When the new Tornillo-Guadalupe Port of Entry opens, it will accept state toll-road tags as a payment option, making it the first bridge of its kind in Texas.
 
El Paso county commissioners voted unanimously Thursday to move forward with the roughly $1.7 million design and implementation plans.

The county wants the toll system ready for whenever the Mexican side of the bridge is complete. So the Camino Real Regional Mobility Authority will hire an outside firm to make it happen. But the authority's vision for integrating state toll tags extends far beyond a single international bridge.

"The increased number of transactions, the reduced cost across your entire system," said CRRMA Executive Director Raymond Telles.

He said he plans to recommend that the city reprogram the electronic toll systems at each of its three international crossings to integrate with the state toll-tag system.

"The same goes for the City of El Paso," Telles said. "If you're able to roll in their three bridges and the transactions that are included in there, then you're merging all of that into a single back office, and all of your costs go down, because you're doing more with the same system."
     
The city's International Bridges Department said it would be open to the idea but doesn't know how much that process would cost.

"Folks who use toll ways in other parts of Texas -- who are coming through El Paso and see us as a gateway for commerce or for anything else -- they don't have to worry about a clumsy system that makes them have one tag for one system, another tag for another system," said County Judge Veronica Escobar. "It's all integrated."

The authority is also considering the idea of a parking structure across the street from city hall that would accept that same all-in-one state toll-road tag. There's even talk of possibly integrating the parking garage behind the county courthouse, Telles said.

"It's really just a technology issue," Telles said. "So it's a matter of putting in the infrastructure so that the user in the end is the one benefiting. They've got a single account with a single transponder and a single card that gets you in and out of all these facilities. And couple that with a card that you can swipe at the parking meter, then you're really talking about a system that makes a lot of sense."

Thursday's decision applies only to the Tornillo bridge toll system's design and implementation. The county will begin making operations and staffing plans in the next few weeks.

The U.S. completed its $133 million portion of the bridge in December. Mexican officials have said they expect their side to be done sometime this summer.