The 360 Tollway has reached the home stretch, with the final crossover bridges expected to open in early 2018 and the main toll lanes to open in the spring.
It’s welcome news for motorists in Arlington, Mansfield and Grand Prairie, who have endured years of construction and waited decades for the main lanes to be built.
Construction began late in 2015. More than 55,000 vehicles per day currently travel the corridor. An estimated 174,000 vehicles per day are projected in 2030.
“This project will reduce congestion and improve mobility on the State Highway 360 corridor,” said Michael Peters, a Texas Department of Transportation spokesman. “This is a much-needed corridor for the area.”
The 9.7-mile tollway starts at Camp Wisdom Road and ends at the junction with U.S. 287.
The toll gantries will scan North Texas Tollway Authority tags and, for vehicles that don’t have tags, they will read license plates and send invoices through ZipCash.
Traveling the entire length of the corridor will cost $1.62 for two-axle vehicles with TollTags.
That’s about 16.7 cents per mile. The NTTA’s average price is 18.2 cents per mile, said agency spokesman Michael Rey.
The cost will be 50 percent higher, $2.44, for vehicles that use ZipCash to travel the length of the corridor.
The first toll gantry will be near New York Avenue in south Arlington. The second will be near Lone Star Road in south Mansfield. Other on-ramps will have their own toll gantries.
The frontage roads on either side will remain free, but drivers will have to stop at the traffic lights.
Some of the biggest traffic headaches have come from construction of the six crossover bridges and three overpasses for the highway. The final two bridges to be finished will be Camp Wisdom Road and Holland Road.
The eastbound lanes of Camp Wisdom Road, weather permitting, are scheduled to open Dec. 13, Peters said. Westbound traffic will continue to drive on the detour until the rest of the bridge opens in early 2018.
The bridge was one of the last to be built because of delays in getting utilities relocated. It also carries the heaviest traffic load.
Farther south, the Holland Road bridge will open in both directions in early 2018.
The three overpasses where the highway passes over New York Avenue, Lone Star Road and U.S. 287 will open when the main lanes open, Peters said.
Improvements on the intersections and crossover streets and bridges will continue into the summer, Peters said. All of the crossover streets will have so-called Texas turnarounds, which allow traffic to make a U-turn without going through a traffic light.
The junction at U.S. 287 also will be improved dramatically this spring. When completed, U.S. 287 will have two main lane bridges that bypass the 360 Tollway completely. Also as part of the project, the frontage roads and ramps for U.S. 287 will be improved.
It’s not a full interchange yet, though.
There are no plans to extend the tollway south past U.S. 287 at this time, Peters said.
Though the NTTA will officially call it the 360 Tollway, the highway will actually have two other names depending on which city you’re in.
Lawmakers lobbied for different names during the most recent legislative session before settling on a civil rights icon and longtime senator.
The Rosa Parks Memorial Parkway honors Rosa Parks, a Montgomery, Alabama, activist who famously refused to give up her seat on a bus. That stretches from Camp Wisdom Road south to Walnut Creek, the border of Mansfield and Arlington.
The Senator Chris Harris Memorial Highway honors Chris Harris, the Republican who served 28 years in the state senate and was instrumental in moving the 360 project to the forefront.
The project is on budget at $340 million. As part of a public-public partnership, TxDOT loaned NTTA approximately $300 million. Once complete, NTTA will own and operate the toll road and will use the revenue collected to repay the loan. The rest of the project was funded through a partnership between the cities and the North Central Texas Council of Governments.