Metroplex toll lanes will carry the name "TEXpress Lanes"

Posted Monday, Dec. 24, 2012  comments  Print Reprints

TEXpress Lanes

Winners of the TEXpress Lanes naming contest receives gas cards. Winners, who were selected at random from more than 3,200 entries, and the gas card amount:

Ken Lipshie, $2,500

Ashlee Harwell, $1,000

Richard Gomez, $500

Emma Banowetz, $100

Nick Bombardier, $100

Brett Hassel, $100

Howard Hyde, $100

Paula Larkin, $100

Kim Koskinen, $100

Janelle Mason, $100

Caleb Pool, $100

Samantha Tindell, $100

Vu Tran, $100

Source: NTE Mobility Partners

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Over the next several years, toll lanes will be opening on Dallas Fort Worth freeways, giving motorists the option of paying their way out of traffic jams.

While the lanes are under construction, transportation officials in the region decided they needed to come up with a name for the toll express lanes -- something that will be catchy enough for motorists to remember, and help North Texans understand how the lanes work.

The name they settled on was "TEXpress Lanes."

It's a name that motorists likely will see on highways across the region beginning late next year.

The name was selected earlier this month from among more than 3,200 entries in a contest sponsored by the developers of two key projects: the North Tarrant Express, which includes the addition of toll lanes on Loop 820 and Texas 121/183 in Northeast Tarrant County; and LBJ Express, which includes the addition of toll lanes on Interstate 635 in Dallas.

Of the 3,200-plus contest entries, 54 were a variation of the TEXpress Lanes theme, said Robert Hinkle, spokesman for NTE Mobility Partners, the firm building the North Tarrant Express project.

A new name was needed because the lanes soon will be a major part of North Texans' lives, said Hinkle. Transportation planners often call them "managed lanes," because in addition to carrying carpool and toll traffic they can be used to manage the flow of vehicles to and from major events such as the February 2011 Super Bowl in Arlington.

But regular motorists who learned about the managed lanes in focus groups found that term boring, he said.

"The whole term 'managed lanes' didn't make sense to them," Hinkle said.

'It's a branding effort'

TEXpress Lanes, by contrast, gives the lanes a Texas-style identity, and makes it clear to motorists that the lanes are meant for express - or pass-through -- traffic, he said.

Participants in the contest were randomly selected to receive gas cards, he said.

The actual selection of the TEXpress Lanes name was made by a panel of insiders that included chief executives with the North Tarrant Express and LBJ Express projects, the Texas Department of Transportation's Dallas and Fort Worth district engineers and an official from the North Central Texas Council of Governments.

The re-branding of the toll lanes comes as North Texas officials work through the complicated process of integrating the toll lanes -- which will be an option for drivers who will be able to choose between toll and toll-free lanes on the system -- and the two-decade-old high-occupancy vehicle lane system that operates mostly in Dallas.

The HOV lanes in the Dallas area are available to vehicles with two or more occupants, although the Regional Transportation Council is considering increasing that requirement to three or more occupants, possibly beginning in 2016. Some Dallas officials are dead-set against that proposal, saying they'll get too much push-back from voters who are accustomed to using the lanes for free.

Meanwhile, the state transportation department supported the naming contest and will use the names on toll lanes appearing on freeways throughout the North Texas region -- including the DFW Connector project, which involves the reconstruction of Texas 114/121 in Grapevine.

"It's a branding effort. We coordinated with them on the selection of the name," said Tony Hartzel, transportation department spokesman. "It's a good idea to have a recognizable name for the managed lanes because they're going to play an important role in our highway system."

Still working on sign details

State officials are still working on how to incorporate the new name into highway signs in the region.

Including the name TEXpress Lanes with some sort of logo is an option, but state officials -- like their counterparts across the United States -- are obligated to only use highway signs that conform to the federal government's Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices. That document is pretty strict about requiring states to use sign designs that can be understood by drivers from coast to coast, and generally frowns upon out-of-the-box thinking.

"We're still working on some of the details of exactly what kind of signage can be used," Hartzel said.

The TEXpress Lanes likely will make their debut in late 2013, said Andy Rittler, LBJ Express project spokesman. That's when the first new section of LBJ Freeway is scheduled to open.

In Grapevine, the DFW Connector project is on course to be completed by July. However, the toll lanes - or, TEXpress Lanes - on that project might not open for several months, possibly in late 2013, Hartzel said.

Then, over the next two-and-a-half years the TEXpress Lanes will open on the rest of LBJ, as well as Texas 114, Texas 121/183 and Northeast Loop 820 in Tarrant County.

The TEXpress Lanes also will be built on Interstate 35W north of downtown Fort Worth. That project is tentatively scheduled to begin in the spring, and be completed by 2018.

Gordon Dickson, 817-390-7796

Twitter: @gdickson

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