact us directly to speak with a Mobility Authority representative.

General

What is the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority?

The Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority (Mobility Authority) is an independent government agency authorized through state legislation in 2002 to improve the transportation system in Williamson and Travis counties. The Mobility Authority’s mission is to implement innovative, multi-modal transportation solutions that reduce congestion and create transportation choices that enhance quality of life and economic vitality.

The Mobility Authority is governed by a board of directors who are appointed by local elected officials. Three are appointed by the Travis County Commissioners Court, three are appointed by the Williamson County Commissioners Court and the Governor appoints the Chairman. Per state legislation and by the governance of the board, the agency is accountable and subject to all state open government and open meetings requirements.

I am confused by all the toll roads in central Texas. Who operates which roads?

In Texas, there are multiple transportation agencies that operate toll roads, issue their own toll tags, and do their own billing. In Central Texas, there are two: the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) and the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority (Mobility Authority).

Central Texas toll roads operated by the Mobility Authority

  • 183A Toll: An 11.6 mile toll road which extends from north of RM 620 to US 183 near the San Gabriel River in northwest Travis and Williamson counties. It has three tolled lanes in each direction and non-tolled frontage road lanes north of RM 1431.
  • 290 Toll (Manor Expressway): A 6.2-mile toll road along US 290 from US 183 to east of SH 130 in eastern Travis County. It has three tolled and three non-tolled lanes in each direction.
  • Express 1 Toll (MoPac Express Lane): The Mobility Authority operates the variably-priced MoPac Express Lanes, which are barrier-separated lanes adjacent to the non-tolled general purpose lanes. When the project is complete, there will be one Express Lane in each direction, spanning an 11-mile stretch of MoPac between Cesar Chavez and Parmer Lane.
  • 71 Toll Lane: The Mobility Authority will operate the 71 Toll Lanes, a 3.9-mile limited-access toll road under construction along SH 71 between Presidential Boulevard at Austin Bergstrom International Airport (ABIA) and SH 130 near Onion Creek.

Central Texas toll roads operated by TxDOT

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

Why aren't the funds raised by the gas tax paying for new road construction?

The Federal government hasn't increased its portion of the gas tax since 1993, and Texas hasn't seen a state gas tax increase since 1991. Gas taxes are based on cents per gallon, not a percentage. Of the state gas tax of 20 cents per gallon, the Texas Constitution requires that 5 cents be dedicated to supporting public education.  The remaining 15 cents per gallon state gas tax has lost nearly half its purchasing power to inflation since 1991. Because the gas tax is set at a static amount, decreases in consumer demand due to people driving less and/or driving more fuel-efficient vehicles will also show up as less revenue. Furthermore, Texas is also a "donor state" at the federal level, which means that it gets less in federal funding than it pays in federal gas taxes. When you factor in the state’s robust population growth and the resulting demand on the roadway infrastructure, funding has not kept up with the need for new or expanded roads, thus congestion has gotten worse. Because of this, alternative financing options are considered crucial to funding new projects. Of note, gas tax revenues collected by the state do not always return to the most congested regions. Regional Mobility Authorities use local dollars to meet local needs.

Will the construction of toll roads pose a threat to our environment?

Building any road – whether tolled or non-tolled – requires taking steps to protect the environment. As a local agency, the Mobility Authority recognizes the importance of protecting the natural resources that are unique to Central Texas.

The Mobility Authority is committed to working closely with environmental agencies, environmental groups, neighborhood residents and all interested stakeholders to ensure projects are developed in a manner that is consistent with community needs and environmental regulations.

It is important to note that many of the existing roadway corridors where toll roads are planned have outdated environmental control systems. As the toll roads are constructed and the older non-tolled roads are upgraded, modern water quantity and quality facilities will be constructed, improving water quality and reducing the risk of flooding. Reduced congestion also results in less vehicle idling time, meaning less air pollution.

How long does it take to complete an environmental study?

On average, a study takes between 2-6 years.

 

Paying Tolls

Mobility Authority roads are modern, all-electronic toll roads, meaning drivers don’t have to stop — or even slow down — to pay their tolls. Customers can either pay through their TxTag account or pay by mail.

Click here for a fact sheet on paying tolls in Texas.

What is TxTag and how does it work?

TxTag is an electronic sticker that mounts on the inside of a vehicle's windshield near the rearview mirror. The sticker has a small transponder inside that communicates with an overhead antenna at toll facilities, allowing drivers to pay tolls electronically. The toll is deducted from a pre-paid toll account that is set up by the customer.

TxTag customers receive a 25% discount over Pay By Mail rates. TxTag is accepted on all toll roads in Texas. Toll roads in Central Texas are interoperable and accept toll tags from Dallas (TollTag) and Houston (EZ TAG).

Where can I get a TxTag?

There are three easy ways to get a TxTag or open an account:

  • Online — Access the TxDOT website Txtag.org to create a TxTag account. Once an account is created and payment information is applied, your TxTag will be mailed to you within 3-4 business days already activated and ready for immediate installation.
  • Phone — Call the TxTag Customer Service Center (CSC) by dialing (888) 468-9824 during the business hours of 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday thru Friday for assistance. International customers call 001-214-210-0493.
  • In person — At the Customer Service Center in Austin, where cash, check, money order and/or credit card payments are accepted, during the business hours of 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday and Friday or 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Tuesday – Thursday.

For more information about TxTag, click here.

What is a Toll Bill and why did I receive one?

Toll bills are received by drivers who use Central Texas toll roads without having a TxTag, TollTag or EZ TAG account.

Toll bills are part of the Pay By Mail program. Equipment on the expressway takes a picture of a vehicle’s license plate, and that information is used to identify the registered owner of the vehicle. A toll bill is then sent to the registered owner’s address.

If you received a toll bill, a vehicle registered in your name has recently traveled on a Central Texas toll road. Be aware that if you lease or loan your vehicle to someone else, Texas law dictates that the registered vehicle owner is responsible for paying any tolls incurred in that vehicle. Failure to pay a toll bill can result in additional fees and criminal charges.

Toll rates for Pay By Mail customers are higher than for drivers with a TxTag to offset the cost of processing license plate information and mailing the toll bill. In addition, each bill comes with a $1.00 processing charge.

Pay By Mail customers have 30 days to pay their bill either in person, via check, online or over the phone. Customers are encouraged to visit our Pay By Mail website, PayTexasToll.com to assist with questions related to your 183A and/or 290 Toll (Manor Expressway) toll bill / notice of toll violation, and with payment processing. There are multiple ways to pay your toll - send payment via mail, pay online by visiting Paytexastoll.com or call 1-888-811-4565.

Depending on which toll roads you use, you may be issued toll bills from separate operating agencies.

Click here to pay your 183A, 290 Toll, MoPac Express Lane, or 71 Toll Lane bill online.

Click here to pay your toll bill for use of all other Central Texas toll roads.

What is a Toll Violation and how do I resolve it?

Toll bills are received by drivers who use Central Texas toll roads without having a TxTag, TollTag or EZ TAG account. Failure to pay a toll bill can result in additional fees and criminal charges.

Pay By Mail customers have 30 days to pay their bill either in person, via check, online or over the phone.

Click here to pay your 183A, 290 Toll, MoPac Express Lane, or 71 Toll Lane bill online.

Click here to pay your toll bill for use of all other Central Texas toll roads.

I received an incorrect bill. How did that happen?

First, make sure no one else was driving your vehicle. As noted above, toll payment processors can only charge the owner of the vehicle, so if someone in your family or a friend was driving it, you will still get the bill. Keep in mind that you may receive a Pay By Mail bill if your TxTag account has been depleted. If you feel you have received a bill in error or received the same bill twice, call the customer service number toll-free at          1-(888) 811-4565 or (512) 323-4204.

Why can't I pay cash on 183A, 290 Toll, the MoPac Express Lane, or the 71 Toll Lane??

Cashless (or all-electronic) toll collection has been implemented on toll roads throughout Central Texas. Cashless toll collection is more cost effective, improves safety, speeds up traffic, reduces vehicle emissions, and conserves fuel by eliminating the need to stop and pay a toll. It also makes the toll you pay cheaper. Although cash payment at toll booths on the roadway is not offered 183A and 290 Toll customers who prefer to pat their tolls in cash can still do so in the following ways:

  • Pay your Pay By Mail toll bills in person at any ACE Cash Express store location nationwide. Click here to find the store nearest you.
  • Fund your TxTag account in person at the TxTag Customer Service Center, located at 12719 Burnet Road, Austin, TX 78727.

 

Tolling

Why does the mobility authority build toll roads?

The Mobility Authority’s mission is to implement innovative, multi-modal transportation solutions that reduce congestion and create transportation choices that enhance quality of life and economic vitality. It is our mission to work on solutions to solve the mobility crisis in Central Texas.

New toll roads and lanes in Central Texas have been projects identified for decades as part of the region’s transportation plans, but have never been funded. We need more capacity on existing roads and need to build new roads where possible. Today, Central Texans do much of their driving on roads that were built years ago. For example, major highways like I-35 and MoPac have not been updated in decades, and the region’s growth has been so fast that the road network hasn't kept up. We need to build the next generation of highway projects now to serve the region as it continues to grow.

With toll funding, we can build toll projects more quickly than under the traditional gas-tax-funded, pay-as-you-go system, because toll projects receive full funding commitments prior to construction start.

We also need to build those projects before it's too late – while right-of-way is still affordable and before corridors are developed and would require displacing and disrupting businesses, homes or schools.

We also build more than toll roads. As part of each of our projects, we build bike and pedestrian facilities in the corridor, giving motorists and neighbors multi-modal options. We also upgrade the existing corridor with aesthetics and improved non-tolled travel lanes. Only new lanes that we build are tolled; the same number of taxpayer-funded, non-tolled travel lanes that are available today will remain after we are finished with construction. Toll financing helps pay for these added improvements.

Isn’t tolling just another tax?

No. Tolling is a voluntary user fee paid by customers (commuters) for a service when they need it. Paying taxes is not a choice. Drivers have the option to pay tolls or take alternate routes while taxes are mandatory and charged to everyone.

Without the ability to use tolling as a funding source, local and state agencies must rely on existing or increased tax-funded sources. Again, gas tax as a funding source has remained static since 1991 even though fuel costs have risen.

What is mobility authority’s role in the regional transportation planning process?

The Mobility Authority does not determine which roads to build. The Capitol Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) develops a long-range transportation plan for the region, prioritizes projects, estimates cost per project, and determines the most viable funding options on a case-by-case basis. All Mobility Authority projects begin as recommendations in the CAMPO plan. These projects are usually long-term projects, which can be done more quickly through a tolled option.

CAN TOLL ROAD authorities just decide if and where toll roads are built?

Toll Road Authorities execute regional plans that have been developed by Metropolitan Planning Organizations. No entity can build roads that are not a part of the regional plan. In addition, the MPOs decide what roads will be tolled or not. Based on what financing is available, no road can be tolled without it being in the regional plan as a tolled road.

Why not remove tolls once the projects are paid off? IS ROAD MAINTENANCE REALLY THAT EXPENSIVE?

As the state or local communities pay off the debt associated with new toll facilities, toll rates could be lowered or eliminated entirely. But in reality, roads are never really paid off. Use of roadways degrades them, and maintenance is always ongoing. In fact, the cost of maintenance over time is greater than the initial cost of building the road. A continuous funding stream is needed to maintain the road, and this can only be paid through increased taxes or tolls.

Because the state’s transportation tax revenue barely covers existing highway maintenance, it is difficult for the system to absorb new road maintenance. Additionally, surplus revenue from toll transactions can be used to build and enhance future transportation infrastructure. As more roads are built, a greater share of available funding goes to maintenance.

HOW WILL TOLL ROADS BENEFIT TEXANS?

The current mobility crisis in Texas is bad for everyone – bad for the environment, for the economy, for public safety, and for quality of our life. All new roads, including those that are tolled, give drivers more choices and allow them to spend less time on the road. A more efficient road network also helps with improving air quality.

Toll roads will also reduce the threats to public safety now caused by crowded highways and cut-through traffic in neighborhoods.

Will "free" or existing roads be converted to toll roads?

No. Texas state law prohibits adding tolls to existing, taxpayer-funded roadways. While many of the new toll roads are to be constructed in existing highway corridors, the existing capacity must be preserved or enhanced. The toll roads will be built in the middle of or alongside the existing roadway, which will remain non-tolled.

What measures are in place to minimize congestion on the frontage roads so that people are not forced to take toll roads?

The job of toll entities is to improve the flow of traffic. Whether it's a toll road or a frontage road, our mission is to keep traffic moving. When congestion is heavy, less traffic diverts from the toll roads. When capacity is available on the general purpose lanes (frontage roads), more drivers take the general purpose lanes. When toll agencies are implementing projects, we have to follow the Metropolitan Planning Organization’s long range plan which includes forecasts for traffic growth 20-30 years into the future. In addition, toll agencies conduct annual safety and congestion assessments to determine if any concerns need to be addressed.

what oversight exists for toll road entities?

There is extensive oversight required of toll entities. Numerous audits and reports are generated to help ensure accountability to the regions they serve and to the state of Texas. Many of these reports are required by federal, state and local regulatory entities. In addition, many toll entities provide expansive reporting above and beyond what is required as an additional commitment to transparency. As evidence, Texas A&M Transportation Institute has cited the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority as a standard for transparency and accountability and encourages others to follow its lead.

 

Express Lanes

What is the difference between express lanes and toll roads?

Express lanes are special lanes separated from the non-tolled general-purpose lanes; often the boundaries are shown with striping and white plastic delineator sticks. Their purpose is to improve your commute experience by managing congestion. This is accomplished through variable toll pricing, which either encourages or discourages use by increasing the toll when traffic is heavy, and decreasing it when it is light. The idea is to have at least one lane that can “express” the driver to their destination, no matter the time of day.

The primary goal of express lanes is to keep the express lane traffic free-flowing for individual cars or even express transit. This ensures a reliable, non-stop route is available to drivers wishing to bypass congestion for the price of the toll. Public transit buses, registered vanpools and emergency vehicles travel these lanes toll-free.

Toll roads, unlike express lanes, are not just designed to manage congestion. Tolls are a way to pay for the road, while adding new capacity. What traditional toll roads and express lanes have in common is choice – drivers can choose to travel the express lanes for the posted toll price, or use the general-purpose lanes.

Aren’t express lanes just for people who can afford to pay for them?

No. Express lanes benefit all lanes. Numerous studies show that people of all income levels use them, approve of them, and agree they reduce congestion. Tolling provides travelers with a choice. Studies have shown that lower-income individuals face the greatest financial harm when they do not have access to options that can get them to their everyday destinations. Lack of choice can result in lost wages, late fees for day care, or decisions that restrict a person’s quality of life that could have been avoided, if they had the option to bypass congestion. To name a few studies:

  • According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, a wide range of income groups use the value priced lanes at different levels of frequency. Research from San Jose State University and the University of California, Berkeley shows that low income drivers so use express lanes and are equally as likely to approve of the lanes as high income drivers.
  • Studies of express lanes in California have shown that, at any given time, about one-quarter of the vehicles in toll lanes belong to high-income individuals. The remainder belong to low and middle income drivers.
  • Based on research conducted in California, certain pricing schemes do not necessarily disadvantage low-income drivers. Over half of commuters with household incomes under $25,000 a year approved of providing toll lanes.
  • A study of Atlanta’s I-85 express lanes conducted by the Southern Environmental Law Center concluded drivers of all income groups share similar opinions of express lanes, enroll in the tolling programs at comparable rates, and on occasion, use the lanes (A Better Inland Empire, 1).
  • According to the Georgia State Road and Tollway Authority, use of the I-85 express lanes is determined more by location than by income level. (A Better Inland Empire, 2). Click here for more.

What is the MoPac Improvement Project?

The MoPac Improvement Project , when complete, will feature one Express Lane in each direction on north MoPac from Cesar Chavez to Parmer Lane. The northbound, north end, between north of RM 2222 and north of Parmer Lane, is currently open to traffic. The rest of the project will be complete in 2017.

These special lanes will be separated from the three existing non-tolled lanes by striping and white plastic sticks. They will provide a reliable, non-stop, toll-free route for public transit buses, registered van pools and emergency vehicles. To help keep the express lanes from becoming congested, individual drivers pay a variable toll that increases when traffic is heavy and decreases when it is light. The primary goal is not to generate revenue, but to keep the express lane traffic free-flowing as much as possible.

Express Lanes are not intended for everyday use. They are designed to be there when you really need them. They will hopefully also encourage people to carpool because they have the option to split the cost of the trip among each occupant in the vehicle. Because their capacity will be limited, individual drivers will have to decide whether any particular trip is worth the toll being charged at the time they wish to use the express lane.

How will the MoPac Express Lanes work?

Individual drivers will only be able to enter or exit the MoPac Express Lanes at designated locations in order to maximize safety and efficiency. However, emergency vehicles will be able to drive over the flexible sticks and access the lanes to remove disabled vehicles anywhere along the 11-mile route. There will be three entry and exit points. Electronic signs will indicate the toll rate before each of entry point.

  • North, near Parmer Lane
  • Central, between Far West Boulevard and RM 2222
  • South, at Cesar Chavez and 5thStreets

How does variable toll pricing work?

To ensure the MoPac Express Lanes remain free-flowing, variable tolls will be used to manage the number of vehicles entering the lanes at any given time. When traffic is heavy and demand for the Express Lanes is high, toll rates will increase. When demand is low, toll rates will go down. Changeable electronic signs will display current rates in real time, so drivers know the price before deciding whether to enter the lanes.

Once you are in the lanes, the price you saw on the signs is the price you are guaranteed to pay. Drivers entering after you or at different locations may pay a different rate. Initial toll rates could range from $0.25 to $4.00 per trip, but could be higher if demand is greater than projected. Tolls paid by users will be the source of money to repay the funds used to finance the project, including the sound walls and bicycle/pedestrian improvements.

How will mopac express lane pricing be determined?

The objective is to maintain free-flowing traffic in the Express Lane (speeds greater than 45 MPH) at all times, so rates will be adjusted to encourage or discourage users, based on current conditions. Rates will be determined by on the number of vehicles in the lane, the speed of the vehicles, and the rate of change-of-traffic conditions.

How will the MoPac express lanes improve public transit?

Right now, express buses and vanpools sit in traffic with all other vehicles on MoPac, but with the completion of the Express Lane, these transit vehicles will be able to bypass congestion and get to their destination reliably and on time. The express lane will provide an opportunity for expanded Capital Metro Express Bus service and an incentive for greater participation in Capital Metro’s Ride Share vanpool program.

Do I have to use Express Lanes?

Individual drivers looking to bypass congestion may use the Express Lanes. Drivers who prefer not to pay a toll will always have the option of using the non-tolled general-purpose lanes. In accordance with state law, any non-tolled capacity must be preserved. In other words, if you’re driving on it toll free today, you’ll be able to drive on it toll free tomorrow.

How do we know the MoPac express lanes will be effective?

Because express lanes have been effective in other states. A good example is Minnesota. According to the Minnesota Department of Transportation:

  • Minnesota’s MnPASS Express Lanes can move twice as many people as a single general-purpose lane during peak times.
  • Average speeds in the express lanes are between 55 and 60 MPH during peak periods.
  • Average speeds in the general purpose lanes are 15-20 MPH during peak periods
  • Customer satisfaction is greater than 80 percent. Commuters value time savings, congestion avoidance, choice, and reliability.
  • Transit operators and users strongly support express lanes, as to car/vanpoolers.

For more information Click here.

Where else are express lanes being used in the country?

Express lanes are being used successfully in many other parts of the country, including here in Texas. Read about various case studies here.