Toll road fees can be unpredictable in Texas. This driver prefers traffic over paying



Sometimes, Joanna St. Angelo opts to sit in bumper-to-bumper traffic on State Highway 114. Better that than pay to use a toll lane that still won’t help her avoid traffic.

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.

Over 30 years, St. Angelo, who is in her 60s, has amassed a lot of detailed information about her route to work in Dallas, from the location of speed traps to spots with bottlenecks to choke points where two highways merge and backed-up exit ramps cause sudden stops.

Depending on the day, there are few incentives to trade her slow but free drive on State Highway 114 east to Interstate 35E for a ride on an adjacent TEXpress lane, which could easily cost $22 to travel one way, she said. How does she know? She has been driving the same road from the tollway since before TEXpress opened in 2014.

“I’d rather just sit in traffic on 114 than pay five bucks, which is what it typically would cost in the morning.”

Since the tollway opened a decade ago, she has calculated and recalculated the cost of her drive from her home in Grapevine to the Sammons Center for the Arts in downtown Dallas, where she has worked as executive director for the last three decades.

To avoid getting stuck on the tollway and racking up charges, she takes mental notes in her car about the traffic patterns and the shifts in pricing of the toll lanes that are adjacent to the free lanes.

Watch: Veteran motorist says she’d rather sit in traffic than pay unpredictable tolls
Joanna St. Angelo explains why sometimes she’d rather sit in bumper-to-bumper traffic on State Highway 114 rather than pay to use the toll lanes.

“One leg of the tollway — one to three miles or less — could cost $4 to $6 or more. So it’s $6.81 for this leg. Now, it’s $14, it just changed. Plus 88 cents. But once you’re on it, you can’t get off it. And if you don’t have a toll tag, it’s $10. Man, you can have dinner for that amount.

“So it gets past O’Connor (Road), which is where the funnel stops being a funnel, and it’s about four minutes, so you get to save two minutes by spending $4 to $6, so I am not going to pay that for two minutes, especially if I see a truck get on in front of me because they just slow down and they don’t go the speed limit.”

One exit later: “There’s a huge amount of cross traffic right here because everybody is coming up for Mockingbird (Lane) and they’re trying to get on there. Then everyone on Regal Row is trying to come on. They’re all too late to get on it, so they don’t have a choice and so, yeah, it backs up a lot.”