COLLIN COUNTY — The Texas Department of Transportation is floating a plan to turn North Central Expressway — one of the region's last free highways — into a partial toll road.
At Monday’s Plano City Council meeting, TxDOT pitched the idea of making motorists pay to use U.S. 75’s existing HOV lanes from LBJ Freeway in Richardson to McDermott Drive in Allen.
The goal is to encourage more people to use the HOV lanes, in hopes of easing congestion on a well-traveled highway that runs through some of our area’s fastest-growing cities.
Single riders from LBJ to Allen could pay the posted toll price to use the HOV lane for faster travel. Cars with two or more occupants would need to register for the week or 15 minutes before using those lanes to drive them for free.
The pay structure is identical to the one set up on the LBJ Express lanes, currently under construction on Interstate 635.
TxDOT said it would cost $11 million to turn Central Expressway's HOV lanes into toll lanes. If approved, they could open to traffic by early 2016.
“It’s a stop-gap," said Plano Mayor Harry LaRosiliere. "I think long-term if we’re really going to have a conversation the solution for transportation is going to be mass transportation and DART."
The mayor said the city is doing its own study to see if TxDOT’s plan is feasible and in the interest of citizens of Plano. But the sentiment in Richardson is quite evident, where the issue came up on Monday’s City Council meeting.
“No more access for us... loss of amenities... and likely more congestion because of enforcement,” said one council member Mark Solomon. “It just seems like the pain is not worth the gain. It just doesn’t seem like we’re going to gain that much." Richardson has long been fighting for entry and exit points for just the HOV lanes. The Plano mayor knows that tolls on Central expressway may be a polarizing topic among drivers.
“Whenever there is change, there is discomfort. The best thing we can do is minimize that discomfort and provide more info so people can be more comfortable about it,” LaRosiliere said.
TXDOT’s plan would ask single riders to pay the tolls and for actual high occupancy vehicles to register before they get use the HOV lanes. It's a plan that didn’t sit well with Richardson Council member Steve Mitchell.
“I think at the end of the day, people are not going to register,” he said.
A series of public comment meetings on the proposal have been scheduled beginning July 1 at Richardson City Hall.
- Click here to view TxDOT’s presentation to the Plano City Council.