AUSTIN (KXAN) — While the MoPac Improvement Project is more than a year behind schedule, there appears to be light at the end of the toll road.
The Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority confirms to KXAN News the northbound toll lane from Ranch to Market 2222 to Parmer Lane will officially open at 8 a.m. Saturday, weather permitting. A KXAN employee saw crews removing the “express lane closed” signs Thursday evening.
For the past few weeks, ads have been running telling drivers about the new lanes and their intended use. The ad explains the express lanes are not meant for everyday use, rather they are meant for occasions when you can’t afford to be late.
The toll rate will fluctuate depending on the number of cars in the express lane. If there are more cars using the toll, the price goes up to encourage less people to use the tolls. If there aren’t many drivers in the toll lane, the price drops to encourage drivers to use the toll. Currently, officials are estimating the express lane could cost between $2-$3 per section, but there is no ceiling on how high toll rates could reach.
In December 2015, the company overseeing the project, CH2M, said the lanes would open in summer 2016. The contractor blamed underground cables, a soft work force and harder than expected rock. CH2M was slapped with a default notice from the CTRMA.
On Aug. 10, officials with the project said they expected the first half to open by Aug. 30 but that day came and went. CTRMA said construction crews had to spend time repaving certain areas that were uneven.
All toll lanes in both directions were supposed to be ready by the end of November, which is what CTRMA said at the beginning of the year, but it appears that won’t happen now until mid-2017.
All directions of the North MoPac toll lanes were originally scheduled for completion in September 2015.
Are more drivers buying TxTags to use on the new express lane?
The Texas Department of Transportation says it is hard to tell if more Central Texans are opening a TxTag account to in anticipation of using the new MoPac express lane, but the number of active accounts are up statewide.
By the end of July, there were an additional 14,605 active accounts from the month before. In August there was an additional 13,168 and in September there were an additional 11,837 active accounts.
They have been adding mailers to “pay by mail” bills, and using signs over Mopac to advertise the lower price of using the lane with a TxTag.
“I think I’m finally going to get some use out of it,” said Jesse Plaza pointing to the TxTag sticker on his windshield.
He recently reactivated his account that hasn’t been used in the last two years. Plaza hopes the express lane will get him up north faster.
“I have a feeling that it could be a situation where I get on the toll lane and it ends up just as backed up and then I’m sitting in rush hour traffic all the same,” said Plaza. “But now I have the pleasure of paying for it.”