The 17-mile LBJ Express project, which is designed to ease congestion and reduce commute times along the LBJ Freeway in Dallas County, Texas, opened Sept. 9, three months ahead of schedule.
The $2.7 billion project involved adding three express lanes in each direction on the most congested portions of I-635 and two express lanes in each direction along I-35E, and upgrading the interstates’ free lanes, according to the project’s website. After an introductory six-month period, during which the toll rates will be fixed, charges will range from 15 cents to 75 cents per mile, based on congestion levels and time of day.
The LBJ Infrastructure Group LLC (LBJIG) entered into a public-private partnership to design, build, finance, operate and maintain the project for 52 years. LBJIG, which will collect toll revenues, consists of Cintra US, Meridiam Infrastructure, and the Dallas Police and Fire Pension System. The consortium provided $2.21 billion in financing for the project, which is expected to cost $800 million to operate and maintain during the 52-year lease period, according to the project comprehensive development agreement. The P3 “enables taxpayers to leverage $490 million in public funds that were provided toward initial funding for the project to receive more than four times the value in infrastructure enhancements and traffic relief. … Without private developers, the five-year LBJ Express project would exceed the total amount budgeted for all of TxDOT’s North Texas transportation needs and likely would be delayed for years or never built at all,” the project websitenoted.
In a Sept. 9 editorial on the project, the Dallas Morning News called on state legislators to think twice about their insistence on ruling out the addition of toll roads in the proposed redesign of an eastern stretch of the freeway. “Tolls may not always be the perfect financing for roadways and highways may not solve every mobility need. But if tolling can help accelerate a project, and if drivers have a choice between pay and free lanes, lawmakers should not be so eager to rule out financing options. Just ask drivers zipping down the new pay lanes in North Dallas,” the newspaper said.