MoPac express lanes a go with $130M agreement

In about five years, MoPac will have an express lane in each direction between Parmer Lane and Cesar Chavez Street, which drivers can take if they pay a toll that will range between 25 cents and about $4.

On June 11, the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization approved giving $130 million to the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority to fund the remaining cost of building the express lanes. Construction of the $200 million project is expected to start next year.

The $130 million is coming from a $136.6 million bundle the Texas Department of Transportation made available for shovel-ready projects in Central Texas. The board of CAMPO, composed of elected officials in the five-county Central Texas region, was charged with distributing that money, and said the express lanes were the only project in the region that fit TxDOT's criteria for use of the funds. CAMPO's other option was to lend the money to another metropolitan planning organization in a different part of the state.

'[The Mobility Authority] is not a foreign entity. This is not a lender lending money to some other unknown agency. These are local, regional partners working in improving transportation in Central Texas," said Will Conley, CAMPO chairman and Hays County commissioner.

In exchange for the money, CAMPO will reap about $100 million in interest over the course of the 25-year repayment period in addition to the $130 million—all of which will be generated by toll revenue. The money will be placed in a Regional Infrastructure Fund that CAMPO may use to fund other transportation projects, such as improvements to I-35.

"This agreement I don't enter into lightly," said Sarah Eckhardt, CAMPO vice chair and Travis County commissioner. "I do not favor funding major transportation projects through toll taxation. That said, because there is no increase in gas tax, because there is no conversation about an odometer tax, because there is no possibility of local gas tax or local funding mechanisms, I am left with nothing on the table but toll taxation, to which this board has no access to, except for the possibility of the creation of the Regional Infrastructure Fund."

The Mobility Authority will monitor use of the lane, and the toll rate will fluctuate by the minute depending on demand. At night, the rate may go as low as 25 cents. Electronic signs at the entrances and at the single exit/entrance at Far West Boulevard would alert drivers of the going price.

Some parts of the agreement are still being finalized, and more details about the repayment schedule were not immediately available.

Correction: This article has been updated from its original version to clarify the difference between a loan and the agreement between the agencies.



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