Leaders from across Tarrant County broke ground Wednesday on the "360 South" toll road, which will stretch from just south of Interstate 20 to U.S. 287.
Mansfield Mayor David Cook spends a fair amount of time driving the roads in his city and he'll tell you quite bluntly that Texas 360 is not one of his favorites — especially during the morning and evening commutes.
"We often describe it as a parking lot," said Cook. "If you travel north in the mornings, you run into a parking lot. And if you travel south at night, it's a parking lot coming back into the city."
Texas 360 currently ends just south of Interstate 20 and splits into two frontage roads that have multiple traffic lights and slower speed limits. The area has become more prone to heavy congestion as South Arlington, South Grand Prairie and Mansfield continue to grow.
"I think it will give people a better driving experience to and from work," said Cook. "And certainly, it's going to give us a lot of economic development opportunities."
The 9.7-mile toll road will stretch from Green Oaks Boulevard to U.S. 287. Crews will build the new lanes in between the two frontage roads. They will start by creating two lanes in each direction, with the eventual goal of having four lanes in each direction.
The total cost of the project is $330 million, and the Texas Department of Transportation will pay for the project up front and oversee construction. The North Texas Tollway Authority will then operate the road and pay back the costs using the tolls.
"I think it's a waste of money," said Kristal Chance, who lives in Mansfield.
Chance works at a veterinary clinic near Texas 360 and East Broad Street. She, like many drivers, is not a fan of the word "toll."
"I have to take Highway 161 occasionally and it's a lot of money usually," said Chance. "So I'll avoid [the new toll road]."
The existing frontage roads will stay as they are, so drivers like Chance can continue to use them at no cost.
"I think that choice will be made by each resident individually," said Cook.
The mayor said he can understand and appreciate frustrations over adding more toll roads — but that funding for this project would still be 10-plus years out otherwise.
"Southeast Tarrant County was in a position where the only way we could provide transportation and meet the needs that we have here is this facility," said Cook.
Construction will begin in November and will start on the north end of the zone. The project is expected to be complete in late 2017.
In addition to building the toll lanes, crews will be constructing new overpasses and underpasses along the cross streets. Officials say that's where drivers will experience the heaviest delays during the construction period.