A Public Hearing Discusses The Option To Toll Loop 49

The public meeting was held Tuesday night by TxDOT on the future of Loop 49. The idea to build the loop began 30 years ago, and Tx-DOT says, because of a $15 billion shortfall, it could take another 30 years to finish. That's why it's come up with the plan to toll.

"The question is whether we can afford to wait another 30 years, and I don't think we can afford to do it," said Tyler Mayor, Joey Seeber. Tx-DOT agrees. It says in the last ten years the number of cars that travel on South Broadway every day increased from 34,000 to 44,000.

"Texas population is doubling, you know we're going from 20 to 40 million over the next 30 to 35 years," said Thomas Mullins, President of Tyler Area Chamber of Commerce. "Tyler and East Texas will see a lot of that growth, so we just have to keep up." By issuing a toll, Loop 49 could be finished in seven years.

"What they can do is project what the traffic will be on the loop," said Mullins. "Based on those projections they can issue bonds to do the construction now and repay the bonds with future toll revenue." Tx-DOT says typical tolls range between 10 to 15 cents per mile. People using the loop will pay with an electronic toll tag that can be used throughout the state. It's a sticker you put on your window that you purchase ahead of time. Every time you drive through the toll, it deducts money from your account. Still, there are some who do not like the idea of a toll.

"We pay a tax, you can call it a user fee, you can call it whatever you want," said Eric Rathbone, Tyler Resident. "Government collecting money is a tax."

"I used to teach school and I would give them an F," said Paul Hancock, Tyler Resident. "They've waited too long. Too little, too late. This is just an after thought." TxDot says, right now a toll is the fastest way to get people driving on Loop 49.

Molly Reuter, Reporting. mreuter@kltv.com