20 August 2008

More tolls in Texas?

Dallas Morning News - Toll lanes may get I-35E up to speed for Dallas, Denton

Disclaimer: I've only passed through Dallas a few times in the past.

So, I got extremely bored and decided that since nothing was blog-worthy here, I'd look around. So here, I'm taking in Texas. Go figure.

I've only traveled on a small stretch of IH 35E in the past, but from what little I saw, it's definitely not high on my personal "to clinch" list, mainly due to the traffic. It could use a bit of work. (Okay... Biggest understatement ever.) Widening would definitely help matters. They've even been planning to do it for 20 years now.

Problem is, right now, the price tag for it is a staggering $2.9 billion.

Other problem is, at the moment, only $535 million is set aside so far for it. That's just barely over 1/6th of the cost. So, they're considering making up the difference with tolls. Basically, a "design-build" project - employ a private contractor and possibly use private investments to cover the difference, then toll the stretch until the private investment is repaid.

Normally, Yours Truly is rabidly anti-toll, especially on existing roadways. However, it appears at the moment that only the new lanes would be tolled. New general-use lanes and frontage roads would be added, alongside the toll lanes. I'd almost consider this a recipe for disaster, but the plans seem solid enough for me to hold off on calling shenanigans on this thing.

Time's going to tell on this, of course. Nothing's been finalized yet. Right now, the story is mainly focusing on the hypothetical, on what a U.S. Rep, the Deputy Secretary of Transportation, and Texas DOT officials say needs to be done.

It does need to be done, though. Yes, it needs to be done as soon as possible. While there may be another way that hasn't been explored fully enough, using the design-build approach may end up being the only way. The price will only keep spiraling upward, and the freeway's not getting any less congested in the meantime.

So whatever they are going to do, they need to do it quickly.

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