A proposal to add missing access roads along Toll 183A is gaining traction with one area elected official and the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority, which manages the toll road.
Toll 183A does not have access roads between RM 1431 and Avery Ranch Boulevard in Cedar Park. That has frustrated residents and at least one elected official.
“We’ve only got two highways that run through [District 136], and both are toll roads and they’re almost impossible to avoid,” state Rep. Tony Dale, R-Cedar Park, said.
Over the summer Dale filed a bill during the special session of the 85th Texas Legislature that sought to stall work on several planned toll roads in the Austin area until access roads were built. That bill failed to become law, but Dale said his proposal to add those access roads is moving forward.
“This is an important section of 183 that goes through Cedar Park that lacks access roads,” he said. “It’s a huge cost to drivers if they’re going downtown—especially with families with two cars. That could be a burden of thousands of dollars.”
Dale said he has had conversations with officials with the city of Cedar Park and the Texas Department of Transportation, which is considering building out the access roads. The next step would be to try to add the project to the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization’s long-range transportation plan so that it would qualify for funding.
“We have a conceptual design, and are getting consensus that we should move forward with [the project],” Dale said.
Future toll roads
TxDOT had considered funding a fourth nontolled lane on the US 183 North toll project that the Mobility Authority is planning. That project would add two tolled lanes in each direction on US 183 between Toll 183A and MoPac. The US 183 toll lanes would connect to the MoPac express toll lanes.
TxDOT had chipped in $120 million to fund the fourth nontolled lane to fix the lane imbalance in which the number of nontolled lanes switches between three and four.
However, in November Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick announced they do not support the agency using any propositions 1 and 7 funding for projects that a have a toll element. After that, TxDOT removed funding for that fourth nontolled lane.
Mobility Authority Executive Director Mike Heiligenstein said the US 183 North project is moving forward without the fourth nontolled lane.
“TxDOT thought they had adequately walled that off from being confused with tolling, so that piece is unknown,” he said. “We don’t need that piece to move forward.”
If TxDOT proceeds with funding any nontolled elements of toll projects, Dale said he would be concerned about TxDOT’s struggles with its toll billing system.
Complaints have risen over the past few years since TxDOT started a contract with Xerox to manage its toll billing system. Problems surfaced on overbilling, lack of notification and hefty fees levied on unpaid tolls.
“I don’t see why you would add one more lane of toll roads in Texas unless you get your billing fixed,” Dale said. “If you don’t have access roads in Cedar Park, I would have a hard time supporting toll roads.”
Extending Toll 183A
Heiligenstein confirmed that the agency is interested in completing those access roads but currently does not have the funding because it is planning to expand the tollway.
“We don’t have the option to build it out,” Heiligenstein said. “That would mean the end of 183A Phase 3.”
The agency is in the midst of designing the extension of the toll road from Hero Way in Leander to Hwy. 29 near Liberty Hill.
Very preliminary estimates of adding the access roads indicate it could cost about $90 million. Whether the Mobility Authority could take on that project also depends how adding the frontage roads would affect toll revenue, he said.
That means the agency would have to do a traffic and revenue study, he said. The project would also require coordination with both the cities of Cedar Park and Leander.
“If we have any kind of involvement with it we have to make sure … that we don’t jeopardize the revenue to the point where those original bonds are at risk,” Heiligenstein said.