LBJ Toll Lanes Expanding to the East

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The Dallas City Council's Transportation and Trinity River Corridor Committee was briefed early this afternoon about plans that should make travel on the LBJ Freeway east of Central Expressway just as exasperating as commuting on the western side.

Matthew Craig, an engineer for Halff Associates, the firm charged with shepherding the LBJ East project, updated the committee on his firm's plans for the stretch of the freeway between U.S. 75 and Interstate 30. The primary changes to the road include the conversion of current HOV lanes to mixed-use toll lanes and the creation of continuous frontage roads to match the western half of the LBJ work.

Craig said that the work on the HOV lanes will, eventually, alleviate some traffic issues.

"[Reconfiguring the HOV lanes] will double the amount of capacity for the HOV lanes," he said.

During the first phase of the project, the lanes will remain free for those with at least one passenger in their car. Those traveling alone will now be able to use the lanes as well, as long as they are willing to pay a toll at a rate established by the Texas Department of Transportation.

The project calls for the lanes to be rebuilt over time, beginning in 2015. Once they are finished, drivers carrying passengers will receive a 50 percent discount during rush hour, but pay the same price as single-occupancy vehicles at all other times.

Councilman Sheffie Kadane, a member of the committee, is concerned that by the time construction is finished the increased flow in the HOV lanes won't be enough.

"I know when we did Central Expressway, we were all so happy about it, and then when it was finished, it was outdated," he said.

Kadane was also concerned about the project's mechanism for verifying HOV drivers.

Stephen Endres, an engineer with TxDOT, told the committee that drivers wishing to use the lanes for free or at a discount would have to register their trip with the department at least 15 minutes before they hit the toll lanes and said that officers would monitor them periodically to ensure that those claiming HOV privileges weren't traveling alone.

Regardless of the plan's long-term merits, expect LBJ to be even more of a nightmare for the time being. The first part of the new plan won't be completed until early 2016, at the earliest.

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