Houston driver fights repeated overcharging from toll authority



In 2018, Brian Whittington, a 52-year-old retired technology account executive, went on the evening news to discuss the more than $100 worth of toll road overcharges he had received for using the Grand Parkway. Whittington, who pulled a Jet Ski trailer with his truck, was charged for more axles than he had.

Why This Story Matters
Millions of Texans rely on toll roads daily in a state that has built more paid thoroughfares over the past two decades than almost all U.S. states combined. The affordability, safety and management of these roads impact us all, especially as some leaders admit more are likely coming to handle substantial growth throughout the state and in North Texas.

After numerous attempts to reach the Harris County Toll Road Authority, only his television interview granted him a return call from the agency. His story aired on local news station KPRC Houston’s Channel 2.

“That was amazing,” he said. “I got a call back from a couple of people and they said, you know, we apologize for this and that. It’s not our equipment. We’re just the ones taking the money out … we can’t do anything about that equipment.”

Apparently, the Texas Department of Transportation was responsible for the electronic toll equipment on the Grand Parkway, but HCTRA was responsible for billing and collection of tolls, he learned.

Brian Whittington, with his Toyota Tundra pick-up he uses to tow a single axle trailer for...
Brian Whittington, with his Toyota Tundra pick-up he uses to tow a single axle trailer for his personal water craft, at one of the toll gates that over charged him on Highway 99, between the Clay Street and 529 exits in Katy, Texas. Whittington was being charged for four axles instead of the actual three. (Michael Wyke / Special Contributor)

Whittington received a $280 credit, but he didn’t get a refund, which made him mad.

After the issue was rectified, he said a team from HCTRA monitored his account for months — every time he used the tollway.

Everything was fine until last summer, when he was overcharged again. His truck with the Jet Ski is a single-axle trailer. But once more, he was charged for two axles instead of one.

It’s been several months now, and he’s been making calls to try to get the problem resolved, he said. “I haven’t gotten a call back yet.”

His solution now is to “avoid the toll roads like the plague.” But that likely won’t last long.

A new toll road is now being built next to his house in Katy on Grand Parkway between Westpark Tollway and Interstate 10, so he will have to pay to travel to work. The alternative is to sit through three or four traffic lights during rush hour, he said. He might try a feeder road.

“I do everything I can to avoid any toll road in Texas,” Whittington said. “But sometimes, you just can’t avoid it — at least now they’re making it that way.”