LBJ's TEXpress Lanes opened overnight Friday, and fears that their fluxuating toll rates would create some type of rift in the space-time continuum proved to be wildly overblown.
The first vehicle -- the guinea pig, if you will -- entered the newly completed corridor, which stretches from Preston Road to Greenville Avenue, at 12:05 a.m. Saturday. Three minutes later, it emerged on the other side, thus avoiding the accidental voyage to a distant galaxy and/or century that some had predicted.
Over the next hour, 332 additional drivers followed suit, each apparently aware they were being charged $.45 for the trip.
"They all came out I think just fine," said LBJ project spokesman Robert Hinkle.
So did the rest of the vehicles that used the TEXpress lanes over the weekend and during rush hour on Monday. Updated numbers weren't available as of noon, though traffic "hasn't been overwhelming."
Hinkle chalks that up to a lack of public awareness and the fact that, with only a quarter of the 13-mile LBJ Express project complete, the benefit for many commuters is small.
"What's going on right now, and what has been going on since the initial opening ... is that our traffic engineers ... are all watching the behavior on the lanes, especially this morning during the peak period." Drivers, he said are "pretty much taking it in stride."
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Already, planners have used their observations and early customer feedback to suggest minor tweaks to things like sign placement. They will continue to make changes as monitoring continues.
Not everyone is so sanguine about the TEXpress Lanes' debut. One woman who accidentally drove into the managed lanes emailed the LBJ Express project worrying that she would be publicly shamed as a toll scofflaw since she didn't have a TollTag. (She won't. Her bill will arrive at the address listed on her vehicle's registration.) And some have pointed to the surprisingly high first-hour traffic volume and speculated that maybe a rift has been created, and that some of the Saturday night traffic originated from another dimension.
That could prove harmless. Or it could open the door for a full-scale Dalek invasion. Like Hinkle said, traffic engineers are monitoring the situation closely.
Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.