On Thursday, the Texas Transportation Committee passed a motion to give trucks with four or more axels a break on their tolls. They say they hope to divert truck traffic away from I-35 and to SH130 or 45SE.
Starting on April 18 truckers driving between Buda and Georgetown between 7am-7pm during the week could save as much as 33% on their tolls. The temporary program will run through November 21, 2017. By the end, truckers who use a TXTag, could pay the same rate as cars, for a savings of up to 75%.
"The whole objective to offer truckers discounts is to get them off of I-35, reduce congestion on I-35 and to help them see the benefits of using SH-130," says TXDot spokesperson Veronica Beyer, adding, "it's a more efficient route, you bypass downtown traffic, you have few cars on there so it's safer."
Travis County Representative Celia Israel backed the motion. She thinks it is a move in the right direction, but wants to make sure the roads are properly patrolled. "They have assured me they are going to have additional DPS trooper presence on 130. Because the speed limit out there is 85. And if you are mixing trucks and passenger vehicles at a high rate of speed, I want to make sure that we have a safe situation."
TXDot and The Department of Public Safety tell Fox 7 they are working on figuring out what kind of impact the additional traffic will have on the toll road.
TxDot tested the discount program in 2013, from April to December of that year they say truck transactions were up 36%.
Also according to a TXDot map, in 2013, more than 16,000 trucks a day passed through Austin on I-35.
Representative Paul Workman, also from Travis County led an unsuccessful bid to convert the tollway to a freeway. While it could be some time before that's back on the table, he hopes this break for truckers will be the start of a new conversation.
"Our local folks should be very happy that we are taking steps to move people off of I-35 and hopefully it will help some," he says adding, "It's hard to know how much it will help but we are hopeful it will be enough that we can notice it.
To read the full press release from the Texas Department of Transportation, click here.