Four new “TEXPress” toll lanes on the DFW Connector in Grapevine will open for the first time Tuesday morning. And at least for a couple of weeks, commuters can use them for free.
That’s because the Texas Transportation Department is still testing electronic toll collection equipment, the agency said last week.
Agency officials hope, however, that opening the toll lanes early will help ease North Texas traffic this weekend during the NCAA Final Four tournament at AT&T Stadium in Arlington and the Duck Commander 500 NASCAR race at Texas Motor Speedway.
James Bass, the agency’s interim executive director, said the department believes “this is the perfect time to open this new system for congestion management.”
The $1 billion DFW Connector project — a renovation of the 8-mile Texas 114/121 corridor in Grapevine — was completed ahead of schedule and opened late last year, but the toll lanes remained closed.
These lanes are on a 4-mile portion of Texas 114, just west of the intersection with Texas 26, to just east of International Parkway at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport.
These so-called TEXPress lanes — two westbound, two eastbound — are built into the existing highway to give drivers more options.
They also “add additional capacity to the highway to accommodate more traffic,” according to a Transportation Department fact sheet.
“This innovative corridor will provide a choice for commuters driving through this vital east-west route as well as reduce congestion and improve safety,” Bass said in a news release.
Department spokeswoman Lisa Walzl said the benefits of the extra lanes will be noticed by race fans from Dallas moving to and from TMS during the NASCAR event.
As for motorists headed south to the Final Four in Arlington, drivers in the toll lanes cannot exit the DFW Connector to hook onto Texas 360 to go to Arlington. But, Walzl said, more drivers using the toll lanes will make it easier for drivers in the regular lanes who can exit south onto Texas 360.
Once they take effect, tolls will vary depending on time of day and the size of vehicle.
The average two-axle vehicle, for example, will be charged $1 in both directions during the peak periods of 6:30-9 a.m. and 3-6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Outside those times, it will cost 67 cents for two-axle vehicles.
Peak-time costs will go up $1 per each additional axle. A three-axle truck costs $2, four axles is $3, five is $4, and six axles tops out at $5.
The toll fees will kick in later in the spring after officials complete their tests, Walzl said. But the exact date has not been set, she said..
“We will make an announcement when the tolls will take,” Walzl said. “We’ll make sure the public has good notice.”