Like a lot of Fort Worthians, I got my first NTTA toll tag right after the new Chisholm Trail Parkway opened. Like most folks, I had them tap my credit card $40 at a time to keep my balance up. I did not need the toll road for my job, but we still used the CTP to go downtown from our home in southwest Fort Worth or to Crowley or Cleburne occasionally. I would notice a charge on my credit card about every six weeks or so, unless we flew somewhere out of DFW airport, and the parking charges were put on the card. Then I retired.
One of my goals after retirement was to do more fishing. I would have to pull my single-axle bass boat from McPherson Road to FM1187 occasionally, using the Chisholm Trail Parkway. I wasn’t worried about the toll; it’s only 3.2 miles. Then I began noticing that my credit card was being charged a lot more, now maybe two or three times a month. So I began digging.
The NTTA uses two types of tag readers, or gantries, as they call them. At each access point on the Chisholm Trail there may be readers on one of the north set of ramps, but there will be no readers on the south set of ramps. Or there may be no readers at all. Confused? Here is what I mean: If I enter the Chisholm Trail Parkway (CTP) going southbound at McPherson Road there is not a reader. Just south of McPherson, however, they have what they call a main lane gantry. These readers cover both lanes, north and south. The main lane gantries see all traffic, so at this point the system knows I am on their road heading south, but it does not know where I got on the freeway.
There is not a reader when I exit southbound at FM1187, so their system does not know where I got off. The next main lane gantry is just north of Cleburne. Since this reader never sees me, the system knows I exited, but it does not know where. So their system begins making assumptions that are not in our favor.
In my example, it makes the assumption that I entered almost 6 miles farther to the north than I did. The toll tag rate from I-20 to FM1187, about 9 miles, is $2.32. My rate, from McPherson to FM1187, about 3.2 miles is the same, $2.32. I pay about $.72 per mile. Getting on at I-20 I would pay about $.26 per mile. By comparison, the rate from Cleburne to downtown Fort Worth is slightly less than $.20 per mile.
But that’s really not what I pay. Since I have a small trailer, I pay double or $4.64 ($1.44 per mile). Pity the person who has a double-axle trailer. That person pays $6.94. Bottom line: I pay $9.28 round trip to use 3.2 miles of their toll road. If I paid the Cleburne-to-downtown Fort Worth per-mile rate, I would pay $2.56 while pulling my boat.
By the way, all of the rates I’ve quoted are toll tag rates. Without a toll tag, these rates would be roughly 50 percent higher.
I was raised to be a fair person, and conducted my business in attempt to always do right by the customer. In the case of the NTTA, they have opted to always err in their favor. The NTTA may argue that these readers are too costly to install at every entrance and exit. I would agree with them they are not cheap. But in relation to what was spent on the whole project the cost would be minor. They designed it this way on purpose. It is highway robbery by design.
I think about the folks who live in St. Francis Village, a retirement community on the southeast side of Lake Benbrook. They had their access to FM1187 cut off when the CTP severed Old Granbury Road. If they want to get to U.S. Highway 377, they must now go several miles out of their way if they want to avoid some of the most expensive per-mile charges the CTP has to offer.
As sort of a postscript, while writing this I jumped over and looked at the NTTA toll tag account. There was a charge on there for $11.60 which should have been my standard $4.64. After 10 minutes on the phone with them, they said there was a vehicle real close to mine, and that their gantry reader “accidentally” picked up about three more axles than I had. Again, the system errs in their favor.
Bill Atkins is a retired and has lived in southwest Fort Worth for over 40 years.