The Statesman reports that only Harris county has provided free tolls for veterans.
legislators who sponsored the 2009 bill saw it as a way to lighten the
burden on vets, who could use the toll roads to get to appointments at
VA hospitals in Temple and Austin, and to thank them for their service.
The bill only permitted individual toll authorities to provide
exemptions and discounts, but did not reimburse the authorities for the
cost nor require them.
Houston decided to provide veterans with
free tolls after one meeting with veterans advocates. They see it is an
important advantage to veterans and say that it has only cost them $6
million over the last 3 years, which isn't even one percent of the $1
billion in tolls it collected over the same period. They also think the
number is slightly skewed because many veterans would not have used the
toll roads if they weren't able to use them for free.
authorities, such as the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority, are
concerned that providing discounts to veterans would significantly
reduce their income, open the door to other groups asking for discounts,
and cause problems with their bond authorities. They feel that if the
legislature really wants to see the discounts put in place, they will
fund them. Advocates for the discounts say the toll authorities are
overestimating the number of trips veterans will make on the toll roads
and that veterans are a special class provided with many benefits so
there is no reason to believe other groups will piggyback on this
request. They also say that contracts with bondholders can be
renegotiated to put discounts in place.
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