New Texas Express Lanes Pricey but Popular

In a series of articles by Austin-based KXAN-TV, reporters examine the new MoPac Express Lane, now in full operation more than two years behind schedule. Despite significant construction setbacks, the congestion-priced lanes are well-used.
November 1, 2017, 7am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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"After four years of delays and setbacks, both the northbound and southbound express lanes are now open on the [the MoPac Express Lane]," reports KXAN staff on Oct. 28. The express lane operates in the median of Loop 1, but gets its name from the adjacent train line [see photo], formerly known as the Missouri Pacific (MoPac), now Union Pacific Railroad.

Drivers with TxTag, TollTag, or EZ-Tag will be billed electronically. Motorists without transponders will be billed by the operator of the roadway, the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority (CTRMA), an independent government agency created in 2002 to improve the transportation system in Williamson and Travis counties, via license plate photo capture, though the toll will be higher.

Brittany Glas reports on Oct. 27 on the problems some motorists are encountering with multiple toll lane operators in the Lone Star state who pay one bill and don't realize they may owe funds from other operators.

There are three toll road operators across the region: the Texas Department of Transportation [TxDOT], CTRMA and the SH 130 Concession.

With a TxTag in good standing, billing should go smoothly. It's the pay-by-mail feature that may confuse motorists who may not realize they may owe multiple bills depending on which roads they have driven.

The northbound MoPac Express Lane opened Oct. 7, and it's proven popular despite high tolls at certain times, reports Amanda Dugan on Oct. 26.

Since the full toll opened, it peaked the first Thursday, Oct. 12, with some people paying more than $8 for a trip from downtown to Parmer Lane. The average toll during the evening commute for a full trip in the express lane has stayed under $3. During the second full week of operations, the most expensive toll for the full trip was $6.50 on Tuesday, Oct. 17–that day tallied 15,396 total transactions.

Tolls are assigned per section, of which there are four on the two 11-mile express lanes.

In January, Gias reported on the problems that CH2M, the then-Colorado-based, global engineering firm that built the express lane, encountered, resulting in $20 million in fines from CTRMA. In August, the firm was purchased by Dallas-based Jacobs Engineering Group Inc. for $2.85 billion, reported The Denver Post.

In a feature report for the The Austin Chronicle in August, Braden Maccke describes the problems that CH2M has encountered since it bid $137 million for the project in 2012. By March, the company estimated cost overruns at $121.3 million in March.

The MoPac Express Lane is not a high-occupancy-toll (HOT) lane where carpools and clean air vehicles pay no tolls. With the exception of public transit vehicles, all vehicles must pay, just as they do on Maryland's express toll lanes.

Finally, for those who walk and bike, the MoPac Improvement Project included $5 million worth of proposed bicycle and pedestrian facility improvements consisting of 3 miles of 10’ wide/two-way shared use path and a new bridge over the railroad tracks.

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Published on Saturday, October 28, 2017 in KXAN
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