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April 28, 2011

Tollway authority ready to open its books, answer criticisms about hefty toll late fees, cozy relationship with contractors

Tolltag PLANO – The North Texas Tollway Authority is opening its books to officials from the four largest counties in Dallas-Fort Worth, in response to months of criticism about its practice of spending millions of dollars each year on just a small number of consulting firms, and charging hefty fees to motorists who are late paying their tolls. The Plano-based authority, which is planning, building and operating toll roads in Tarrant, Collin, Dallas and Denton counties, plans to hire an outside reviewer by the end of May, tollway authority chairman Victor Vandergriff of Arlington said.Dollarsign

“It’s going to be a stem to stern, top to bottom review,” said Vandergriff, who has long advocated a thorough review of tollway authority operations. “The interview process is yet to be defined, but we’ll pick one and get started toward the end of May.”

Three county judges are to meet at 3:30 p.m. Thursday with the tollway authority board – only Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley couldn’t make it, because he is out of town on official business – and talk about what they want to see in the audit-style review.

The tollway authority makes its money on tolls collected throughout the region – and soon to be Southwest Parkway/Chisholm Trail Parkway in Fort Worth – but does little of its own engineering, legal and other services in-house. Instead, a small group of companies make millions of dollars per year performing these services. Critics have said the tollway authority needs to end those cozy relationships, and give other professionals a chance to bid on toll road work.

Also, the tollway authority has been under fire for hiring relatively few minority-owned contractors.

For motorists, a hot issue has been the hundreds of dollars in late fees many people have been billed for not paying their electronic tolls on time. State Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, has filed a bill that would subject the tollway authority to the state’s sunset review process, in which state agencies are scrutinized to ensure they’re still relevant – and, if not, in rare cases they can be shut down.

Tollway authority officials oppose being subjected to an audit or sunset review by state officials, saying they prefer instead to be scrutinized by the officials in their four home counties.

-- Gordon Dickson, gdickson@star-telegram.com

Twitter: @gdickson

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Comments

Theresa

I had to travel on the tollroad 121 back in January because i had to go to the hospital and it was emergency. so i took the tollroad. I was unable to pay that little toll due to being out of work for medical and no money. know I am charged over $1000. for a ^3.00 toll that is crazy

JC

The NTTA is simply legalized racketeering.

If you use ZipCash instead of a TollTag, you have a good chance of the first bill you ever receive from them being one saying you didn't pay and are now in violation for 1000% or more of your initial toll cost.

If you don't pay them, they have the right to send it to court where you face additional fines and suspension of your license.

We let the government get in bed with the NTTA and squeeze us for money, and the only way to stop it is elect folks who are not corrupt.

DBM

Wow, they get to pick they company that is going to Audit them? I'm sure this is going to be a unbiased opinion. What a joke, NTTA is ILLEGAL!! I recieved 5 bills for roughly $22.00 worth of tolls each bill had a 650.00 admin fee attached to it. These were the 1st forms of notification I received.

BDM

They want to be scrutenized on the local level where they can payoff the Judges just like any other political backroom deal. And they get to pick the company doing the review. WHAT A JOKE.

James Toney

The TTA has all the power of the government and all the greed of a corporation. The loss of our commons in Texas is becoming epidemic. Citizens can deal with either the state or corporate greed; however, when these two are combined, the private citizen stands no chance. Private takeover or our roads needs to end and be reversed.

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