$1K billing snafu for North Texas couple brings up question: How do Texas tollways work?

A mix up with billing at the North Texas Tollway Authority gave a North Richland Hills couple a shock of their lives: A bill for $1,065 since 2022 for 11 vehicles they do not own, the Star-Telegram previously reported.

They complained and were told to prove the cars were not theirs.

The snafu was fixed after the NTTA received a request for an interview last Thursday, but not before Dale and Anne Smith had lost sleep over the excessive bill.

“Does this look like a used car lot?” Anne asked a Star-Telegram reporter who dropped in at their home.

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So, how do tollways work in North Texas?

Whether you avoid them or use them, toll roads offer an alternative and often faster route on Texas highways.

North Texas has its share of tollways from the President George Bush Turnpike and Chisholm Trail Parkway to toll lanes along Interstate-35 and State Highway 183, but not all tolls are owned by the same entity.

Who owns toll roads?

In Texas, it depends on which toll road you take.

Tolls in the Dallas-Fort Worth area are operated by either the North Texas Tollway Authority or the Texas Department of Transportation.

The NTTA operates and maintains the following toll roads:

  • President George Bush Turnpike

  • Sam Rayburn Tollway

  • Chisholm Trail Parkway

  • State Highway 360 Tollway

  • Dallas North Tollway

  • Lewisville Lake Toll Bridge

  • Mountain Creek Lake Bridge

  • SH-360 and SH-161 toll connector

  • Addison Airport Tunnel

TxDOT operates and maintains all TEXpress lanes including:

  • North Tarrant Express lanes on Interstate 820, State Highway 121, State Highway 183

  • NTE lanes on Interstate 35W

  • LBJ lanes on Interstate 635 and I-35E

Who sets toll road prices?

For NTTA operated roads, the authority’s board of directors follows a schedule of toll rate increases that take effect on July 1 in odd-numbered years, an NTTA spokesperson said in a statement.

The NTTA board of directors reviews the toll rate schedule and determines if biennial increases should continue during the annual budget process.

Unlike TEXpress toll roads, NTTA operated toll rates are fixed and do not change or fluctuate with traffic conditions.

In the first six months following the opening of TEXpress road, toll rates are on a fixed variable schedule with higher pricing during rush hour traffic.

Once a TEXpress road has been open for six months, variable congestion-management pricing is put in place which sets prices based on real-time traffic conditions.

Prices go up on TEXpress lanes during periods of high traffic and go down during low demand.

Toll rates for TEXpress can range from less than a dollar to well over a gallon of gas depending on the toll segment, the date and time of day.

The SH-26 and SH-183 to Mark IV Parkway segment, operated by TEXpress, averages $2 as its weekly highest price during the evening rush hour traffic. By comparison, the SH-121 and SH-183 to I-820 and Bedford Euless Road segment’s highest average price each week is over $16.

Where does toll road money go?

Roads operated by NTTA collect tolls to cover the cost of building the roadway system and help maintain road conditions. NTTA is in the process of repaying around $9.5 billion it borrowed to build a system of toll roads in North Texas and the debt will not be paid off until 2049, an NTTA spokesperson said.

If NTTA is asked to build more toll roads for the region, it could add to their debt and extend the time it would take to pay it off, the spokesperson said.

TEXpress lanes were created by the North Central Texas Council of Governments’ Regional Transportation Council to fund state transportation projects like roadways improvements.

How are toll rates charged?

Drivers using both NTTA and TEXpress roads pay at specific segments on the toll roads and are charged per segment they enter.

Are there ways to save on toll roads?

For drivers who want to skip the rush hour traffic, a NTTA TollTag is one way to save.

Drivers can open an account and get a TollTag through the NTTA website. TollTag accounts can be opened with $20 in prepaid tolls for one vehicle, $40 for two to three vehicles and $80 for four to six vehicles.

With a TollTag, the cost of the toll road automatically gets taken from the account and can be replenished online.

TxTags, a statewide toll road tag, work similarly to TollTags and a TxTag account can be opened with $20 in prepaid tolls.

Carpoolers and motorcyclists qualify for 50% off select TEXpress tolls if they activate their HOV toll discount through GoCarma ahead of their trip.

In order to qualify for an HOV discount, there must be two of more people in the vehicle and have a TollTag or TxTag account in good standing. The HOV discount period is during peak travel periods Monday-Friday, 6:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

HOV discounts apply to the following toll roads:

  • LBJ TEXpress Lanes

  • NTE TEXpress Lanes

  • NTE 35W TEXpress Lanes

  • I-30 TEXpress Lanes

  • I-35E TEXpress Lanes

  • SH-114 TEXpress Lanes

  • Loop 12 TEXpress Lanes

  • SH 183 TEXpress Lanes