Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

Mopac to expand with addition of tollroad

Andreina Velazquez

A proposal was submitted last week to direct $200 million to an express lane project for Mopac Boulevard. that would add a toll lane to both sides of the loop.

Far West student commuters may be saying goodbye to sitting in traffic for hours on MoPac Boulevard.

Last week, the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority submitted a proposal to direct $200 million to a MoPac Boulevard express lane project. The roadway improvement project would add a toll lane to both sides of the loop stretching from downtown around Lady Bird Lake to Parmer Lane in north Austin. Once completed, emergency vehicles and Capital Metro Transit buses, including the Far West UT shuttle, will be able to travel through the new northbound and southbound toll roads at no cost. Other vehicles would be allowed to use the lanes if they pay the toll fee.

“Our goal is to get as many people from point A to point B without sitting in traffic all day,” said Capital Metro Communication Specialist Misty Whited.

Whited said the toll lanes would improve transit travel time for the Express shuttle and UT shuttle routes traveling on MoPac. Capital Metro has been involved in the proposal of the toll lanes and has various members on city traffic advisory boards to represent the public transit system.

MoPac ranks 39 on the Texas Department of Transportation’s list of 100 most congested roadway segments in Texas causing more than 1,700,000 annual hours of delay, according to TxDOT’s website.

UT bus driver David Learned has driven a shuttle on the Far West route for 12 years and said the toll lanes would be beneficial for students.

“It gets pretty dicey out there during traffic hour,” he said. “It would be great for the kids so they don’t have to wait an hour in traffic to get to their home only six miles away.”

Learned said he was weary of the increased traffic construction would create despite claims from officials that it would be minimal.

An average of 4,859 students rode the Far West shuttle daily during the 2011 fall semester, according to Capital Metro figures.

Economics senior Martha Parodi said she rides the Far West shuttle to and from campus three times a week. Parodi said at times she prefers to wait on campus for the rush hour to die down instead of waiting in traffic on the bus.

“It takes a long time to get back home once it hits five or six in the afternoon,” she said. “The toll lane is a good idea, but how much time would it really cut if cars can pay to get on the lane as well?”

The toll lane may require route changes for students because of limited access points. Steve Pustelnyk, Director of Communications for the Central Texas Regional Authority, said entry and exit ramps would be located at Parmer Lane, between FM 2222 and Far West Boulevard, and at Cesar Chavez Street in downtown Austin.

The current Far West shuttle route enters MoPac Boulevard at 35th street and would not allow access to the toll road once created. Whited said it’s too early to make any concrete changes, but routes would be modified or supplemented to travel to Cesar Chavez Street if needed.

TxDOT officials announced they have $2 billion to spend on road projects in Texas with an estimated $50 million going toward the MoPac project. The toll road construction could receive the $50 million because it meets TxDOT’s “shovel-ready” criteria for the allocation of any funds, Pustelnyk said.

TxDOT requires projects to be ready or nearly ready for construction because they must allocate their funds before a September federal deadline.

Financial loan details will need to be finalized before a May public hearing, followed by a final vote to approve the project on June 11. Pustelnyk said construction on the toll lanes would not begin until 2013 pending a final environmental clearance from the Federal Highway Administration that is expected to be obtained in August.

Printed on Friday, April 13, 2012 as: MoPac traffic may lessen with toll road

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Mopac to expand with addition of tollroad