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Official: paying off Texas toll roads debt would cost $38B

🕐 1 min read

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A Texas Department of Transportation official says the state would need $38 billion to pay off debt linked to dozens of toll roads and make the highways free to drivers.

Executive director James Bass on Wednesday updated a Texas House panel in Austin. The 2015 Legislature ordered TxDOT to report on the status of Texas toll roads. A final report is due in September.

Bass told House Transportation Committee members that TxDOT and various local authorities have more than 50 toll roads and toll bridges, in place or under construction. The debt adds up to more than $21 billion.

Bass says paying off the principal over time, under current financing schedules with some of those payments coming as far out as 2053, would take $38 billion.

Bass said much of the debt carries financial penalties for early payment of the principal. If a lump sum could pay those off, he said, getting an exact figure will take more time. But the agency’s rough estimate is $30 billion.

But, Bass said, that doesn’t include five other toll projects that are operated or are being built with long-term leases. Those tollways, which include the southern 40 miles of Texas 130 from Mustang Ridge to Seguin, have an additional $9.8 billion in debt.

Bass said that adding all of that up, the department is looking at a total of $40 billion to buy a mostly toll-less Texas.

This doesn’t include the state’s several international bridges over the Rio Grande, which often carry tolls. Joe Pickett, D-El Paso, says he doesn’t have a problem with leaving those off of the list.

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