TxDOT to build tollway on Hwy 71 near airport - MyFoxAustin.com | KTBC Fox 7 | News, Weather, Sports

TxDOT to build tollway on Hwy 71 near airport

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TxDOT is giving the green light for the hiring of a company to build a new expressway near the airport.

It's a fast track project that comes with a price - the road will be tolled.

Gridlock sets in here during the morning and afternoon rush hours. In about two years from now, you could see fewer brake lights because of the decision today, but it could also mean fewer dollars in your bank account.

At a cost of about $4 million HWY 71 between SH 130 and the airport was converted into what's called a superstreet. It opened just a few months ago. The unique design of bypassing turn-lanes for Farm Road 973 was generally understood to be only a band-aid.

"No it hasn't eased the traffic it's actually been kind of congested here lately," said Ken Martin.

Martin supports a more permanent solution but that support is conditional.

"Fix it don't toll it? Fix it don't toll it," said Martin.

Fixing the problem was on the agenda Thursday for State Highway Commissioners and tolling was part of the solution.

"I move approval- second. All in favor. Aye."

The commission authorized staff members to find a contractor.

The project involves building elevated toll lanes by 2016. They will run between Presidential Boulevard to just east of the SH 130 interchange.

The toll way will be managed by the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority. The frontage lanes which will remain free to drive on are to be maintained by TxDOT.

This new toll road will link into the expressway that already runs in front of ABIA and when it's all done you'll be able to go from here to the Y in Oak Hill without hitting a red light.

The estimated $140 million project was announced nearly a year ago after a creative financing plan came together. $59-million is coming from a payment made by the SH 130 concession company for the rights to operate a toll road south of Austin. A federal grant is providing $20 million and TxDOT is fronting $60-million. Some of the toll revenue will be used to pay back the agency.

The prospect of busting up a notorious spot for gridlock may be good news but the idea of another toll road going on line seems to be a bitter trade-off for Mark Davis.

"Toll doesn't stick well with me I know it doesn't stick well with folks in Bastrop. So that's my opinion really," said Davis.

Toll rates have not yet been set for the new two mile long expressway.

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