NY Times - The first major toll road in Texas, which opened in 1957, was a 30-mile, six-lane stretch of highway between Dallas and Fort Worth. A drive from one end to the other cost 50 cents.
By 1977, tolls had generated enough revenue to recoup the cost of the road’s construction, and the tollbooths were dutifully removed. Drivers know the Dallas-Fort Worth Turnpike as Interstate 30.
Fast forward 35 years and I-30, while still free, is surrounded by billions of dollars in road projects featuring toll roads or lanes. It is a similar story on a smaller scale in the state’s other urban centers as well as in some communities along the border with Mexico.
As public officials across fast-growing Texas look for ways to build more roads in the midst of a lack of public financing, toll revenue or investment from private firms hoping to collect that toll revenue are repeatedly emerging as the antidote.
But many critics say charging tolls in Texas has shifted from an if-we-absolutely-must option to the default approach for major road projects.
“The day will surely come when, if you want to get from point A to point B, you’re not going to have a choice but to get on a toll road,” State Senator John Carona, Republican of Dallas, said at a panel discussion at the Texas Tribune Festival in September on transportation financing. “Well then, suddenly, a toll is just another tax. Let’s not kid one another.”