Regional News

With Tolling Off the Table, TxDOT Eyes New Funding

DALLAS — With tolling options closed, the Texas Transportation Commission is considering funding sources for a $2.2 billion expansion of heavily traveled Interstate 35 to six lanes from San Antonio to the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

One major source of financing is expected to be the state’s $5 billion Proposition 12 bonds, authorized by voters in 2007.

Texas legislators this year approved the issuance of $2.85 billion of the general obligation bonds, but set aside $1 billion for the State Infrastructure Bank, from which the Texas Department of Transportation lends funds for local projects.

TxDOT, which is supervised by the Texas Transportation Commission, is also expected to use a large portion of the funds for rural projects throughout the state.

In its meeting last week, the TTC considered options for financing the project. Currently, only $278 million has been committed.

“Congestion on I-35 is a serious transportation problem that must be addressed,” according to Texas Transportation Commission member Ted Houghton.

“Our future efforts to identify potential solutions will be led by citizens, ensure that each community’s concerns are heard, and result in efforts to improve I-35 and other transportation assets that enhance safety and economic opportunity,” he said.

In considering the options, TxDOT has made it clear that tolling new lanes on I-35 is not on the table. Gov. Rick Perry’s plans to build a parallel ­tollway known as the Trans Texas Corridor is also officially dead, officials said.

TxDOT has submitted a “no action alternative” to the Federal Highway Administration after conducting an environmental impact study that included soliciting public opinion about the proposed corridor. Public sentiment was clearly against the project, according to officials.

“Today’s announcement shows that the process works. Citizens all along the I-35 corridor did their civic duty by participating in public meetings and hearings, and by voicing their concerns,” said TxDOT executive director Amadeo Saenz. “Now it’s our duty to respond to those concerns — by recommending the No Action Alternative for TTC-35.”

Although I-35 is already six lanes on a 100-mile stretch from San Antonio to Georgetown, just north of Austin, choke points remain between Waco and Hillsboro, where the highway splits into eastern and western routes. The divided highway is also four lanes in sections south of Waco.

In addition to connecting several of the state’s largest cities, I-35 handles the lion’s share of truck traffic from Mexico, known as NAFTA traffic for the North American Free Trade Agreement.

With 45% of Texas’ population living along the I-35 corridor, the interstate is ranked as one of the 100 most congested roadways in Texas.



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