HCTRA Annual Report Shows Impact of COVID and Toll Diversions

This week we have a guest post from Houston Freeways author Oscar Slotboom. An excerpt appears below.

The Harris County Toll Road Authority fiscal year 2021 annual financial report recently became available on the HCTRA web site. HCTRA’s FY 2021, from 1-March-2020 to 28-Feb-21, coincided with the period of worst impact of COVID-19 and also included the February 2021 freeze, which closed most or all toll roads for several days. HCTRA waived tolls from March 24 to April 29, 2020, further depressing revenue. Since 10 months of HCTRA fiscal year are in the previous calendar year, I will report FY 2021 data as being for 2020 (and similarly for all other years).

No surprise, traffic and revenue were way down.

values in millions


(FY 2020)


(FY 2021)

Traffic Transactions$577$461-20.1%
Toll Revenue$855$551-35.5%
Total Revenue$901$563-37.4%
Income Before Transfers$463$157-66%
Transfers Out$137$545+298%
Change in Position$326-$388
Outstanding Bonds$2247$2618+16.5%
Liability, principal + interest$3162$3667+16%

Since HCTRA had a very strong financial position prior to COVID, it easily handled the financial setback. In fact, even with the reduced revenue, Harris County Commissioners Court proceeded with the huge $545 million diversion of funds out of HCTRA, shown above as the “Transfers Out” (more on that below).

We can expect a very strong rebound in traffic and revenue for 2021, probably getting within 5 or 10% of 2019. While no recent or monthly data is available for HCTRA, I’m a regular user of the Sam Houston Tollway and traffic is close to pre-pandemic levels.

Read the rest of this story on Houston Strategies.

Tory Gattis is a Founding Senior Fellow with the Urban Reform Institute (formerly Center for Opportunity Urbanism) and co-authored the original study with noted urbanist Joel Kotkin and others, creating a city philosophy around upward social mobility for all citizens as an alternative to the popular smart growth, new urbanism, and creative class movements. He is also an editor of the Houston Strategies blog.

Photo: Michael Barera via Wikimedia under CC 4.0 License.