The free ride on toll roads operated by the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority started with the Thursday morning rush hour. People like Ty Watson of Brenham will benefit from this -no pay- pass through. He is a disabled army veteran and says the discount isn't just about getting a free ride.
"I think it’s about the honor, people around the country always appreciate veterans and that’s a good thing, I think we don’t do enough for our Veterans,” said Watson.
The CTRMA discount program is available to a select few.
- Disabled veterans.
- Purple Heart recipients.
- Legion of Valor
- Medal of Honor
Veteran who qualify must first register online, a confirmation e mail will bounce back in about 10 days. The discount is only activated electronically. Having a TX Tag is mandatory and the registration is limited to only one vehicle - one account.
The discount was approved by the mobility authority board of directors back in July. It's estimated the program will cost CTRMA a little more than $1 million a year in lost revenue, according to Deputy Director Jeff Dailey.
"We are now at a point now where were financially we can take this program on and allow us to still move other projects forward, ad tats the key thing, we live and die on the tolls, that gives us the revenue to help build other roads, as we know this region needs more transportation capacity."
The roads where the discount is applied includes;
- 183A through Cedar Park and Leander.
- Hwy290 East - Manor Expressway.
- Hwy71 ABIA bypass lanes.
- Hwy183 south and SH45 SW when completed.
The discount does not apply to MoPac.
FOX 7 Austin was told it's not because of the fluctuating tall rates, but because providing free rides could clog the expressway and make it more expensive for people who do Pay.
"We can do it technologically wise, but the more cars, vehicles that get in there and don’t pay the toll it will shoot the price higher for those that do, and it’s already a difficult process to maintain the flow of traffic, so the more people that get in and don’t pay, it makes it difficult for us to control the speed through there,” said Dailey.
Some people, like Army Veteran John Antonovich, believe the discount program should be expanded.
"I would lean towards all Veterans, they've all done their service. The valor ones who were in the hard part of it and received these medals maybe a little bit more, but I think all veterans should have a chance,” said Antonovich.
Those who qualify for the discount program must have all outstanding toll bills paid in full.
The program also has an expiration date; 2021.
At that time the CTRMA board will decided whether or not to continue it.