Plans to advertise border highway tolls, charge international drivers still in the works

Updated: Monday, April 21 2014, 01:31 PM MDT
Plans to advertise border highway tolls, charge international drivers still in the works story image

By: Stacey Welsh

EL PASO, Texas -- Only about 500 drivers opened a toll-tag account for the 9-mile stretch of toll lanes on the Cesar Chavez Border Highway, and that is prompting officials to plan more advertising.

The Camino Real Regional Mobility Authority oversees the toll lanes, and Executive Director Raymond Telles said the CRRMA hired a marketing group to come up with a new advertising campaign.

That could include advertising toll tags on the radio, TV and social media. Some drivers said spreading the word on social media would be most effective.

"People are more into their cellphones than TV. I spend most of my time with my cellphone," Lower Valley resident Omar Garcia said.

Telles also said the CRRMA is looking into selling toll tags at convenience stores.

"The issue with that is the North Texas Tollway Authority has to have that relationship [with a store] in order for us to tap into it," Telles said.

Telles said the marketing group is expected to present a possible ad campaign at next month's CRRMA board meeting.

While about 500 people opened an account, the CRRMA said there are about 700 toll tags out on the road because some of the accounts might be families.

While the CRRMA can see revenue from toll tags, it could take more than 30 days to receive a payment from drivers who choose to pay by mail. While the revenue the CRRMA expects to come in from the toll lanes since opening about three months ago is on track, that's only the expected revenue.

Telles said another concern is charging drivers from Mexico. However, he said he does not expect an overwhelming number of international drivers using the toll lanes.

It could be difficult to track those drivers down and mail them a bill, so the CRRMA plans to collect data from license plates using the toll road's overhead sensors.

Telles said that data could be sent to license plate readers at international bridges to identify drivers who have used the toll roads and bill them. The CRRMA is still working with the El Paso Police Department to determine what technology should be installed, and the CRRMA would cover the cost.

"Not only could they do their enforcement activities for stolen vehicles and warrants, but they could also periodically look for our toll violators," Telles said.

Some are skeptical this system could work.

"They already got away with it. We're not going to be able to stop them at the borders," Garcia said.

While the toll roads are already up and running, Telles said the CRRMA did not expect to have this system in place before opening them.

The CRRMA does not currently have an idea of how much this technology could cost and how long it could take to put it in place.

Plans to advertise border highway tolls, charge international drivers still in the works
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