Going From Freeway to Toll Road

Highway officials propose tolling segments of existing roads in Irving, Arlington

Parts of two roads North Texas drivers are used to driving for free could carry a fee in the future.

The North Texas Tollway Authority may ask state legislators to make an exception to a current law that prohibits tolls on existing free roads for a three-mile stretch of State Highway 161 and a two-mile stretch of State Highway 360.

Under an agreement with the NTTA, the Texas Department of Transportation has until 2018 to turn its four-lane stretch of Highway 161 between Beltline Road and State Highway 183 in Irving into six lanes.

The NTTA has offered to pay for all the road work if the state agrees to let it toll that section of the roadway.

NTTA spokeswoman Kim Jackson said there has been discussion about converting the stretch of road into a toll road since 2007 or 2008. She said the agency is proposing it as a way to improve safety, air quality and driver convenience.

The state stands to save about $74 million with the plan, but drivers say they stand to lose.

“We got too many roads we pay for already," Mary Thomas said. "We can barely afford the gas to drive our cars, let alone keep paying to drive somewhere."

The NTTA is also suggesting that a portion of Highway 360 in south Arlington from Interstate 20 to East Sublett Road be tolled. The highway currently ends in the south at East Sublett Road, with frontage roads continuing south to Mansfield.

The agency is already slated to extend Highway 360 south from East Sublett Road to U.S. 287.

But Gov. Rick Perry told the Dallas Morning News that he strongly opposes any plan to toll existing highways.

"They better find a way to get around me," he told the newspaper.

Jackson said there will be future discussions with the Regional Transportation Council before the NTTA moves forward with any deals, which legislators would have to approve.

The RTC has also not decided if it will support the proposal. The planning group's current policies do not allow for free highways to be changed into tollways, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported.

The Legislature reconvenes in January.

Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Dallas Morning News

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