Motorists can expect some major traffic relief in the Texas 183/Airport Freeway corridor from Euless to Dallas after the Texas Transportation Commission awarded an $847 million contract to rebuild the existing free lanes and add toll lanes.
And we’re talking about no small number of drivers. About 170,000 vehicles per day pass through the corridor, which runs from Euless through Irving to Dallas, including connections to the south entrance of Dallas/Fort Worth Airport, Texas 360 and Texas 161.
“We are absolutely thrilled,” said Mike Collins, planning and economic development director for Euless.
He said the project will not only alleviate traffic headaches for Northeast Tarrant County residents but also create new opportunities for businesses to sprout up along the highway. “We’re anxious to make contact with the contractor and get a better idea of what the project is going to entail.”
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But there are a couple of catches.
Motorists must endure nearly four more years of construction.
The work, which was awarded to a team of contractors known as Southgate Mobility Partners, is expected to begin in late 2014 or early 2015 and be completed in spring 2018.
Also, in Euless, several businesses along the highway — particularly those on the south side of the road — will likely lose some or all of their land to make way for the improvements.
For motorists, the new project will feel like a continuation of the North Tarrant Express — a $2.5 billion makeover of Loop 820 and Texas 121/183 in Northeast Tarrant County. That project, which is scheduled to be completed by the end of this year, tapers to an end between the Texas 121/183 split in Bedford and Farm Road 157/Industrial Boulevard in Euless.
SH 183 Managed Lanes
The new project, known as SH 183 Managed Lanes, will continue eastward where the North Tarrant Express leaves off. In all, SH 183 Managed Lanes will add about 20 more miles of improvements.
The plan calls for rebuilding existing main lanes, frontage roads and bridges and adding two toll lanes in each direction. The work zone will extend on Texas 183 east through Irving to the intersection with Loop 12, Texas 114 and Interstate 35E — all near the former Texas Stadium site.
“We are excited to see progress on the Airport Freeway and hope to provide Texas drivers with some much-needed traffic congestion relief,” said Joe Weber, Texas Department of Transportation executive director.
Once that project and the North Tarrant Express are complete, motorists can get on the so-called managed toll lanes on Interstate 35W near the U.S. 287 Decatur cutoff in far north Fort Worth and travel uninterrupted nearly 50 miles on toll lanes to the Garland-Richardson area northeast of Dallas.
But what’s still unclear is how much a motorist might pay in tolls on such a route.
The state Transportation Department will hold a public meeting in June in Fort Worth to discuss toll pricing, agency spokesman Tony Hartzel said. Details of the meeting are still being finalized.
The Regional Transportation Council set a policy many years ago limiting the price on managed toll lanes to no more than 75 cents per mile, although state officials have said privately they don’t expect motorists to pay anywhere near that under most circumstances.
But after the toll lanes have been open for a year, the operators can initiate what’s known as variable pricing, which means the cost of traveling on the lanes can vary based on congestion at any given moment.
So the precise cost of tolls will likely remain something of a mystery until the lanes open in the coming years and regional planners and toll operators observe how many people want to drive on them.
Former mayor credited
Euless officials who were concerned that their portion of Texas 183 wasn’t getting enough attention can also breathe a sigh of relief. The winning bid for SH 183 Managed Lanes includes improvements to frontage roads and bridges in Euless that weren’t necessarily expected in the proposals from Southgate Mobility Partners and two other finalists, Hartzel said.
“The proposal submitted includes rebuilding everything from 121 to Industrial and over to Main Street in Euless,” Hartzel said. “The proposal will bring out even more reconstruction than we anticipated.”
State Rep. Linda Harper-Brown, R-Irving, said the partnership, which allows the Transportation Department to turn over maintenance of the road for 25 years, is “a model for innovation in project delivery, leveraging public funds with private-sector resources.”
“The project will enhance safety, better connectivity, and encourage economic development from Dallas and Irving to Euless, and function as the gateway to the DFW International Airport,” she said.
In Euless, Collins credited former Mayor Mary Lib Saleh for more than two decades of work trying to get state officials to move forward with the Texas 183 expansion.
“Without her efforts, it simply wouldn’t have happened,” he said.
One of the city’s main roles now, he added, is to help any businesses affected by the project to move — hopefully within Euless.
Collins said it’s too early to say which businesses might be most affected. Maps unveiled during a federally required environmental study showed the Texas 183 expansion would likely require the purchase of property belonging to a large swath of businesses on the south side of Texas 183 between Industrial Boulevard and Main Street.
“There will be some businesses displaced,” Collins said. “We’re trying to put ourselves in a position of being a resource for them.”