HCN NEWS SERVICES
The Harris County Toll Road Authority (HCTRA) plans a total closure of the Sam Houston Tollway Ship Channel Bridge the weekend of Friday, Jan.8 – Monday, Jan. 11 to convert the bridge to all-electronic tolling. When the bridge reopens, cash toll payment will no longer be accepted in the lanes. Drivers will need an EZ TAG or other type of interoperable toll tag on their vehicle to drive across the bridge and avoid a toll violation.
During the closure, construction crews will remove all toll booths, coin machines and demolish the plaza canopy. The changes will improve traffic flow by allowing drivers to cross the bridge without stopping to pay or having to merge with traffic that has stopped to pay at the toll booths.
8 p.m. Friday, January 8 – 5 a.m. Monday, January 11, 2016
Northbound traffic will be required to exit the Sam Houston Tollway at Pasadena/Red Bluff Road. As an alternate, northbound drivers can access SH-225 westbound to IH-610 and eastbound to SH 146.
Southbound traffic will be required to exit at Jacinto Port. Southbound traffic on the tollway will have access to the direct connectors to IH-10 westbound to IH-610 and to IH-10 eastbound through Channelview. All closures are subject to change due to inclement weather or emergencies.
Additionally, the IH 10 main lanes will be closed eastbound and westbound from Magnolia to Beltway 8 East beginning Friday, January 8 at 10 p.m. through Saturday, January 9 at noon. However, the IH 10 frontage road will remain open.
HCTRA has coordinated with Precinct 2 and other agencies to ensure that drivers will have alternate routes during the bridge closure.
The Lynchburg Ferry will operate extended hours from 9:30 a.m. – 8:00 p.m. on Saturday, January 9 and Sunday, January 10. The Washburn Tunnel will maintain its normal hours of operation. Multi-axle vehicles, including 18 wheelers are prohibited from using the Washburn Tunnel.
Benefits of AET
EZ TAG-only tolling improves safety, reduces congestion and increases operational efficiency. Between 2011 and 2015, transactions at the Ship Channel Bridge increased by more than 40 percent. EZ TAG traffic at the toll plaza currently exceeds available capacity during peak travel times, and toll transactions are projected to grow another 15 percent by 2017. Cash users will save money by switching to EZ TAG. The current cash rate is $2.00 at the SCB plaza and $1.50 for customers will a toll tag.
Drivers without an EZ TAG can set up an account online using a major credit/debit card or a bank account or visit one of HCTRA’s EZ TAG stores.
Additionally, HCTRA has partnered with BancPass, an innovator in toll payment solutions, to develop a new, cash-reloadable type of EZ TAG account. For cash-preferred customers who don’t want to provide a credit card for automatic billing (required for a traditional EZ TAG account with HCTRA), the new EZ TAG powered by BancPass lets users pay cash, and pay-as-you-go.
Impact to Toll Collectors
Toll collectors currently assigned to the Sam Houston Tollway Ship Channel Bridge Plaza will be transferred to available jobs at other plazas. At this time, HCTRA does not foresee a need to eliminate employment positions.
The Harris County Toll Road Authority does not receive local, state or federal tax money. HCTRA is an Enterprise Fund of Harris County and relies on revenue from users to fund operations, maintenance, debt service and future projects. HCTRA operates 126 miles including the Sam Houston Tollway, Tomball Tollway, Hardy Toll Road, Westpark Tollway, Katy Managed Lanes and the Ship Channel Bridge.