EL PASO, Texas - The Camino Real Regional Mobility Authority (CRRMA) has authorized its executive director to pursue a solution that would remove toll lanes from the Cesar Chavez Expressway, also known as the "Border Highway."
In a letter to the Texas Department of Transportation, the CRRMA asks that the debt incurred on the Cesar Chavez toll project, be shifted to the new Border West Expressway, which will consist entirely of toll lanes.
If the debt is shifted to Border West, the tolls on Cesar Chavez would be removed and TX-DOT would assume operation and maintenance of the Border Highway.
Removal of the tolls has yet to be formalized, but State Rep. Joe Pickett (D) El Paso told ABC-7 he thinks there's a 99.98 percent chance it will happen.
The massive "X" sculpture in Juarez as seen from the Border Highway
The tolls on Cesar Chavez have been in existence since January 2014, requiring a toll of 90 cents for those with a toll tag and a $1.80 fee for pay-by-mail users, who were also charged a one dollar convenience fee per bill. "It cost us a dollar to collect a dollar, so the only people making money are the folks collecting the dollar," Pickett said.
Figures provided by the regional mobility authority show fewer than 2,000 transactions per working day. "We have a beautiful lane that's only used three hours out of the day, by six percent of all the driving traffic on Cesar Chavez," Pickett said, "So we have a road that goes unused 21 hours days, 7 days a week. It's ridiculous."
The state rep. said preparations for removing the Cesar Chavez tolls have already begun and they could be removed in the next couple of months. Pickett, Chairman of the House Committee on Transportation, also told ABC-7 "at some point we are going to be recommending removal of some other tolls in Texas."
CRRMA Executive Director Raymond Telles cautions it could take longer. "Everybody has been really supportive of the idea of getting rid of the tolls and we haven't really hit any major stumbling blocks, but we're in the very beginning of this, you have to figure there are more than 15 agreements in place that we would have to unwind," Telles said.
Shifting the debt incurred by the Cesar Chavez toll project to Border West "makes sense," Telles said, "When you look at the Border West Expressway, we are actually partners with TX-DOT on that."