AUSTIN (KXAN) — Commuters who take U.S. 183 during rush hour often spend more time hitting the brake pedal then the gas.
That’s why on Tuesday the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority and the Texas Department of Transportation looked for input on how to improve the eight mile section of 183 between MoPac and SH 45.
Right now there are two options on the table: build a tolled express lane in each direction, or do nothing at all.
“If you’re driving on it free today you’re going to drive on it free tomorrow,” said Mario Espinoza, deputy director of the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority. “Therefore we’re not going to convert anything that is existing into a paid or tolled alternative, only the new lanes would be tolled.”
The tolled lane being proposed would be identical to the pricing structure of what is currently under construction on MoPac. It would be a variable toll, meaning the more cars on the toll road, the more it will cost drivers. The goal is to encourage fewer drivers to take the express lane so it does not get backed up.
“By charging people it’s an incentive and disincentive to having people on that lane,” said Espinoza, “so you can have a reliable travel time for folks as they travel 45, 50 miles per hour on the express lanes. (They) will pay to have that option to be on that lane.”
An open house was held Tuesday at Westwood High School. Those who could not attend can participate through a virtual open house.
“I haven’t seen everything, but what I have seen, it looks nice,” said Ben Holder, who drives that stretch of 183 each work day. “I would use them because I would rather get there quickly than sit in my car for an hour.”
Cat Kelly doesn’t think this proposal is the answer.
“Instead of just saying, ‘Oh, we’ll make these two skinny lanes that you pay for,’ why not just do a regular lane on each side and make it less congested? Kelly said. “I don’t really feel people are going to spend that much money, paying to get to work on time.”
Right now the CTRMA is in the middle of an environmental study which should be finished by 2016.
Once that is complete, a decision on road improvements and funding will be made. If it all moves forward, ground could be broken in 2018 for the new tolled lanes.