FORT WORTH — More than 125,000 cars and trucks pile on to Interstate 35W every day. It's more than the old highway can handle at rush hour.
But drivers might be given the choice of paying to avoid the congestion. The state could turn over a proposed widening project to a private company that collects tolls to cover the construction costs.
"Funding is crucial," explained Texas Department of Transportation spokeswoman Jodi Hodges. "It's basically a $2 billion project, and that's funds the state doesn't have readily available."
TxDOT will take its case to the Fort Worth City Council on Tuesday.
Next week, the agency will go to the Texas Transportation Commission to tout the benefits of tolling and its partnership with NTEMP, North Tarrant Express Mobility Partners.
The private company is scheduled to start work in the next few weeks on Loop 820 and Highways 183 and 121 through the northeast part of the county.
In exchange for the $2 billion renovation, NTEMP will manage toll lanes for the next 52 years.
"Managed lanes work a little bit differently," said Lara Kohl of Bluebonnet Contractors. "You are paying a toll. However, that toll fluctuates based on the amount of congestion in those lanes ... the more congestion on those lanes, the more it costs."
TxDOT says those same managed tolls are also part of the plan for I-35W, because the private company speeds up construction time and taxpayers only pick-up 25 percent of the price tag.
Even if it's approved, construction on I-35W won't get started before 2012 — so there's plenty of time for drivers to choose between sitting in traffic or paying a toll.