Tollway profits could be near
New TXDOT forecasts show roads making $5 million in fiscal ’14.
flash: Our local toll roads could all be profitable by 2014. If only it were that simple. I got a call the other day from Terri Hall, an anti-tollroad activist from the San Antonio area. She had just met with Texas Department of Transportation officials, and they had shared with her the startling news that their system of four tollways in and around Austin would reach profitability by the end of the 2013-14 fiscal year. Hall was skeptical.
I was surprised. In July 2011 when I last checked in on the financial status of the Texas 130, Texas 45 North and Loop 1 tollways — which are combined fiscally as the Central Texas Turnpike System — TxDOT’s own projections showed them losing $20 million to $40 million annually as a group until 2030. After that, most years would be profitable, the projections showed, and by 2042 the three roads would make a $520 million cumulative profit.
Now, a little more than a year later, TxDOT’s numbers have changed. The agency’s latest figures show the roads (there are now four, because the lightly traveled Texas 45 Southeast tollway has officially joined the fold) losing about $3 million this fiscal year, but making about $5 million in profit in fiscal 2014. After that, it’s hit and miss for a few years until the system reaches longterm profitability by the 201819 fiscal year.
From 2013 to 2042, the total profit is now shown as $1.53 billion. That net figure doesn’t account for $204 million in tax subsidies since 2007.
The numbers matter for a couple of reasons.
When the toll road system is in the red — meaning revenues are less than debt payments on bonds sold to finance the roads, plus operating and maintenance costs — the diflerence is made up by gas tax dollars. Which means less money for other highways around the state. And if and when the roads started generating a profit, that money would be available for other transportation projects in Central Texas because state law requires that toll road surpluses be used in the area where they are generated.
So what changed in the past 17 months or so?
Adding Texas 45 Southeast to the ledger in September
Leslie Fossler stood with friends outside of Zilker Park on Sunday, drinking eggnog and singing Christmas carols, as she waited for the return of one of her favorite holiday traditions, the Trail of Lights.
“The city owes it to the community to make this happen,” said Fossler, a 58-year-old interior designer who lives in South Austin, where every winter for 18 years she and family members would walk down to the annual event that started in the 1960s.
She did not mind the noise, the crowds or the blocked ofl streets in her neighborhood, See photos and video from the Trail of Lights with this story at she said. When city budget cuts ended the annual tradition two years ago, she said was sad to see it go. And on opening night Sunday, Fossler was among hundreds, if not thousands, to welcome it back.
“It got the entire family
The Trail of Lights was scaled back in 2009 before being axed altogether in 2010, leaving many residents disappointed.