Texas official: High gas prices will divert traffic from tolled road

News AASHTO Journal June 02, 2006
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A county commissioner in Bexar County, Texas, is concerned that rising gasoline prices may take a bite out of drivers' willingness to pay tolls on tolled roads, and is urging his fellow officials to plan now for such potential impacts, the San Antonio Express-News reported.

"Come on—it’s just a matter of time before it goes to $4 [per gal]," Commissioner Tommy Adkisson said. Though he is not a particular advocate of tolling roads, the newspaper reported, Adkisson is concerned that drops in toll revenues could affect the county's ability to carry its traffic.

Adkisson has urged the Metropolitan Planning Organization board, of which he is a member, to plan now for possible losses in toll-road revenues. Last week he asked the panel to think about ordering a study on how gasoline prices could change driving habits, and what the implications would be for pending road projects. The board has approved plans for 75 miles of toll roads in San Antonio, projects that would be bonded for up to four decades.

"The more we sweat right now, the less we'll bleed later," he said.

Toll revenues are to be used to pay off bonds for two Austin-are toll projects—Texas 130 and Highway 183A, both scheduled to open next year, the newspaper reported.

However, Cherian George, who heads the transportation division at Fitch Ratings, which rates bond with creditworthiness, said it will take severe price hikes indeed to cause alarm.

When motor-fuel prices spike as they did last year following hurricanes Katrina and Rita, people drove a bit less—but it held it to their discretionary driving. They probably won't stop commuting to work, George said. "People have to get to work."

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