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288 tollway raking in money, ripping off motorists

By John Toth

The Bulletin

There was a time when I could get into my car without having to worry about what traffic will be like on Hwy. 288. That was a long time ago.

It was a lot simpler back then to drive to Houston. We seldom had slowdowns. I could drive the boys over to the Astrodome an hour before the game started and still make it into the bleacher seats in time for the first pitch.

Now, I don’t feel comfortable without at least an extra half-hour cushion built into the trip to Houston, and sometimes even that isn’t enough. I used to look forward to driving to Houston for a ballgame or other events. Now, I dread the drive. I always hated Houston traffic, but now I also hate traffic on Hwy. 288.

I have had the displeasure of driving Highway 35 from San Antonio to Austin, and most of the time I have found myself in heavy traffic. While I parked on the middle of the highway, I told Sharon, my live-in editor and wife, that there was probably a big accident, or they closed off some lanes for repairs to have miles of backup.

When we got to the end of the slowdown, there was nothing. Cars began to speed up - no construction, no accident. I expect that of Hwy. 35, which has been overloaded with cars for decades.

Unfortunately, Hwy. 288, may follow the same pattern.

Let’s build a tollway, they said. That will bring in more money and relieve congestion that happens when way too many people move into an area than the roads can handle.

The construction itself was a nightmare, but once the toll road was in place, it would speed things up, right? I don’t mind paying tolls. I take Beltway 8 frequently. I’ve has an EZ Pass for many years.

If it means solving our congestion problems, I’m willing to chip in a few bucks.

Wait a minute. Did I read the sign correctly just south of Pearland, where the toll road starts? To take it all the way to Hwy. 45 or 59 will cost about $17 one way?

That’s highway robbery.

A Houston Chronicle article about how TxDOT is plotting to take the road back from the private company that built and runs it stated that, at peak times, the one-way toll for those few miles can go up to $18.95.

That’s crazy, if not extortion.

I’ve never paid that much toll in my more than five decades of driving. No wonder TxDOT is planning to grab that place. It’s a goldmine.

I don’t contribute to it, though. I can’t justify paying that much to avoid congestion. I’d rather stay in the congested lanes and save the $16 or $18. I’m definitely not burning up $16 in gas. It’s only costing me time.

Can you imagine using the 288 toll road daily both ways and paying $32-$39 a day? Whoever is in charge of setting the toll on this road needs to get in touch with reality.

Some people have no way around using it. They have to get to work on time and can’t sit in traffic. I can. I don’t like it, but I’ll do it rather than pay an exorbitant toll.

I must have been wrong about the toll road relieving traffic, because while I’m driving on a congested free road, the adjacent tollway is almost empty. And when it empties out to the regular Hwy. 288 just south of Pearland, it just makes the congestion on that road even worse.

There is more construction on Hwy. 288, which is great. I hope that these improvements are more successful than the toll road when it comes to relieving congestion and making travel safer.

I have heard our county officials say that the toll road is bringing millions of dollars into the public coffers.

That may be true, but is it the main reason it why was built, or to help accommodate the additional traffic on Hwy. 288 because a lot of people are moving into the area?

It is not doing any good when people can’t afford to use it. This is common-sense stuff.

We have not solved our problems with the 288 toll lanes. We’ve just added to them.  But the money is flowing, so that’s good. Right?


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