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Austin, Texas: A Living Laboratory for Tolling Innovation

By: 
Bill Cramer

With rapid population and economic growth, the State of Texas has some major challenges on its highways, including big congestion, big capital budgets, and big expectations from businesses and commuters in search of safe, reliable mobility for people and products.

All of which has made the entire state, and the City of Austin in particular, a living laboratory for every imaginable use of tolling and toll revenues.

“Today, most tolling agencies are also technology agencies,” said IBTTA President Mike Heiligenstein and Executive Director of the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority (CTRMA).

“We’re in a world where people expect things to be seamless, and the new tolling technology makes that seamless factor possible, within and across agencies.”

When Austin hosts IBTTA’s 82nd Annual Meeting and Exhibition September 14-17, participants will get a first-hand look at the Texas experience, and at tolling applications from around the world that are ready to be applied in new situations and settings.

With a strong job market and a relatively low cost of living, “Texas feels like the future,” according to one U.S. economist who profiled the state in the U.S. edition of Time Magazine last October. Texas lives in the same tough economic conditions that have swept the world, but “it just may be the friendliest state for those who worry about their prospects in this new normal.”

But it takes safe, efficient highways to connect the dots between opportunity and success, to ease the daily commute from home, to work, to schools and day care, to the vibrant night life that keeps a town like Austin on the map.

So the faster Texas has grown, the more tolling agencies have had to boost their capabilities. They’ve broken important new ground in everything from all-electronic tolling, to congestion pricing and managed lanes, to smart phone apps that facilitate the highway journey and could soon be handling customer payments.

“We’re using what we have to a better degree,” Heiligenstein said. “We have limited ability to add new pavement, but if we also overlay what we can do with technology, we can provide more reliability for the customer, and that’s tremendously important.”


IBTTA’s 82nd Annual Meeting and Exhibition, September 14-17, 2014 in Austin, includes a special general session on the Texas tolling laboratory. Click here to find out more about the conference program.