Tolling Hwy 183N loses support from key Lawmaker

Adding toll lanes to the middle of Hwy 183 between MoPac and SH 45 would accomplish two things; provide a continuous northwest Austin toll loop, and create a possible by-pass of two bottlenecks near the Arboretum.

Whitney Honeycutt who has a cookie store along the busy highway said she uses toll roads. But this cookie baker can only serve up conditional support for the new road plan.

"If it speeds up traffic, yes, I think that will be a good thing, but if it’s going to back it up more; I’m not so sure about it,” said Honeycutt.

The Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority, which manages four area toll projects, including the troubled MoPac expressway, wants to take on the 183 north project. But TX DOT reportedly has hit the brakes and is now considering other options.

A statement was sent to FOX 7 by TX DOT officials about the project.

“In March, the Texas Transportation Commission allocated $120 million in funding to add new general purpose lanes to US 183.  Local transportation agencies have proposed various agreements with TxDOT on this project.  TxDOT is currently reviewing terms and conditions for these potential agreements.  The process is moving forward.”

Another speed bump came in the form of a letter sent Monday to the CTRMA by state Rep.Tony Dale. The Cedar Park republican notified the authority would not support efforts to add toll lanes to Hwy183.

'If you look at the MoPac Project for example, its two years behind schedule, and over a $100 million over budget, and now they want to do the same thing to 183, and they are not going to add free access lanes up in the Cedar Park area. And they can't get their billing straight, this is not something that gives confidence to drivers and taxpayers that it’s a good idea,” said Representative Dale.

The last straw apparently was the latest billing glitch. A large number of TX Tag drivers started getting over charged. Jessica Creech, spoke to FOX7 last month about getting hit with a $19,000 bill.

"I am more than willing to pay what I owe, and that's what I have been doing for the last four years. I don't think it's fair for me to pay what I don't owe and that's the only resolution I want,” said Creech.

After being contacted by FOX7- TX DOT managers said they were working on the problem and promised to fix Creech's bill. But that has done little to restore Representative Dale's faith in the system.

"I think Texas went too far too fast, either the technology is not there, or the people that are managing the technology are not competent enough to do it properly," said Dale. 

Representative Dale, in his letter,  told the CTRMA that he could change his mind and support the toll road plan, but only if the mobility authority agrees to add free lanes to 183-A between Avery Ranch Road and 1431. He also wants toll bill collectors to do a better job with customer service. While he waits for that, Dale is offering his own toll relief plan.

This week he filed HB 361. The legislation mandates the construction of free lanes with all future toll road projects. State lawmakers may get a chance to vote on HB 361, a hearing has been scheduled for Thursday morning in the House Transportation Committee. A formal request to add the bill to the governor's Special Session call has also been made.