Area transportation leader pushes for more toll roads to relieve congestion

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Transportation leaders met in Washington, D.C., Monday to discuss the nation’s deteriorating roadways.

The Obama Administration is estimating it will cost $145 billion a year to repair all of the nation’s roads. In Central Texas, transportation officials are focused on population growth and trying to keep up with the number of people calling the region home.

About 40,000 new residents are moving to the Austin area each year, according to Mike Heiligenstein, executive director of the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority.

The rapid growth means the city not only needs to maintain the roads already in place, but must also be constructing new roads.

Heiligenstein was in Washington pushing members of Congress and officials in Texas to put more of an emphasis on tolling roads. He said adding toll lanes and constructing tolled roadways reduces congestion and pays for new infrastructure, citing the ongoing MoPac Improvement Project as one example.

He also said congestion in Central Texas is one of the biggest threats to economic well-being.

“People are reluctant to move across your region when they have to do so in congested traffic, being there for an hour, hour and a half,” Heiligenstein said. “It’s gotten to be quite an issue for us.”

As for complaints that the SH130 toll road is being under-utilized, Heiligenstein says the road was built in anticipation of a greater need and says it will be a very valuable tool as the region continues to grow.

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