Wednesday, March 21, 2007

"The Spanish firm hired to build and run the 121 toll road, plan to charge nearly double what it costs to use the Dallas North Tollway."

Frisco: Toll road raises questions

March 21, 2007

Copyright 2007

FRISCO — The City of Frisco is raising new questions about plans to turn State Highway 121 into a toll road.

Officials sent a 21-page letter to the engineering firm designing the road with a long list of concerns. And motorists should know that projected tolls on the highway will be much higher than drivers currently endure on the Dallas North Tollway.

Truck driver Demetrick Bagley travels on State Highway 121 several times a week.

"It's a pain," he said, "especially going down the service roads."

But Bagley said he may not have any choice but to use the slower, more congested frontage roads in the future if proposed tolls are implemented.

The Texas Department of Transportation and Cintra, the Spanish firm hired to build and run the 121 toll road, plan to charge nearly double what it costs to use the Dallas North Tollway.

The Tollway charges 10 cents a mile all the time.

The Highway 121 rate would be about 18 cents a mile during rush hour, and even more for trucks.

"The price is too high," Bagley said. "The price is too high for anybody."

"There's no doubt some people will drive on the frontage roads," acknowledged TxDOT spokesman Mark Ball, who added that the proposed tolls are essential.

"We have only enough money to just maintain the roads—not build new ones," he said.

One-third of the new 24-mile tollway passes through Frisco. City officials say their concerns include not only the projected cost to drivers, but also added congestion.

"It will basically be stop-and-go traffic," said City Manager George Purefoy. "If a lot of people can't afford to drive the roadway, then they'll be forced to get off, and all the trucks will be getting off."

Nevertheless, some drivers—including high school coach Jennifer Peele—say the daily commute on 121 now is such a grind, they're willing to consider paying higher prices.

"If the frontage roads aren't too packed, possibly," she said. "I think the toll road part—you just go straight through, and that would be a big, huge time saver."

Frisco's letter contains more than 125 specific questions about the 121 toll road, the frontage road and funding for the massive project.

The city says its questions must be answered or it may be forced to file a lawsuit to slow or stop construction.

Seven miles of the toll road are already open in Denton County between Coppell and The Colony. The highway remains under construction from The Colony to State Highway 75 in McKinney.


© 2007 The Associated Press:

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