Reporter admits TxDOT tolling existing roads

Link to article here. Pro-tollers will declare until they’re blue in the face they’re NOT tolling existing roads, but we’ve got TxDOT ON CAMERA admitting what we drive on today on 281 WILL become a toll road. The NEW lanes will be frontage road and the only NON-TOLL option, which isn’t an option (since it’s not a highway). Now, the transportation reporter for the Statesman who has followed this issue VERY closely for several years, admits that, yes, TxDOT is TOLLING (hence DOUBLE TAXING) EXISTING FREEWAYS!

Different shades of ‘greenfield’ tollways
By Ben Wear
Austin American Statesman
September 11, 2006

With three Central Texas toll roads opening later this fall, and one more in the spring, it may be time to correct a misimpression about those roads. One that I inadvertently helped foster.

The common refrain from toll road supporters is that these roads are “greenfield” roads cutting through the “frontier,” thus rendering them “traditional” toll roads. Unlike those Phase II roads that everyone has been fighting about, which would overlay existing roads.

I’ve been guilty of using this formulation, mostly because it’s at least partly true. But that makes it partly wrong as well.

The tollways opening later this year are: Texas 45 North, an east-west road running from near Lakeline Mall to east of Round Rock; Texas 130, a north-south road running from north of Georgetown to U.S. 290 East (and eventually to south of the airport); and a Loop 1 extension, which will run from MoPac Boulevard’s current terminus at Parmer Lane and form a T with Texas 45 North.

The fourth tollway will be U.S. 183-A, a north-south road from near Lakeline Mall to north of Leander, due to open in March, or shortly thereafter.

Parts of all of these roads are brand new, cutting across farmland where there was no road before. In that sense, they are greenfield toll roads. But parts of all of them, in some cases large parts, overlay existing roads. Just like the proposed Phase II toll roads.

•Texas 45 North is the least green. At its west end, for about a mile, it will lay on top of RM 620. In the middle, it supplants FM 1325, and then for the rest of its eastern section takes the place of Louis Henna Boulevard.

Mind you, there will be free frontage roads where those old roads were before. But that’s what toll supporters have said about the Phase II roads as well, a caveat empty in critics’ view.

•The southerly two miles of the Loop 1 extension likewise fall on top of FM 1325, all the way to Merrilltown Drive. The former free route will still be there, but southbounders will have to make a couple of turns they didn’t have in the past.

•Texas 130 is mostly green, save for a short stretch overlaying FM 685. But when it is extended further south from Austin to Seguin, about 10 miles will be right on top of U.S. 183.

•U.S. 183-A will be mostly a new road, with only its southmost mile or so overlaying what used to be U.S. 183.

Now, this doesn’t necessarily make these roads bad in some way. And noting this won’t change anything, because they’re 80 percent or more done and will definitely be opening with toll charges on them.

But it does matter.

Some people have complained that after two proposed Phase II tollways in West and South Austin were shelved, only East Austin, with its greater concentration of black, brown and poor people, were getting stuck with all the toll roads on existing roads.

The truth of the matter is that far Northwest Austin, North Austin and Round Rock, all of them heavily populated with white, middle-class folks, are seeing miles of existing roads overlain with toll roads.

And they’re getting them first.

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