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Profit from border highway tolls could take decades

Updated: Monday, January 13 2014, 08:56 AM MST
Profit from border highway tolls could take decades story image

By: Stacey Welsh

EL PASO, Texas -- El Paso's first toll lanes are now charging drivers for about a 9 mile stretch along the Cesar Chavez Border Highway.

"I don't think I should pay for another lane when there's two lanes open. I don't think it's cost effective," Socorro resident Jesus Reyes said.

The Camino Real Regional Mobility Authority recommends paying with a "transponder," or a toll tag sticker that drivers can reload. If drivers use the transponder, it will cost them 90 cents to drive about nine 9 miles, but paying by mail will cost twice much at $1.80.

However, CRRMA Executive Director Raymond Telles said it could be years before El Paso sees any profits from those fees.

Telles said money from the toll lanes first needs to pay off the project's debt of more than $9 million, and go toward maintenance and operations.

He said it could be 2027 before CRRMA can start paying off the debt and then it could be 2050 before El Paso sees a profit.

"In terms of when the revenue actually starts to come in, that revenue can only be used in El Paso for El Paso transportation projects," Telles said.

There is also no way for international drivers, or drivers from out of state, to get a bill for the toll road currently. Telles expects law enforcement can start holding them accountable in the next couple of months, thanks to a Texas law.

"The last Texas legislative session actually passed a bill that deals specifically with foreign plates and it creates a new class of violator referred to as the habitual toll violator," Telles said.

Because those drivers can't receive a bill, their payment will be considered late after 30 days. After that, Telles said police and other agencies can enforce the payment the next time they use the toll lanes.

"We've also actually partnered with the city of El Paso's bridge division. We are looking to implement technology at the bridges to help us identify what are deemed those habitual toll violators," Telles said.

So far Telles said drivers have purchased 96 toll tags. While drivers can buy the tags online, Telles said a city location is in the works that would be located on Texas Avenue.

Profit from border highway tolls could take decades
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