Toll rates, congestion among concerns along Texas Highway 121

| 3/22/2007

City officials in the suburban area north of Dallas are questioning TxDOT about toll rates and congestion associated with a proposed extension of State Highway 121.

City Manager George Purefoy of Frisco, TX, wrote to the Texas Department of Transportation earlier this month questioning why truckers may be asked to pay 173 percent more for tolls on the proposed road than they do on other regional toll roads. HE also asked about possible congestion problems caused by drivers avoiding the toll road.

"(The rates) will not only drive the lower income drivers off of the toll road, but the large vehicles as well," Purefoy wrote in the letter.

The state Highway 121 extension has been proposed as a 26-mile toll road running through parts of Denton and Collin counties. The section through Frisco will be about eight miles long.

TxDOT has been negotiating with Cintra of Spain - one of the two principal investors in the Indiana Toll Road and Chicago Skyway - as the builder and operator for state Highway 121.

Cintra has agreed to pay $2.1 billion up front for the right to collect tolls on Highway 121 for 50 years - and that means setting a toll rate. Exact terms and rates have not been finalized.

Area tolls previously estimated by the North Texas Toll Authority at $1.10 for trucks using the cash lanes could become $3 tolls under Cintra's operation, Purefoy wrote.

Drivers using a TxTag, which requires a pre-paid account for tolls, could see tolls of $2.25 instead of an estimated 85 cents.

The Frisco City Council had previously withdrawn its support for a tolled extension of state Highway 121 after TxDOT set its sights on attracting private investors.

"There have been a large number of public comments made to the North Central Texas Council of Governments, the Texas Department of Transportation, and to private consultants overwhelmingly against the proposed SH 121 toll road project since 2004," Purefoy stated.