A new stretch of TEXpress toll lanes will open Saturday on I-35E. It’s the second segment of so-called managed lanes in the $2.7 billion LBJ Express Project.
Dia Kuykendall, the director of corporate affairs for LBJ Infrastructure Group, says the new, elevated segment will lift drivers over the chronically congested I-35E/I-635 interchange and set them down at I-35 and Loop 12. The return trip will quicken the commute from Loop 12 north to eastbound 635/LBJ. The grand opening price range is 65 cents to $1.65 for the 3.6-mile stretch.
“About a quarter of a mile before the entrance, you will see a large toll rate sign,” says Kuykendall. “And on that sign will be the price points to enter the TEXpress lanes. The price you see is the price you pay.”
Ann Lieber, an anti-toll road activist from Collin County, says opening new toll roads or lanes in segments is a sneaky way to get more from drivers’ wallets.
“It’s done incrementally so people will accept it,” Lieber says. “They’re conditioned to it. And I’m totally against it. I think it’s an outrage.”
Lieber believes the state legislature has dropped the ball on Texas transportation by not adequately funding it. And because of that, she says people are being taxed twice for roads and mobility – the gasoline tax that’s paid to the state, and tolls paid to escape chronic gridlock.
“I get very disheartened when I hear citizens say ‘oh, I don’t mind paying for convenience.’ Really? How much will you pay?”
Lieber doesn’t plan to rush out and try this new stretch of ‘managed’ or toll lanes. But, she admits that sometimes she grits her teeth and hits the entrance ramp to one of the region’s toll roads to get where she’s going.
Kuykendall says the first LBJ TEXpress lanes that opened a few months ago – between Greenville Avenue and Preston Road – have generally been a hit.
“It’s been received quite well,” she says. “Since the end of May, more than 522,000 TEXpress drivers have used, or taken advantage of Phase 1 of the TEXpress lanes.”
Kuykendall says when the whole 13-mile stretch between Loop 12 and Greenville is completed in 2016, drivers will really see the benefit of a guaranteed 50 miles an hour and flexible tolling system.
Early estimates put the cost of the 13-mile managed lane commute at a little more than $7.