From Wells Dunbar, writing at KUT News:
It’s no secret Interstate 35 congestion takes a toll on Austinites.
Out of a list of Texas’ 100 most congested roadways, the portion of I-35 running through central Austin is the fourth most congested in the state. Meanwhile, State Highway 130, out east of I-35, is open for business.
Officials have tried all manner of incentives to divert traffic from I-35 to SH 130, including the lure of an 85 mph speed limit.
But SH 130 is tolled and I-35 isn’t. That has some folks asking if we’re tolling the wrong road.
Like me. (I'm quoted.)
Some Legislators are inching closer to this. Representative Paul Workman recently proposed making SH 130 toll free, using the state's rainy day fund to make up the lost toll revenue.
I say "inching," but that's halfway there, right?
Eliminating tolls on lightly-traveled SH 130 in order to reduce congestion on badly-congested I-35 would make everyone who drives either route better off (or at least no worse off), but of course at a pretty steep loss of revenue to the state government. Eliminating tolls on SH 130 and imposing variable tolls on I-35 would maximize aggregate welfare (mainly by converting wasted time into useful money), but some drivers would be better off and some worse off. Not surprisingly, it's the "make SH 130 free" half of the plan that gets proposed first.