US 183 toll lanes could come with $500M-$600M price tag

Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority is proposing to add two toll lanes in both directions of US 183 from RM 620 to MoPac. The project would also involve maintaining the fourth general-purpose lane throughout the corridor.

Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority is proposing to add two toll lanes in both directions of US 183 from RM 620 to MoPac. The project would also involve maintaining the fourth general-purpose lane throughout the corridor.

Adding two toll lanes in both directions of US 183 between RM 620 and MoPac is likely to cost between $500 million and $600 million.

This figure is from early preliminary engineering and design estimates. Schematics showing the location of toll lanes and access points were presented at a March 10 open house event at Westwood High School for the 183 North Mobility Project. Behind the project is the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority, which is overseeing the MoPac express lane project, and the Texas Department of Transportation. The project on US 183 launched in August 2013.

Drivers would be able to enter or exit toll lanes on the north end at RM 620 or continue onto Toll 183A to Cedar Park. The mid-point access is near Duval Road, and the southern terminus is at MoPac, where drivers would have direct access to the MoPac express lanes currently under construction. Drivers could also exit or enter the US 183 toll lanes at Burnet Road.

The project also includes safety improvements, such as adding auxiliary lanes, which provide drivers with room to merge to or from main lanes and the frontage road.

This aspect of the project excites Northwest Austin resident Julie Reese, who said she commutes on US 183 from Anderson Mill Road to Manor. She said traffic bottlenecks near Duval Road. Mobility Authority plans call for adding an on-ramp auxiliary lane to the southbound lanes.

“That’s a confluence of a lot of traffic,” she said. “If they took out the exit ramp, it would be better.”

Since the last open house event in summer 2014, the Mobility Authority sifted through public feedback and incorporated several suggestions from the community, such as adding $5 million to fill in about 4 miles of gaps in sidewalks and add a shared-use path, said Rick L’Amie, director of communications for the Mobility Authority.

“There are just a lot of incomplete sidewalks,” he said. “People are just walking in the grass.”

Public input also led the Mobility Authority to propose extending the fourth general-purpose lane throughout the entire corridor to eliminate traffic having to merge in three lanes in part of the corridor.

Staff members studied the possibility of connecting the US 183 express lanes directly to the MoPac express lanes, L’Amie said. This will also make it feasible for Capital Metro to use the toll lanes on both US 183 and MoPac to connect Northwest Austin with downtown.

“We spaced the entrances and exits farther apart to make that work,” he said.

Cedar Park resident William Davis said he likely will not use the toll lanes on US 183 or MoPac but understands the importance of having the option to connect to both.

“I think that’s great. If you didn’t have that, the project is worthless,” he said. “I can see the need for [the direct connect].”

The Mobility Authority anticipates receiving environmental clearance in early 2016 and will host another open house in the fall.
By Amy Denney

Managing Editor, Austin metro

Amy has worked for Community Impact Newspaper since September 2010, serving as reporter and senior editor for the Northwest Austin edition as well as covering transportation in the Austin metro. She is now managing editor for the 10 publications in the Central Texas area from Georgetown to New Braunfels. She enjoys spending time with her husband, son and two cats.