A tollway cost $2.6 billion to construct. How much of an impact is it making?

dfwnewsa | December 20, 2023 | 0 | Fort Worth , Fort Worth News

A tollway cost .6 billion to construct. How much of an impact is it making?

An autonomous truck leads a convoy down the North Tarrant Expressway in far north Fort Worth on June 20, 2023. According to 2020 data from the North Central Texas Council of Governments, 67% of nitrogen oxide emissions come from transportation. (Matthew Sgroi | Fort Worth Report)
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Bianca Weaver, a far north Fort Worth Starbucks manager, avoided the highway system near her store ever since the location opened earlier this year.

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Construction of the 18-mile North Tarrant Expressway had forced Weaver to take the long way around, criss-crossing through overpasses and navigating different exits.

“But the construction will definitely be a life-saver, and a lot less stressful,” Weaver said in a June interview with the Fort Worth Report.

The project lasted over three years, and cost $2.6 billion to complete. Now that it’s finished, nearby employees like Allison Andrews, who works for Starbucks’ neighbor Overlook Ranch Apartments, haven’t seen much of a change.

“Traffic is still the same to me, to be honest,” Andrews said, adding that she never takes the tollway. 

Her co-workers haven’t noted any major changes, she said.

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“I don’t think many of my co-workers use the express toll, either,” Andrews said. 

The Texas Department of Transportation and NTE Mobility Partners both note positive changes.

Congestion has slowed down and the flow of traffic works better than it did before, according to an NTE Mobility Partners statement. Heavy, large equipment has also been removed from the area.

​​The project “has greatly improved the infrastructure along the major north-south interstate and has facilitated the safer, faster, and more reliable movement of people, goods, and services,” the statement said.

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When construction began in 2020, this stretch of Interstate 35 West was called one of the most congested in all of Texas.

By June 2023, it had become the 32nd most congested roadway in the state, according to a Texas A&M University study on Texas’ most congested roadways. Nearly 300,000 vehicles drive that stretch of highway a day. 

Now, after construction, this same route has fallen to the 35th most congested roadway in Texas. NTE Texpress anticipates continued traffic growth in north Fort Worth. 

Officials added that for commuters driving on express lanes, it’s smooth sailing all the way to downtown Fort Worth from the Haslet area. They noted that luxury wasn’t available before.

And for commuters driving on free, general purpose lanes on I-35W, officials say the average speed during peak hours has increased from 40 mph to 70 mph.

TxDOT or NTE Mobility Partners would not disclose how many commuters use the tollway daily. The average cost of driving on the tollway during rush hour is $4.93, according to NTE Texpress. 

The project was the final leg of the decade-long I-35W expansion project and added 7.2 miles of fresh asphalt. 

Matthew Sgroi is a reporting fellow for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at matthew.sgroi@fortworthreport.org. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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