DALLAS (CBS11) – Ken Emanuelson says he’s pleased state transportation planners have tapped the brakes — for now — to include four toll lanes as part of the project to widen LBJ East between Central Expressway and I-30.
“I think that’s great news,” said Emanuelson.
On Thursday, the Texas Transportation Commission will meet in Austin to consider moving forward on the $1.8 billion project, which would include adding regular lanes, continuous service roads, and possibly a sound wall and an improve LBJ/I-30 interchange.
The Commission changed its plans about including the tolls on LBJ East and other highway projects across the state after Governor Greg Abbott and Lt. Governor Dan Patrick sent letters opposing the toll lanes.
Abbott and Patrick cited voter approval of giving the state extra sales tax money for roads, so tolls could be avoided.
Emanuelson, a member of the anti-toll group Texans Uniting For Reform and Freedom says, “This should be about putting pavement down that the people of Texas can use and particularly people that don’t have a million dollar trust fund to be paying all these tolls to go from point A to point B. We need to be emphasizing freeways.”
Susan Morgan lives a mile away from the LBJ Freeway in East Dallas, and says the plan to widen the freeway with toll lanes has been on the books for 15 years now. “I think it’s kind of unfortunate.”
She and others like her recently formed the group, LBJ Now.
They worry not including toll lanes will leave the project without enough money and delay full build-out.
Morgan says she backs toll lanes on LBJ East, like those on LBJ West, because they would generate $500 million for this and other projects, and give people a choice to get around more quickly. “It gives you a guaranteed arrival time. I’m in a lot of singing groups. You don’t get paid unless you’re on stage on-time.”
She, Dallas Councilman Lee Kleinman, and others are headed to Austin Thursday with the hope the Texas Transportation Commission will vote to authorize TxDOT to issue a request for qualifications for a firm to design, develop, build, and possibly maintain the project.
Kleinman says, “It’s important to move the project forward even though a component of the funding is in question.”
Despite opposition from the Governor and Lt. Governor, Kleinman says the Texas Transportation Commission could still decide to include toll lanes on the LBJ East project at a later date.
He says transportation planners at the Regional Transportation Council have already seen congestion ease on LBJ West. “During the rush hour, they’re seeing upwards of 50% higher speeds through that corridor than there were prior to the completion of the LBJ Express, and a major contributor to that is the tolled managed lanes.”
Planners say the managed toll lanes on a variety of North Texas highways have kept traffic moving despite the growing population and that the DFW area compares favorably to the congestion in Houston, San Antonio, and Austin.