Houston toll roads
Houston is America’s fourth-largest city. It’s a cosmopolitan destination, known for NASA’s Space Center, world-class dining, a renowned medical center, and serving as a hub for U.S. energy businesses. The city’s incredible diversity doesn’t detract from its Texan feel, though. You can easily find the rodeo, Texan music, or cowboy clothing out there. There is one more thing Houston is famous for – it has one of the most expensive toll roads in the US – the Fort Bend Parkway. In total, there are fifteen toll roads in the Houston area.
Toll roads in the Houston area
Here’s a look at the 15 toll roads in Houston:
The Westpark Tollway, also called Fort Bend Westpark Tollway, serves western Houston and Harris County, as well as Fort Bend County. Westpark Tollway runs parallel and to the south of FM 1093 in Harris County. It was the first fully electronic toll road in the country. There are no toll booths or toll collections. The speed limit is 105 km/h / 65 mph (like other toll roads in the Houston area).
Fort Bend Parkway & Extension
One of the most expensive toll roads in the US connects the Sienna Plantation development (located in eastern Fort Bend County) to US 90A (in southwestern Harris County). It has two lanes in each direction. The main interchanges are at State Highway 6, Sienna Parkway, and Lake Olympia Parkway. The speed limit is 65 mph (it drops to 60 mph inside Beltway 8). The extension project is now in progress, expected to be completed in the summer of 2023.
Grand Parkway: Fort Bend County
The official name of Grand Parkway is State Highway 99 (SH 99). It is a loop that opened in 1994 but still isn’t completed yet. When it is, it will probably be the longest beltway in the entire country and serve as the third loop around the Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land metropolitan area. Houston’s inner loop 610 is a freeway. The middle loop, Beltway 8, is also a toll road.
Hardy Toll Road
This toll road is situated in the Greater Houston area. It parallels Interstate 45, connecting Interstate 610 (near central Houston) to Interstate 45. The road is 21.6 miles long. In 2016, the road switched to all-electronic tolling.
Hardy Airport Connector
It is a tolled connection from the Hardy Toll Road described above to George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston. It doesn’t have express toll lanes and it offers consistent toll pricing.
Sam Houston Ship Channel
Sam Houston Ship Channel is part of the Harris County Toll Road Authority system. Formerly known as the Jesse H. Jones Memorial Bridge, was opened to traffic in May 1982 as the longest box girder span in the Western Hemisphere. The bridge carries four lanes. Since 2016, Sam Houston Ship Channel hasn’t accepted cash payments – the bridge now only accepts electronic payments through the Harris County toll road authority’s electronic toll system, EZ TAG.
Sam Houston Tollway
Sam Houston Tollway, also called Beltway 8, serves as an outer ring of the city connecting US 59 North, SH 225, Westpark Tollway, Katy Managed Lanes, and Tomball Tollway. An entirely cashless tollway requires either an EZ TAG or another interoperable Texas toll tag.
State Highway 242
SH 242, also known as College Park Drive, connects The Woodlands to Patton Village in southeast Texas. It was originally designated in 1936, however, the road was deleted in 1939. It was designated again nearly fifty years later. State Highway 242 is operated and owned by the Texas Department of Transportation. The major intersections are The Woodlands, Conroe, and Patton Village.
Tomball Tollway, part of State Highway 249 (or West Mount Houston Road or the Aggie Expressway or MCTRA 249, depending on its location) was first opened in 2015 as one of the road improvements in the high-growth SH 249 corridor in northwest Harris County. Phase 2 of the project was completed in 2019. It connects North Houston at Interstate 45 to the east of Navasota at State Highway 105.
Katy Freeway Managed Lanes – I-10 QuickRide and US 290
Managed lanes are highway lanes where operational strategies are managed in response to changing conditions. Katy Freeway is a freeway broken down into twelve main lanes (6 in each direction), 8 feeder lanes, and 6 managed lanes that carry mass transit vehicles during peak hours.
HOV lanes in the Houston area
On top of the toll roads we’ve explained above, there are also five HOV lanes (high-occupancy toll lanes available to high-occupancy vehicles) in the Houston area:
US 290 (Northwest Freeway)
US 59 North (Eastex Freeway)
US 59 South (Southwest Freeway)
I-45 North (North Freeway)
I-45 South (Gulf Freeway)
How much are toll roads in Houston?
The total cost you pay for using a toll road in Houston depends on the toll facility, toll payment (most toll roads are cashless and only use electronic payments), and vehicle axle count. All toll roads are equipped with an electronic toll collection system. If you don’t have a toll tag, you can also Pay by Plate. Getting a toll tag in Houston is easy, though. You can conveniently get it online on the HCTRA website or offline at the EZ TAG store. However, you will have to wait for the EZ TAG to come in the mail to you. Activation requires a prepaid toll deposit.
Fort Bend Parkway, Hardy Toll Road, and Tomball Tollway are the most expensive ones – $1.50 (EZ TAG payment). If you fail to pay a toll, you may be charged with a criminal misdemeanor for toll evasion.
How can I pay for toll roads in Houston without an EZ Pass?
If you are driving in Houston and do not have an EZ Pass or TxTag on your vehicle, you have options. If you’ve already driven on the toll roads, you will receive an invoice in the mail at the address the vehicle is registered at. You will pay a higher rate and face violations if you do not pay the toll bill on time.
If you are about to drive on a Houston toll road, you can pay using a toll road billing app such as Uproad. With Uproad, you simply need to download the app to your smartphone and register your vehicle. In Texas, activation is immediately available, so you can drive on toll roads as soon as you sign up for an account. Uproad covers the cost of your tolls and offers violation protection, as well as the ability to drive on other toll roads around the country.