71 Toll officially opens for drivers

The wind was a force to be dealt with on top of the newly-constructed 71 Toll overpass Tuesday morning.
But that didn't stop the ribbon from being cut.  Now the $139 million project is officially ready for drivers.
Texas Transportation Commission member Jeff Austin III says it was a great day for commuters.

"They're going to save a lot of time.  Especially coming into 35 or when they're going home from 35 coming out towards toll 130 without a stop light and that is huge," Austin said.

Construction on the 71 Express Project started in early 2015.  It's a 3.9 mile stretch from Presidential Blvd near ABIA to State Highway 130 near Onion Creek.

Two new toll lanes, one in each direction.  With a toll tag it's 87 cents for your everyday vehicle.

"That's less than a gallon of gas.  If I sit in traffic, that's incredible.  Great for the citizens of this region cutting their commute," Austin said.

According to data from TXDot and the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority, traffic in the project area has increased by 158% since 1990.

They expect the toll to reduce costs associated with driving in traffic from $15 million a year to just $10 million.

"Well it's just another part of the system to alleviate congestion in Central Texas.  It's the key to affordability and transportation in getting people from their jobs," said Ray Wilkerson, chairman of the CTRMA.

It's also a faster way to get to the airport according to the 71 Express Project.

"Passengers and customers, they have to take SH 71 in coming and going from the airport and so easier access and eliminating a lot of the lights will help them have a faster commute." said ABIA spokesperson Derick Hackett.

Hackett says the airport has 9 new gates coming in the next 2 years.

"In 2016 the airport set a record with 12.4 million passengers and so as we said the airport is growing, Central Texas is growing and the Austin area is growing and so I think this construction and the tollway are reflecting the Austin area," Hackett said.

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