Plans for expanding Texas 360 from south Arlington to Mansfield could take a giant step forward Thursday during a special meeting of the Regional Transportation Council.
A unique financial arrangement among the RTC, the Texas Department of Transportation and the North Texas Tollway Authority is all but done, but each agency must sign off on it before the end of the year.
The roadway, laid out as a major highway but served for years only by lanes meant to be frontage roads, has become a major traffic bottleneck. Rapid population gains in Arlington and Mansfield have sharply increased the number of vehicles taking the route.
It’s high time to move this project ahead.
The Transportation Department has become the primary facilitator for the expansion by offering a $300 million loan for construction.
In an October letter to Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley, Texas Transportation Commission Chairman Ted Houghton Jr. called the expansion a “priority project.”
“I feel strongly that we should move forward in solidifying a plan to bring much-needed relief to the region,” Houghton wrote.
NTTA would collect tolls on the expanded roadway and use them to repay the state loan over 35 years at 4.25 percent interest.
The agreement among the three agencies says the RTC will provide a financial backstop for those loan repayments. If toll revenue falls short, the RTC will make up the difference using its federal road funds.
The arrangement is less than perfect for drivers, most of whom would probably rather not have to pay tolls.
In addition, the Texas 360 tolls will be about 2 cents per mile higher than those on other North Texas toll roads, a bit more insurance that the state loan will be repaid as scheduled.
Current free lanes will still be available for people who won’t pay tolls.
For those willing to pay, the expanded road will be a blessing. Plans call for two new main lanes in each direction from East Sublett Road/West Camp Wisdom Road to Broad Street, with one lane in each direction from Broad Street to U.S. 287.
If all goes as planned, construction will start next year and be completed by 2017.