A proposed Texas House bill is calling to stop several 183 North toll road projects until free access roads are constructed alongside the toll road in Cedar Park.
The bill, filed by Rep. Tony Dale (R-Cedar Park), was heard in the House Committee on Transportation Aug. 3. House Bill 361 follows a recent proposal from the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority to construct express toll lanes on 183 to bypass frequent traffic bottlenecks between SH 45, 183 North and Mopac, between The Arboretum and Lakeline Mall.
If the bill were to pass, several projects including the 183 North project and planned flyovers at Hwy. 290 Toll, Phase 3 of Toll 183A and SH 130 would be put on hold.
While the bill will not be on Gov. Greg Abbott’s list for the special session, it will likely be considered by the committee before the next Texas legislative session in 2019.
The bill is a result of when the CTRMA wrote to Dale to endorse and prioritize the 183 North express tollway project. Dale responded to the request with filing HB 361. Dale has a history of criticizing the accuracy of the toll TxTag service — he once joked on Twitter his skeet shooting was more accurate than TxTag.
In a letter sent to the CTRMA, Dale specifically mentioned the cost of the toll road space between Avery Ranch Blvd. and RM 1431, which does not have free access roads. TxTag users are subject to $1.49 and $1.97 for pay by mail at the Park Street bridge, the most expensive section of toll roads in the system. Dale said some of his constituents pay as much as $162 in tolls a month.
“I consistently hear complaints from my constituents that there are no free access lanes adjacent to 183A from Avery Ranch Blvd to RM 1431,” Dale said. “The toll on that segment is the highest priced toll on the CTRMA system... Too many constituents feel that CTRMA is taking advantage of them and overcharging this segment of road.”
Dale said many drivers try to avoid the often congested US 183 and high tolls on 183A by driving through neighborhoods. It’s another factor some people have complained about.
During the Transportation committee meeting, Rep. Larry Phillips said there are areas where there shouldn’t be toll roads.
“Even if you build these lanes, they’re not going to be enough to solve the problems you have in that area,” Phillips said. “We’re going to have to invest more money in the state for transportation.”
The Mobility Authority’s Executive Director Mike Heiligenstein gave testimony during the committee hearing as well. He said the roadway today is a culmination of effort from Williamson County, Cedar Park and Leander officials who came together to agree upon and plan the schematics with the understanding US 183 was the alternative to the faster toll road.
Constructing the access roads could cost $500 million that isn’t available, Heiligenstein said.
Heiligenstein said there were a variety of reasons why the Avery Ranch portion was left with no access road.
“This was the very first segment for the department from SH45 to about Avery Ranch road, and they handed the project to the RMA as its first project in the region,” He said. “It was a greenfield, we were a brand new agency, it was our first project with no backstop, we were going to the credit markets trying to make this work. At the very beginning it was touch and go. And it was a severe floodplain area near Brushy Creek.”
If passed, HB 361 would take effect in December. The Committee on Transportation said they would look into the issue more in the interim.