Toll Road Discriminates Against Austin’s Poor


Media Contact:
Cynthia Martinez, Communications Director

Complaint Argues that Toll Road on US 290 East Violates Civil Rights Act

AUSTIN, Texas – April 24, 2009 – The proposed toll road along US 290 East discriminates against low-income and minority populations in Austin, according to a complaint filed with the Federal Highway Administration.

Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (TRLA), the leading provider of legal aid in Texas, in conjunction with the SOS Alliance and the Center on Race, Poverty, and the Environment, filed the complaint on behalf of three Travis County residents and the Bluebonnet Neighborhood Association. Filed against the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority (CTRMA), and the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO), the complaint argues that the toll road project violates Title VI of the Civil Rights Act by having a disproportionate impact on the low-income and minority communities that surround and use the highway.

“The toll road will create a class distinction between those who are and are not able to use it,” said TRLA attorney D’Ann Johnson. “Low-income residents will be forced to either use congested frontage roads or spend an unreasonable amount of their income on tolls.”

According to the complaint, the project would impose economic hardships, increase health and safety risks, and increase traffic in the neighboring communities. The complaint also argues that previous reviews of the toll road project have underestimated the impact it will have on neighboring communities and low-income residents who currently use US 290 East for their commute.

Added Johnson, “The impacts of this toll road will not be felt equally among Austin residents. Specific communities are being forced to bear the weight of this burden and won’t reap its benefits.”

A copy of the complaint can be found at

Established in 1970, Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, Inc. (TRLA) is a nonprofit organization that provides free legal services to low-income and disadvantaged clients in a 68-county service area. TRLA’s mission is to promote the dignity, self-sufficiency, safety and stability of low-income Texas residents by providing high-quality legal assistance and related educational services. For more information on Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, Inc. and this story visit


9 thoughts on “Toll Road Discriminates Against Austin’s Poor

  1. This is GREAT news! Please keep us informed, and please let us know how we can help stop this toll road that the residents of East Travis County and Counties East of Travis have been fighting for years! If it is built, it will truly be a hardship on the residents of that area.
    Mary Anderson

  2. Fantastic news to see this complaint filed. Give ’em hell.

    David Van Os
    Lawyer, Private Citizen, Toll Road Opponent
    San Antonio, TX

  3. I don’t understand how upgrading from a six lane highway to six toll lanes and six frontage lanes will adversely impact anyone. Even if only one driver uses the toll lanes, there is less traffic on the frontage roads replacing the existing congested roads. All you are doing is delaying the project so it will cost more money without changing anything except making everyone sit in traffic until it is built, causing more air pollution.

  4. Toll roads generate revenue for the city, county, and state. If the toll road goes away they will generate revenue in some other way, oh I don’t know, like maybe raising your taxes. At least this way you have a choice.

  5. The 183a tollway in Austin is nothing more than a scheme to bill it’s users as much as possible. They refuse cash payments unlike every other toll road I’ve used. They send bills every two weeks but don’t carry over previous balances creating a pile of paperwork. If you go to thier office on Airport drive in Austin to pay them in person you must have exact change for each bill. The toll billing program was designed for failure and to accure as many penalities. If you bypass the toll and drive old 183 then you expose yourself to the “Preditor Police agencies of Cedar Park & Leander. Exploted either way. Federal Funds were used in the contruction of this highway and should have been regulated with consumer protection in mind. Our sell-out politicans that created this scheme should be thrown under the bus. I recall when this tollway was proposed a private citizen (unknown) spent over a million dollars campaining against these policies. Don’t know his name but we should figure out and thank him for his efforts. Oliver

  6. I traveled with my family to the Cedar Park area and ended up on the 183A Toll Road. If you are unfamiliar like most tourist you have no idea how you need to pay for the toll as you exit. Unlike Houston you pay as you exit. You finally get a notice of toll violation in the mail and the charge ends up being $73.75. As a tourist traveling into the area I see the 183A toll as nothing more than a way for the city to charge outrageous penalties and prey on tourist as the travel through the area. I travel through Texas quite often and will never come back to the Cedar park area and will advise my friends about it as well.

  7. I don’t use 183 A toll road for the same reason, you can’t pay as you exit. Then if you move, by the time you get the toll violations notice in your new address, your charges are 70 dls or so, just for one time you drove that road. You got to be kidding me… 3,500% increase!! If any financial institution will charge you that kind of fees or interest rate, surely it will be sued. And what are we doing against Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority for this type of charges. Is 3,500% in fees even legal?

  8. Of course it discriminates. Thats what this is all about. Lets look at the new 183A toll road. Before they put this in you could drive straight out 183 to Lampasas. Now becuase all the roads and intersections have been reworked there are twice as many lights in the same distance and its no longer a straight shot. Your essentially forced to take the toll road or spend two hours trying to drive on the surface streets. It is absolutly outrageous and I think someone should file a class action lawsuit against MSB, Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority, and the Austin City Council who passed this. I did not vote for this foreign owned abomination and it needs to be converted to a “FREE” way. My TX Tag did not auto replenish when my bank discovered that my credit card was one of thousands compromised and had to issue me a new one. By the time I got my account updated to the new card number I had already incurred $1.39 in tolls. I travel for long periods and assumed once I replenished my card that any outstanding tolls would be billed from this acount. Not So! They purposfully do not settle from your account and my assumption resulted in an additional $15.00 in late charges on a $1.39 fee. Attempting to contact these people and get an explanation is futile. They are instruncted not to deal with you at all. This is a prime example of why public/private enterprises are oppresive. There is no recourse against these people other than a lawsuit which they know the average person will not pursue. They need to be held accountable. I will be the first to sign a class action lawsuit if someone should file this.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s