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Disabled, decorated vets get a free pass on Texas toll roads

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Fares are going up in 2013 for everyone except veterans.

A Texas toll road outside of Houston. (Bill Jacobus/Flickr)

The Texas Department of Transportation is going the extra mile to honor decorated and disabled military veterans -- literally.

As the Dallas Morning News reported Thursday, Texas residents who have been disabled during military service, or decorated with a purple heart or congressional medal of honor, will be able to use several of the state's toll roads free of charge.

“We are able to celebrate our freedom each and every day due to the unwavering sacrifice of our military’s brave men and women, so making it a bit easier for them to move through our great state is the least we can do,” Phil Wilson, Executive Director of TxDOT, said in a press statement.

Governor Rick Perry praised the program. "In Texas," Perry said Thursday, "we understand and appreciate the sacrifices the men and women of our armed forces make in defense of our freedom, and we consider it an honor to support them."

The State of Texas runs toll highways in four metropolitan areas: Austin, Tyler, Laredo, and Houston. The fee waiver program will extend only to Loop 1, SH 45 North, SH 45 Southeast in Austin; SH 255 near Laredo; and 49 in Tyler. Houston toll road SH 99 will not included in the waiver program due to existing bondholder agreements.

Initially, the cost of the program was expected to be quite high. As the Austin-American Statesman reported Thursday, eligible veterans -- 7,360 of whom live in the area -- make up just .8 percent of toll traffic. As such, costs are expected to run less than $1 million per year.

For eligible veterans, benefits of the toll waiver will quickly multiply. On Jan. 1, 2013, the day the waiver goes into effect, toll rates are scheduled to rise 25-50 percent.

[The Dallas Morning News, The Austin-American Statesman]

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Claire Lambrecht

Contributing Writer

Claire Lambrecht has written for the New York Times, Slate, Salon, The Nation, and CBS MoneyWatch. Previously, she taught English as a Teach for America Corps Member and Fulbright English Teaching Assistant. She holds degrees from Cornell University, the University of Hawaii, and the Arthur M. Carter Journalism Institute at New York University. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure