NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) - For a lot of North Texans traveling on Interstate-635/LBJ Freeway equals construction and traffic jams, but engineers across the state are using the roadwork project as a model.
The LBJ Express involves building tolled, HOV lanes under the regular lanes of 635. Project developers say the end result will be a triple benefit. First - those who want to travel at a faster speed can...if they pay. Second – money generated from those tolls will be used for other projects and lastly, getting traffic off the main lanes of LBJ should improve the ability of others to get around.
"We need to have every tool we can in the toolbox. Whether it's HOV, whether it's HOT (high occupancy traffic), or whether it's light transit," Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) Executive Director Phil Wilson said. "Tolling often allows you to build a project two to three times faster than you could under official financing."
According to Wilson, there are some 1,200 people moving to Texas each day and cities across the state must do something to get traffic moving.
The LBJ Express Expansion is a 17-mile long construction project that will add lanes along the Interstate-35E and I-635 interchange.
Wilson said, for this project, the key was building upon what was already there. "Whenever you have the opportunity to take an existing footprint and expand it, and turn it into an HOV lane or a HOT lane, a high occupancy traffic lane, you get a combination of high occupancy vehicles or also managed toll lanes."
TxDOT officials claim that there isn't enough money available to build new roadways. "With gas tax proceeds not keeping track because fuel economy standards have gone up… that's your method of finance. When that's not sustainable long-term you have to find other methods to finance," Wilson said.
Upon completion the LBJ Express is supposed to eliminate traffic congestion for the more than 250,000 drivers who cruise Dallas' busiest freeway and perhaps also be a framework for other Texas construction projects. The reconstruction project comes at a cost of more than $2 billion.
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