Tuesday, November 25, 2014

East HWY 183 into a six-lane Toll Road

This is the official website outlining the plan:

KXAN Report

East HWY 183 into a six-lane Toll Road

AUSTIN (KXAN) —  The Bergstrom Expressway is one step closer to breaking ground. The project would turn eight miles of U.S. Highway 183 from U.S. Highway 290 to State Highway 71 into a six-lane toll road with a free frontage road. Thursday night, new designs will be shown during an open house as a result of public feedback.

The project, which is a collaboration between the Texas Department of Transportation, and the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority, would create a highway similar to the Manor Expressway — otherwise known as 290 East. The cost is estimated at $680 million, which would come from investors and be paid back through tolls over a 30-year period.

Right now, the project is in the final stages of its environmental study, and if all goes well, they plan to break ground in August of next year. The first four miles would be completed in 2018 and the second half by 2020. Because of public feedback during the design phase, planners have added flyover connectors to SH 71, a bicycle path along the frontage road, and intersection improvements. Thursday night is another opportunity for the public to tell designers what this road should entail.
“We go above and beyond and ask for input on the aesthetics, look and the feel,” said Rick L’Amie, Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority communications director. “That’s not something we are required to do, but it’s important to get citizen input so we create a facility that people will like and use.”

At the Thursday meeting, longtime resident Jean Allen welcomes the expressway because she has a plan, “When its a crowded situation, a time situation, I’ll take the toll. If it’s off hours and time is not important I’ll drive for free.”

Once complete, the toll road would eliminate eight miles of stop-and-go lights, and the agencies view the roadway as a good alternative to cut around Interstate 35. But with SH 130 just to the east — and that being considered the cut around for the city — some question if the area needs another toll road. The executive director of the Mobility Authority said “yes,” because this corridor is closer, offers a more direct route, and when — or if — construction on I-35 to expand the roadway, this could be commuters’ best alternative.

“What happens when all of a sudden you have 71 to 290, nonstop, 70-mph option, you are going to induce a lot of demand off of 35 and the neighborhood streets that are there,” said Mike Heiligenstein, Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority executive director.