With LBJ East Ready for a Green Flag, State Transportation Officials Throw Up Stop Sign

AUSTIN — The much-anticipated $1.8 billion LBJ East freeway project was finally in a position to get the green light Thursday from the Texas Transportation Commission. But caution over how the massive project will be funded stalled it once again. Despite the urging of the regional transportation director, state and local elected officials and residents who are daily users of the freeway dubbed the No. 1 transportation priority in North Texas, none of the five state commissioners supported putting the 10.8-mile stretch of Interstate 635 between Central Expressway and Interstate 30 up for bids.Texas Department of Transportation officials had showed how the core of the project could be built first, and built with the $832 million currently available in the budget. But commissioners wanted a longer look at the full funding plan for the freeway that will go through Lake Highlands, Garland and Mesquite.TTC members did not commit to a specific timeline to bring LBJ East back for consideration."We know it's important. We know it's important to move on it," TTC chairman J. Bruce Bugg said during Thursday's meeting. "But $1 billion is the gap. It's not dotting I's and crossing T's."It was more frustration for North Texans who contributed two hours of testimony Thursday and have watched the project become the line in the sand on Texas' tollroad debate. The freeway had been removed from the state's 10-year plan by the TTC in December because it called for two tolled lanes in each direction.Last month, at the request of Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, tolls had been removed as a potential funding tool for building the freeway. With an agenda item that underscored that point, gaining the commission's approval to secure bids seemed a formality.  Continue reading...

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