Motorists annoyed by what they say is an unnecessarily low 50-mph speed limit on Chisholm Trail Parkway will likely have to tap the brakes for at least four or five more months.
North Texas Tollway Authority officials said the earliest they can raise the speed limit is likely to be May or June — and that would only occur if a formal speed study justifies the change and Fort Worth residents who live near the 28-mile toll road agree to it.
“There will be a thorough public process, and safety goes into it as well,” said Elizabeth Mow, the tollway authority’s assistant executive director of infrastructure.
Even so, the call to raise the speed limit is growing louder.
The Fort Worth City Council earlier this month voted to change its agreement with the tollway authority to allow for higher speeds. That’s the first step in a process that officials say could take four to five months.
You may take away a major revenue source for DPS.
Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price, joking about how raising the speed limit could reduce speeding tickets.
The next step is for the tollway authority board, which meets monthly in Plano, to vote in favor of amending its agreement with Fort Worth and conducting the speed study. The earliest the board likely would take that action is at its mid-February meeting.
If the tollway board approves, a speed study would then be conducted in March or April, Mow said. The study would measure how fast motorists are currently traveling on Chisholm Trail Parkway, and look at design elements to determine if it is technically able to support higher speeds.
The results of that study would then be discussed in public meetings involving neighborhoods near the tollway, to gauge support for any possible changes.
The Texas Department of Transportation, which was a partner in building the toll road, would be asked to sign off on the change as well.
History of the 50-mph limit
Before the Chisholm Trail Parkway was built, Fort Worth officials in the early 2000s negotiated a 50-mph speed limit on the road’s northernmost four miles from south of Arborlawn Drive to Interstate 30 at the request of neighborhood residents. The idea was that a lower speed limit would minimize noise pollution and help older neighborhoods preserve their quaintness.
50 mph The speed limit on Chisholm Trail Parkway from I-30 near downtown Fort Worth to south of Arborlawn Drive.
Tollway officials at the time agreed to the lower speed limit, but warned city officials that they would have to charge higher-than-normal tolls on the road — about four cents per mile more than roads in the Dallas area — to offset the projected loss of revenue caused by fewer motorists. The reasoning was that, with a lower speed limit, the road would be a less attractive option for many commuters because it would take longer for them to get where they were going, which in turn would lead to less traffic and less revenue for the tollway authority.
Now, nearly two years after the parkway opened, Fort Worth Councilman Jungus Jordan said he rarely gets complaints about the toll charges. Instead, most complaints he hears are about the low speed limit.
Many elected leaders including Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price have noted that both city police and the Texas Department of Public Safety enforce the speed limit heavily.
“You may take away a major revenue source for DPS,” Price quipped during a recent pre-council briefing in which the city staff discussed the steps needed to raise the limit.
The speed study will be conducted on the entire 28-mile road, Mow said.
The speed limit is 60 mph from south of Arborlawn Drive to Alta Mesa Boulevard, and 70 mph from Alta Mesa Boulevard to U.S. 67 in Cleburne. Those speed limits theoretically could change as well, depending upon the study results, she said.
Despite concerns about the speed limit, the parkway is enjoying popularity among Tarrant and Johnson County motorists, tollway authority figures show.
A total of 22.1 million transactions were processed on the road in fiscal year 2015 — more than 19 percent higher than what the tollway had projected.
A transaction can occur anytime a motorist drives under one of the many overhead electronic gantries on the road. The road has no toll booths, and motorists pay their tolls electronically. Nearly 74 percent of motorists pay using a TollTag sticker on their windshield.
Vehicles without a TollTag can still use the road, and a camera system is used to photograph their license plate so the registered owner can be sent a bill. For those users, the toll rates are higher.