Monday, December 27, 2004

"Father Time may need to exchange his scythe for a Toll Tag. "

Out with the old roads, in with the tolls

Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Copyright 2004

Father Time may need to exchange his scythe for a Toll Tag.

During the next 12 months, major decisions will be made about the construction of toll roads locally and statewide. Many of the roads will collect tolls electronically, meaning that motorists will need to install Toll Tag transponders on their windshields.

For several years, transportation officials have talked about expanding the use of toll roads to make up for perpetual shortfalls in highway funding.

Now the time is drawing near to break ground on some toll projects.

Here are highlights of projects Metroplex residents may hear about in 2005:

* Interstate 30: Special toll lanes are planned from Arlington to Dallas by 2007. The lanes would help football fans get to and from the planned Dallas Cowboys stadium in Arlington. Toll prices would vary according to traffic conditions. The project would extend as far west as Fielder Road.

*Trans Texas Corridor : Cintra Concesiones de Infraestructuras de Transporte of Madrid, Spain, has agreed to pay for a $6 billion toll road bypassing Interstate 35 from north of the Dallas-Fort Worth area to San Antonio in exchange for the right to collect tolls for 50 years.

The speed limit would be 85 mph, and trucks could carry 50 percent more cargo. It is expected to be under construction by 2007 and completed by 2015.

* Northeast Loop 820, Airport Freeway and Interstate 35W: Four consortia are competing to build toll express lanes in the median of these three roads, which make up the most congested corridor in Tarrant County.

The first phase would connect I-35W to Dallas/Fort Worth Airport.

Eventually, the lanes would stretch into north Dallas, creating a 27-mile corridor connecting I-35W to I-35E. Existing lanes would remain free.

The Texas Transportation Commission is expected to select a winning proposal in early 2005, possibly between February and April. Construction could begin in 2007.

* New laws: The Legislature convenes next month, and some lawmakers want to clamp down on the Texas Department of Transportation's ability to convert freeways into toll roads.

Copyright 2004 Star-Telegram, Inc.