June 20, 2007
On not seeing the congestion for the cars

So we heard about the upcoming increase in toll road fees, and now we find out that for one road at least, it's really gonna cost you to drive it.

Harris County Commissioners Court's decision Tuesday to fight congestion on the three-year-old Westpark Tollway by forcing some drivers off the road with higher rush-hour fees drew the ire of cash-strapped commuters.

And a dismissive response from Commissioner Steve Radack -- "Let them go down Richmond Road" -- made the new $2.50 tolls even less palatable for some.

Commuter Vic Stewart, in an e-mail, said of the Commissioners Court, "And 'Let them eat cake!' They'll certainly have time."

Commissioners Court voted unanimously to hike fees to $2.50 from 6-9 a.m. and 4-7 p.m., hoping fewer drivers will use the tollway.


Radack said those who cannot afford the rush-hour fees should use alternate roads. "Let them go down Richmond Road," he said. "Or they can use Westpark," the surface road running alongside the tollway.

Six months after the four-lane Westpark Tollway opened in 2004, traffic backups began occurring in certain areas, said Peter Key, toll road authority deputy director. Congestion has worsened since then.

I must be missing something here. I thought the purpose of the Westpark Toll Road was to help alleviate congestion on various east-west thoroughfares - I-10 to some extent, but especially overloaded arterial roads like Richmond and Westpark. If so, then isn't jacking up the tolls to discourage people from taking it essentially defeating that purpose? How exactly does turning the Westpark Toll Road (which, for people coming in from Katy and the like, was already a pricey proposition) into a luxury item serve the goal of mobility?

On the other hand, if the real goal is extracting money from people's pockets, then hey. Mission accomplished!

Well, maybe this will encourage more people to explore park-and-ride options. If so, that will be a good thing. Hey, Metro: Maybe now would be a good time to advertise your services in that part of town.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on June 20, 2007 to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

Park and Ride will do nothing for the thousands of people who use the Westpark Tollway to get to work in the Galleria area, or Greenway Plaza, or Westchase...

Congratulations to those folks who live out on the West side of town. Your choices are now 15 miles of side street action, an I-10 and BW 8 interchange that will be in demolition / rebuilding mode for months and years to come, or an extra $150 dollars in commuting fees each month!

Posted by: Chris Elam on June 20, 2007 1:53 PM

I'm sure Radack would like to hear more about your park-and-ride recommendation.

Posted by: Charles Hixon on June 20, 2007 1:53 PM