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Behind The Toll Barrier: Texas’ Poor Bear Brunt Of Toll Road Fiasco

The proliferation of toll roads in Texas has become a solution for residents who want to avoid traffic, but it has also created challenges for the Texas highway system and low-income residents.

The Dallas-Morning News conducted a year-long investigation of toll roads in the state and found that low-income communities in particular face significant hurdles due to the high concentration of toll roads in their areas.

For example, residents in Little Elm, The Colony, Hebron and Carrollton near the Dallas North Tollway must travel at least 2 miles to reach the nearest free state highway.

According to The News, the concentration of toll roads, especially in North Texas, disproportionately affects low-income neighborhoods. Residents in these areas often face limited alternatives to toll roads, resulting in increased transportation costs and difficulty accessing essential services.

North Texas is the region where most toll roads are built by the private sector, and approximately 1.4 million people in North Texas live in areas where toll roads are within one mile of their homes.

Another challenge posed by toll roads is the legal problems associated with unpaid tolls. Thousands of drivers find themselves in legal trouble each year for unpaid tolls, resulting in suspended registrations, court appearances, and even jail time, even though some have legitimate disputes about the charges.

In addition, there are disparities in enforcement actions related to unpaid tolls, with a disproportionate number of citations issued to Black drivers, even though they make up only 13% of licensed drivers in Texas.

Since 2001, Texas alone has added nearly as many toll lane miles as the rest of the U.S. combined. To date, the U.S. has built 699 miles, while Texas has built 628 miles.

The tollway boom began in the early 2000s when lawmakers were looking for a way to increase connectivity between Texas cities without raising taxes. The private sector was the logical answer, and it solved the problem, but in recent years it has grown to the point where it poses more challenges.

Lawmakers say more toll roads could be built in the future. Texas is short of money for road construction, as a study cited by Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, said the state is underfunding road projects by $8.5 billion a year. And with Texas’ population growing every year, it is possible that the private sector will once again be the solution to the problem.

To learn more about the challenges of toll roads, read the full Dallas-Morning News investigation.

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Written by RA News staff.


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