Bill could eliminate toll road fees for some veterans - - The News for South Mississippi

Bill could eliminate toll road fees for some veterans


More veterans could soon be driving on more Texas toll roads for free. A bill that passed through the Texas House of Representatives was added to the senate's voting calendar Tuesday morning.

Dominic Sciarrini spent 30 years in the United States Navy. He received his Purple Heart in Vietnam

"I wasn't seriously wounded, but I was hospitalized both times," he says.

The plates on his car afford him a free ride on TxDot toll roads. If passed, a new bill could expand that to all toll roads in the state. Legislators are looking to change the wording from "toll project entities 'may' establish a discount program" to "toll entities 'shall.'"

"I may not use a toll road very much, but I know that there are a lot of individuals, military, ex-military, purple heart recipients, disabled veterans who use the different toll roads and would probably welcome that little discount,"  says Sciarrini.

Veterans qualifying for that discount would include drivers with "DV" and "Disabled Veteran" on their license plates. Veterans with military cross "Legion of Valor" plates, Medal of Honor plates and Purple Heart plates would qualify, too.

"Most people, it's not going to be significant enough to make a big difference in their budget, but for a few low income or lower income people, it'd be a good deal," Sciarrini says.

TxDot implemented the discounts on their toll roads on December 24, 2012. By February, they'd waived $203,000 in toll fees for qualifying veterans, which amounts to about 1% of their total toll revenue for the month of January.

TxDot estimates they'll waive $1.2 Million in tolls for qualifying veterans this year. But for some veterans, the bill is less about the money and more about the thought.

"I think the thought behind this privilege is good because many of the veterans feel they weren't acknowledged as they left the service years ago," says Sciarrini.

The legislative budget board says in a fiscal note report, "Based on the number of vehicles registered with Legion of Valor specialty plates, it is assumed the provisions of the bill would not result in a significant fiscal impact to the state." Regarding local governments, the report goes on to say, "Currently, the Harris County Toll Road Authority is the only local toll project entity offering such a program. It is assumed that toll project entities would choose to offer a free or discounted use of toll projects if sufficient resources are available or if it would not result in a significant revenue loss."

Toll 49 is not currently a toll road that allows certain veterans to travel for free. The Northeast Texas Regional Mobility Authority that oversees that toll road says they are monitoring this legislation. They say, "The NET RMA supports the northeast Texas Veterans and will continue to work with the Legislature to resolve their concerns."

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