Managed Lanes to Save Time, But Cost Money

North Texas transportation leaders want drivers to become comfortable with managed express lanes that are arriving soon.

The first three-mile segment of the LBJ Express will open Dec. 14 on Interstate 635 between Greenville Avenue and Preston Road in Dallas.

The stretch is part of the larger project to add managed toll lanes in the middle of the freeway, some of which will be under ground.

"There is no bigger more complex project in the state or anywhere in the country than what's going on right outside here," said David Laney, LBJ Infrastructure Group chairman.

Drivers will pay a toll to use the express lanes with a promise of 50 mph travel speeds.

To maintain that speed, the toll will rise as congestion in the free lanes rises. Maximum tolls will be capped at about $1 for the first segment for the first six months.

"If you've got to catch a plane at the airport, then you may wish to have that choice," said Michael Morris, North Central Texas Council of Governments director of transportation.

The LBJ Express is just one of several projects under construction with managed lanes, including the North Tarrant Express and the DFW Connector.

Private investors help bankroll the projects up front in return for a share of the future toll revenue.

"It's our obligation to build a transportation system for when we have 10 million people in the region, and I think that's what you're looking at today," Morris said.

Some drivers are not pleased about paying tolls to travel on lanes of roadways that have been free in the past.

Keith Payne said he drives the LBJ Freeway four or five times per week.

"I don't like paying the toll, to be honest with you, but if it will increase the speed, certainly," he said. "I mean, that is the tradeoff."

Laney, a former member of the Texas Transportation Commission who now works with a private investment group financing the freeway reconstruction projects said the gas tax revenue that pays for roads does not keep up with congestion.

"Toll financing has become an absolutely essential part of this country's mobility solution for the future," he said.

The North Tarrant Express and LBJ Express projects will take several years to complete.

More managed lane projects are proposed for North Texas in the future.

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