TxDOT offers explanation for toll lanes price spike during winter storm

During last week's winter storm, drivers on TEXpress toll lanes noticed a spike in prices.

The increase upset many drivers, but TxDOT says it's working on the problem and it didn't mean to charge motorists that much money just to go four miles.

Marla Shaw, like many on Friday, was heading home early, wanting to escape the ice and snow that covered roads, closed schools and brought traffic down to a crawl.

She got on the 114 TEXpress through the DFW Connector, likes thousands of others.

"Instead of the normal 70 cents that it takes to go through the tollway, it was $3.45 for toll pass goers and then $6.59 if you did not have a toll," said Shaw.

A FOX 4 viewer sent us a photo of the prices while they were driving through the connector. It was nearly five times the normal rate -- more than 9 for drivers without a toll tag.

"My first thought was, ‘That is really some price gouging and pretty insulting to the people who are just trying to take their normal route home, trying to get through the snow storm,' and I thought they were really taking advantage of people, knowing they would have to take it," said Shaw.

But by the next morning, TxDOT said it addressed the problem and set a fixed rate of 70 cents through the entire weekend.

TxDOT spokesman Tony Hartzel says the price hike was unintentional and was part of the way the managed lanes are operated to give incentive to drivers not to take them when traffic is slow.

"Our traffic information showed that the speeds were lower, so therefore, the price automatically went up," said Hartzel. "That's to help during congested times, but it didn't take into account the icy conditions here."

Now, TxDOT says it is taking bad weather into account.

"Yeah, we're going to look at fine tuning that to take into account speeds during icy conditions, but in the interim, we're going to be looking at just doing a fixed rate schedule or a fixed schedule during the icy conditions," said Hartzel.

And reimbursement may be headed to the nearly 5,800 drivers who were affected.

"It does make me feel better and I'll really feel good if I see a credit on my account," said Shaw.

LBJ Freeway and North Tarrant Express also use managed toll lanes, but they are operated by a different company; not TxDOT. The toll prices on those roads during the icy conditions were free.

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