It may be a smart innovation. And then again, it could bite them where it hurts. In a TxDOT pilot program (or experiment, if you will), the state is attempting to reduce traffic congestion on some central Texas highways by giving trucks a huge toll discount. They're letting them pay the same toll rate as passenger (two-axle) vehicles.

If that has you scratching your head, you're not alone. History shows us that bees do, in fact, go to honey. And the folks at TxDOT say 'Exactly!' --that's the plan. They're drawing truck traffic away from high-volume areas to spread the traffic and reduce congestion...

To reduce traffic congestion on Interstate 35 and make Central Texas roadways safer, the Texas DOT is reducing tolls for an entire year for trucks on State Highway 130 segments 1-6 and State Highway 45SE, as a pilot program, subject to approval by the Texas Transportation Commission.

From April 1, 2013 through March 30, 2014, truck drivers who choose to travel non-stop between Georgetown and Seguin on the SH 130 and or SH 45SE toll bypass will pay the passenger vehicle (two-axle) toll rate. That means truck drivers will pay $18 or less on SH 130 Segments 1-6 or $11 or less for SH 130 Segments 1-4 and SH 45E. For trucks with four axles or more, the discount provides more than a 67 percent discount. The toll discount for trucks is extended as an incentive to reduce truck traffic on I-35 through the Austin area.

“This is a win for taxpayers and drivers in Central Texas,” said Ted Houghton, Chairman of the Texas Transportation Commission. “First, truckers get the opportunity to use a high-speed alternative around Austin, and second, the discount does not cost taxpayers a dime.”

This latest discount follows a month long incentive that ended March 3 in which truckers were charged the car toll rate. During that time, truck traffic on SH 130 segments 1-4 and SH 45 SE increased about 50 percent over last year.

Funded by the SH 130 Concession Company, this newest discount is also valid on the new 41- mile stretch of SH 130 from Mustang Ridge to Seguin. This new year-long incentive will help TxDOT address two of its main goals.

“By getting some of our big rigs off I-35, we are making Central Texas roads safer,” said Phil Wilson, TxDOT executive director. “Moreover, people driving on I-35 will see some most-needed congestion relief, which is going to help them get to and from work easier and improve their quality of life. At the end of the year we will have a full set of data to see the cost/benefits and look for other opportunities to extend.”

Interstate 35, from SH 71 to US 183, is the fourth-most congested roadway in Texas. Last year, families on vacation, commuters traveling to work, and truckers moving shipments experienced more than 4.6 million hours of delay.

TxDOT first offered the truck toll discount in late 2011 ending in January 2012. During that time, truck toll transactions increased more than 50 percent on both SH 130 and SH 45SE, and toll transactions for passenger vehicles increased 10 percent for the same period over the previous year. Toll rates on other Austin-area toll roads, including Loop 1, SH 45N, 183A, and 290 East will remain unchanged during the upcoming promotion. TxDOT cannot offer this discount permanently since it must repay debt on toll revenues pledged.

For the lowest toll rates throughout the year, drivers are encouraged to get a TxTag. Getting a tag is easy and can be done by calling 1-888-468-9824, or visiting

While cash is no longer an option when using Austin-area toll roads, drivers can still pay by mail. Rates for the Pay-by-Mail option are a third higher than TxTag rates, to offset the costs related to processing the toll charges, and a $1.15 fee is applied to each monthly bill.

During the truck incentive period, trucks with the Dallas/Fort Worth-area’s TollTag and the Houston/Harris County EZ TAG can also take advantage of the discounted rates, about 33 percent less than pay-by-mail.

Would you like your state to try similar plans?