AUSTIN (KXAN) - Transportation leaders announced plans Thursday to relieve congestion on State Highway 71 near Austin Bergstrom International Airport.
The $141 million plan was unveiled by officials with the Texas Department of Transportation, the Texas Transportation Commission, Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority and State Sen. Kirk Watson
The project will add tolled express lanes on SH 71 between US 183 and SH 130, but will maintain free access roads with traffic lights. Some $60 million upfront funding comes from revenues generated by tolls on SH 130. The rest will funded by the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority, to be repaid with SH 71 toll revenues.
"Using private dollars to fund a large portion of the construction gives us the opportunity to dramatically advance this project from a long term unfunded vision to reality," said Texas Transportation Commissioner Ted Haughton.
According to TxDOT, collectively, Central Texans sit in traffic for about 2,500 hours a day dealing with stop lights along SH 71 near the airport.
"Think of the time drivers will save every day having a much more efficient way to travel through this critical area," said TXDOT Executive Director, Phil Wilson.
The project announcement comes years sooner than officials previously expected.
"I'm thrilled that the state has chosen to prioritize this portion of SH 71, providing uninterrupted access between the airport and the eastern portion of our region," said Watson, D-Austin. "The funding we've secured means there will be no stoplights on SH 71 from MoPac to SH 130."
Watson and Wilson promised tolls would not be imposed on existing roads where traffic capacity improvements are not being made to existing infrastructure, such as SH 71 / US 290 to the west of I-35. However, revenues from the SH 71 toll road could be used for future toll road projects.
"As a result of this project, the Mobility Authority will have future surplus revenues for use in the region to help address other areas of congestion."
Construction for the SH 71 tollway project is expected to begin in 2014.
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