Area residents who use the 183A toll road will likely see new tolls heading northbound to Liberty Hill and southbound into Austin in the coming years.
The Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority, operator of the 183A toll road, is looking to extend 183A for 6 miles to the north from the current end of the toll segment in Leander to just north of S.H. 29 in Liberty Hill. CTRMA also seeks to widen the existing U.S. 183 south of S.H. 45 near Lakeline Mall down to the Arboretum area in Northwest Austin, adding a pair of variable toll ‘express lanes’ along the 9-mile stretch, similar to those added to the MoPac expressway in Austin recently.
The Cedar Park City Council authorized a resolution in support of the two projects at its June 14 meeting. Council member Dorian Chavez was the lone no vote in passing the resolution, offering instead a motion to postpone the vote until CTRMA provided further assurances that toll-free access lanes would be allowed on 183A.
Assistant City Manager Sam Roberts provided some clarification on the issue of toll-free access lanes, telling the council that CTRMA would not itself construct any frontage roads and would not commit any money to the construction of frontage roads. All construction costs would be the responsibility of the Texas Department of Transportation and the various city and county governments.
The agency would have to approve access to connect frontage roads so drivers can use them to get on and off the toll road, an issue Council Member Heather Jefts said the agency has been slow to do.
City Manager Brenda Eivens responded that CTRMA has been slow to commit to allowing toll-free access lanes, but progress has been made in recent months.
Chavez still proposed waiting to authorize the resolution in support of the 183A mobility projects until CTRMA firmly committed to toll-free access lanes, but his motion failed and the resolution passed.
Like many Texas toll road operators, CTRMA has come under fire in recent years for its handling of toll penalties and for its collection practices. Unlike toll roads operated by the Texas Department of Transportation, however, CTRMA is not subject to a new law capping toll-related penalties and fees, and the agency has not acted to refund or forgive the estimated tens of millions of dollars of those fees critics say are unfairly levied.
Due to recent backlash against building more toll roads in the state, including a bill proposed by State Rep. Tony Dale of Cedar Park, CTRMA was scheduled to meet with state officials this week to seek authorization to proceed with the two 183A projects. The agency was seeking the resolution in support of the projects from Cedar Park prior to its meeting.
If the two projects proceed, construction could begin in 2020, take several years to build and cost more than $800 million. Cost overruns and delays are not uncommon with these type of roadway projects. The project to add variable toll express lanes to MoPac ran significantly past the anticipated construction timeline and the final construction cost was more than double the original estimate.
Also during last week’s council meeting, Cedar Park approved $130,000 for a study to assess transit needs. Nelson/Nygaard Consulting Inc. will undertake the study, seeking to examine the role of public transportation and the use of emerging technologies to efficiently move people in and throughout the city, according to city documents.
The Cedar Park council next meets on June 28.