NTTA May Raise Toll Fees By 32 Percent

Get ready to dig a lot deeper to take the tollway.

To confront slumping revenues and make up an estimated $30 million gap between projected and expected revenues for 2009, the North Texas Tollway Authority is considering a proposal to cut costs and raise rates by 34 percent.

The proposed increase in tolls from 11 cents a mile to 14.5 cents a mile would take effect Sept. 1. The NTTA would continue increasing the toll by 5.5 percent every other July if the proposal is accepted, the Dallas Morning News reported.

"The economic conditions are affecting everyone, and we are not immune to it," said NTTA spokeswoman Sherita Coffelt. "So our traffic is down, and of course, when traffic is down, revenue is down."

The Tollway Authority said traffic was down 4 percent during the first four months of 2009.

But won't rate increases reduce the number of folks using NTTA tollways?

Debbie Whitmire, a Plano mom, said she may have to take the tollways less often.

"I'll probably minimize it," she said. "If it's that significant, I think that I'll be more cognizant of using it less."

Pam Lucas, of Oak Cliff, said any increase is not good.

"The way the economy is, no one needs or wants an increase at all," she said.

But the NTTA has studied the impact of the proposed rate increases on traffic declines and thinks the additional revenue will be "sufficient," Chief Financial Officer Janice Davis told the Dallas Morning News.

Rates are already scheduled to go up one penny per mile in January 2010. Rates last increased in September 2007, when they jumped one penny from 10 to 11 cents per mile.

The NTTA's Finance and Audit Committee heard the recommendation Tuesday, but did not take any action on it. The committee has two more meetings before the board's July meeting, when members could be asked to approve the rate increase.

In addition, the NTTA is proposing postponing of $82.5 million in improvement projects and delaying a $35 million study on the Trinity tollway in Dallas.

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