While I have been and remain a persistent critic of the toll road regime in Texas, the MoPac Managed Lane is a vastly superior model for a toll road trend that I cannot stop.
In contrast to other TxDOT and CTRMA toll road projects in or planned for our region, the MoPac Managed Lane will:
- Not be owned in any way by a foreign entity;
- Be in an existing transportation corridor;
- Preserve all of the existing non-tolled capacity;
- Go through existing high population areas;
- Be designed to directly address a high-priority congestion area;
- Include free passage for bus rapid transit and registered vanpools;
- Preserve access to the MoPac rail line for future commuter rail service;
- Include long-awaited sound walls as well as improved sound-absorbent pavement and other amenities that raise the bar on the interface between highway and neighborhoods; and
- Provide free access at reliable travel speeds to public safety vehicles, improving emergency response times through the corridor.
The one characteristic that the MoPac Managed Lane does not possess is a commitment by the CTRMA to lock down any excess revenue generated by the managed lane to the improvement of existing and the implementation of future transit options for its users, such as Lone Star Rail.
While not perfect, this is a major step forward. The MoPac Managed Lane meets the spirit and the letter of the amended CAMPO Toll Road Covenants that I have worked hard to preserve.
The debate over whether or not we will have toll roads has passed. The debate over where, how and for what purpose we will have toll roads is very much alive. Managed lanes that include bus rapid transit and other high occupancy vehicles move more people on less pavement with predictable travel times. This is an improvement over what we currently have on MoPac and it represents a better model than the flat rate, transit-excluding toll road projects we currently have, or are planning, for our region.
For those policy wonks out there interested in reading more about managed lanes, I suggest this page on the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) website:
I also recommend this study commissioned by the FHWA which looks more closely at congestion pricing and managed lanes.