MoPac Express Lane opens after several years

After several years of construction and numerous delays, MoPac’s northbound Express Lane is finally open and just in time for the busy weekend.

With the Austin City Limits Music Festival in town and the University of Texas Longhorns football game happening Saturday, most commuters are expecting to be stuck in jammed packed gridlock.

Matt Smith, a North Austin resident who commutes, said traffic is a growing problem.

"It’s frustrating, annoying and a waste of time," said Smith.

Starting Saturday, drivers like Smith will be able to take a new route to help escape the gridlock, they’ll be able to travel on the MoPac Express Lane.

"It's about time. No matter what day it is I’m getting stuck in traffic,” said Smith.

Smith said he was interested in the project and read on Twitter that the lane was scheduled to open Saturday morning. “I tweeted the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority and next thing I know it someone’s reaching out to me and we are talking on the phone. It was fun they had us behind the barriers at 7:30 a.m. and I got to drive,” said Smith.

He was able to get behind the wheel and try out the 11-mile stretch of express lane. "Brand new roads are awesome right? I’ve actually been on it three times this morning already probably make it a fourth time on my way home," said Smith.                                                                      

That someone was communication’s director for Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority Steve Pustelnyk. Pustelnyk said he was happy to see people in the community reaching out.

He also said the lane should help alleviate traffic congestion. "With the opening of this lane, next week we would anticipate to see improved mobility and less congestion," said Pustelnyk.

The MoPac Express Lane stretches from Cesar Chavez Street downtown to Parmer in North Austin.

Drivers can also get on or off at RM 2222. The lane is meant to divert drivers when traffic is heavy.

"It's not something you use every day, you use it on those days where you have to be somewhere on time and you can't afford to be late," said Pustelnyk.

A fee is charged based on how many drivers are in the lane.

"The vast majority of the time the tolls will be very reasonable in the .25 to .50 range if you take an entire trip because the road is not congested that often. But during those peak hours Monday thru Friday morning and evening rush hour the tolls will be higher,” said Pustelnyk.

He said drivers can expect to pay between a $2.50 during peak congested rush hour traffic.

Pustelnyk said the first real test will come Monday morning.

"I’m looking forward to seeing how it helps traffic on Monday."

Smith said he’s also looking forward to seeing how the new lane will help reduce the traffic flow in Austin and get back on the Express Lane. "Traffic is miserable here in Austin and for myself I’m excited to see MoPac opening up and getting rid of some of that construction," said Smith.

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