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Transportation Planners Wary Of State Senate Toll Road Bill

By Jack Fink, CBS 11 News
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A North Texas traffic jam. (credit: CBSDFW.COM)

A North Texas traffic jam. (credit: CBSDFW.COM)

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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Under a new bill introduced in the State Senate this week, once toll roads are paid off, they would become free roads maintained by taxpayers.

It’s a move reminiscent to some North Texans, particularly those who watched the old Dallas-Fort Worth turnpike toll road turn into Interstate 30.

But instead of toll road users, taxpayers had to foot the $100 billion bill to expand the highway from Dallas to Fort Worth. And transportation planners point out there’s still no seamless interchange here with State Highway 360, something that would have likely been built if tolls were still collected.

Love them or hate them, but you can’t escape toll roads in North Texas.

“Don’t mind paying the toll fees because it’s convenient and they’re good roads,” said driver Dan Sustaire.

Other drivers feel the tolls are unfair; why should drivers continue to pay for a public service after its costs have been covered?

“I don’t think it’s fair that people are paying for the toll roads after they’ve been paid for,” said Rita Casarez, another driver.

But the area’s lead transportation planner, Michael Morris, says the state is running out of money to build new or expand existing roads. He says this bill  – SB 363, drafted by Senator Steve Ogden (R – Bryan) – would hurt this area’s efforts to pay for roads on its own.

“There’s not a lot of interest in raising taxes so it’ll be very detrimental to our region to not have a system where we’re able to use revenues for a project to build another project,” Morris said.

Morris uses State Highway 121 in Collin County as an example of a toll road that gave the region more than $3 billion to funnel into other road projects.

That money provided a down payment for expanding LBJ in Dallas, expanding Farm to Market Road 2499 in Grapevine, and the soon-to-be widened Central Expressway in McKinney.

It also helped fund intersection improvements around North Texas, as well as bike paths.

“I don’t necessarily disagree with that,” Sustaire said. “The funding’s got to come from somewhere.”

Back on I-30, Sustaire said he doesn’t like the fact there’s no seamless intersection, which means he has to stop at a light before getting onto the other road.

“It’s fairly inconvenient,” he said. “It slows down traffic.”

Transportation planners say as it stands right now, the missing interchange at I-30 and State Highway 360 may not be built for another 20 plus years.

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