Harris County Toll Road Authority
|Harris County Toll Road Authority|
|Jurisdiction||Harris County, Texas|
|Headquarters||7701 Wilshire Place Drive
Houston, TX 77040
|Authority executive||Peter W. Key, Director|
|Parent department||Harris County Public Infrastructure Department|
HCTRA came into existence in September 1983 when Harris County voters approved a referendum by a 7-3 margin to release up to $900 million in bonds to create two toll roads - the Hardy Toll Road and the Sam Houston Tollway, to improve the regional mobility and reduce traffic congestion in the Greater Houston area, an area known for rapid population growth.
The need for a county-run toll road system came from TxDOT's budget shortfall and its inability to authorize funding to upgrade the second loop around the city, Beltway 8, which had been on planning maps since the 1950s. The Texas Turnpike Authority turned down the opportunity to improve the road as well, leaving the county to upgrade the road to freeway standards. However, Harris County could not afford to build and maintain a freeway from its general fund.
Shortly after the referendum, the Commissioners Court created the Toll Road Authority to administer the construction and operation of the new road system. Then-County Judge Jon Lindsay is generally credited with shepherding the referendum from its infancy to its passage, along with the implementation of the plan for the roadway. HCTRA is a part of Harris County's Public Infrastructure Department and is subdivided into a Services and an Operations Division.
While for many years, the Hardy Toll Road never had the traffic that the HCTRA envisioned it would need to turn a profit, the Sam Houston Tollway has more than made up for the lost revenue. The high profit margins on the Sam Houston Tollway allowed the authority to construct its third and fourth toll roads, the Westpark Tollway and Fort Bend Toll Road, both of which opened in 2004. Both of these toll roads have termini in Fort Bend County and are run in conjunction with the Fort Bend County Toll Road Authority. The most recent project of HCTRA is the construction of managed lanes that run along the median of I-10/Katy Freeway between SH 6 and I-610 that opened in April 2009.
Current system 
The following toll roads (in order of first segment completion) form the current HCTRA system:
Sam Houston Tollway (1982) 
The Sam Houston Tollway is the name given to the tolled sections of Beltway 8, the second highway loop around Houston. The first opened section was the Sam Houston Ship Channel Bridge in the east quadrant of the road system. From 1982 to 1994, the bridge, which was originally named in honor of local politician and entrepreneur Jesse H. Jones, was maintained by the Texas Turnpike Authority (now North Texas Tollway Authority). As of February 26, 2011, the Sam Houston Tollway is a complete tolled beltway loop around Houston (minus a few minor sections that are freeways managed by TXDOT).
Hardy Toll Road (1988) 
The Hardy Toll Road was constructed to help alleviate traffic off of I-45 North. The route begins at I-610 North between I-45 North and US 59 North and travels northward parallel to I-45 for 21.6 miles (34.8 km) after which it merges onto I-45. The toll road also features a 4-mile (6.4 km) spur to George Bush Intercontinental Airport.
Westpark Tollway (2004) 
The Westpark Tollway is a 20-mile (32.2 km) toll road starting in Uptown Houston and travelling westward parallel to sections of Westpark Drive and FM 1093 and terminating just past the Grand Parkway (SH 99). It is the first all-electronic toll road in the United States. The Fort Bend County Toll Road Authority (FBCTRA) operates the western-most 6 miles (9.7 km) of the tollway.
Fort Bend Toll Road (2004) 
The Fort Bend Toll Road is a 7.5-mile (12.1 km) tollway that follows the route of the formerly-cancelled State Highway 122. The toll road currently begins with direct connectors at US 90A, just north of the Sam Houston Tollway, and travels southward to its terminus at SH 6. As with the Westpark Tollway, the Fort Bend Toll Road is jointly operated with the FBCTRA.
Katy Freeway Managed Lanes (2009) 
In 2002, HCTRA entered into an agreement with TxDOT and Harris County for the reconstruction of I-10/Katy Freeway. The toll road authority's portion of the project is a 12-mile (19.3 km) managed lane facility in the center of the reconstructed freeway that is used by METRO and HOV vehicles at no charge and single passenger vehicles for a toll. The four lane roadway, running between I-610/West Loop and SH 6, has been completed. The lanes opened during the second quarter of 2009.
Future projects 
Hardy Downtown Connector 
This 4-mile (6.4 km) long project will provide a connection between Downtown Houston and the current terminus of the Hardy Toll Road at I-610. The project will be completed in two phases. Phase I consists of moving a railroad line and the construction of two overpasses. Phase II will be the construction of 4 toll lanes. Relocation of the rail line is expected to begin Fall of 2012.
Hardy Toll Road Interchange at Beltway 8 
To relieve congestion on surface streets, direct connecters between Hardy Toll Road and Beltway 8 will be constructed. Currently there is only one direct connecter ramp from Beltway 8 East to Hardy Toll Road North. Expected construction start date is unknown as of August 2012.
SH 249 Southbound to Westbound Sam Houston Tollway Direct Connector 
This project will add a direct connector to feed traffic travelling south on SH 249 onto the westbound Sam Houston Tollway. This will be the second tolled direct connector at that intersection. Construction should begin in 2014.
SH 249 Tomball Tollway 
The SH 249 (Tomball Tollway) project, in partnership with Montgomery County, will provide three toll lanes in each direction to the existing SH 249 corridor. The current frontage roads and mainlines south of Spring Cypress will remain in place and will not be tolled. The project is proposed to be constructed in two phases. Phase I will be the construction of three toll lanes in each direction from just north of Spring Cypress Road to north of the Tomball Bypass. Phase II will extend the toll lanes north of the bypass to the Harris County line at Spring Creek and points beyond in Montgomery County. Schematic designs have been completed for the portion that lies within Harris County. Construction of Phase I is estimated to begin in Fall 2013.
SH 288 Managed Lanes 
To help alleviate congestion on SH 288, HCTRA or TxDOT plan to construct toll lanes in the median of the existing freeway. The route would begin at US 59 just south of Midtown and terminate at the intersection of the proposed Grand Parkway (SH 99) for a total length of 26 miles (41.8 km). It is unknown when construction will begin; or which agency will oversee construction, currently it is TxDOT.
Hempstead Highway/US 290 Managed Lanes 
The planned project will add four tolled lanes along the Hempstead Highway corridor between I-610 and the future Grand Parkway (SH 99) northwest segment. The project is one component of the complete US 290 corridor upgrade by TxDOT, which also includes added capacity to US 290, a new HOV system parallel to the Hempstead Highway, and a possible commuter rail line in conjunction with METRO. Construction is expected to begin in 2013, with TxDOT overseeing construction.
Increased capacity of existing toll roads 
Added capacity is planned for the following existing tollway segments:
- Sam Houston Tollway Southwest from SH 288 to US 59 South. Two lanes will be added in each direction with improvements to the mainline toll plaza, and will have reconstructed entrance/exit ramps. It is currently under construction, and expected to be completed in 2013.
- Sam Houston Tollway Southeast from SH 288 to IH 45 South. Two lanes will be added in each direction with improvements to the mainline toll plaza, and will have reconstructed entrance/exit ramps. Schematic design has been completed, construction is expected to begin in approximately 2 years.
- Sam Houston Tollway East from IH 45 South to SH 225. One or two lanes are to be added in each direction with improvements to the mainline toll plaza, and will have reconstructed entrance/exit ramps. Construction is expected to begin in 2017.
- Sam Houston Tollway - Ship Channel Bridge from SH 225 to IH 10 East. A second span will be constructed over the Ship Cannel with three or four lanes with full shoulders in each direction. Construction is expected to begin in 2018.
- Hardy Toll Road from FM 1960 to planned SH 99. This will add one lane in each direction to the intersection with SH 99 (Grand Parkway). Construction is estimated to begin in 2017.
Fort Bend Parkway/South Post Oak Road Extension 
The project will connect I-610 via the South Post Oak exit to the northern terminus of the Fort Bend Parkway with just over 3 miles (4.8 km) of tolled lanes. However, this project is not in planning or design.
Fairmont Parkway East Managed Lanes 
Project is no longer being built. As of 03/30/10
See also 
- "Contact Us." Harris County Toll Road Authority. Retrieved on October 16, 2011. "Administrative Office Harris County Toll Road Authority 7701 Wilshire Place Drive Houston, TX 77040"
- Katy Toll Road, accessed 29 September 2006