More tolls for Hwy 183 in Austin

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Transportation planners could add lanes to Highway 183
By Ashley Goudeau
February 18, 2014

AUSTIN -- Day and night, traffic on Highway 183 in Northwest Austin is thick.

"[It's] horrible on most days. Sundays [are] about the only day that traffic is light," said Sheryl Witschorke, who drives on the highway daily. 

Joshua Snipp agrees.

"I do a little bit of 183, a little bit of the side road. I get on until it starts to get bad, and then I get off the rest of the way," Snipp said.

Experts predict it's only going to get worse. According to the Texas Department of Transportation, every day an average of 187,000 people drive on Highway 183 near Braker Lane. With that much congestion, TxDOT officials say it creates delays for ambulances taking patients to Seton Northwest Hospital and other health care facilities.

The population along the 183 corridor is expected to increase by 71 percent over the next 20 years, and that's only going to make the traffic worse.

"So, what we're looking to do is potentially add an additional lane all the way from MoPac to State Highway 45 North," said TxDOT Spokesperson Kelli Reyna. 

TxDOT and the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority, along with various city and county offices, are now studying the environmental impacts of adding one lane in each direction. They haven't decided if it will be a toll lane, HOV lane or open to all, and that's where drivers come in.  

Tuesday night, the 183 North Mobility Project hosted its first open house to get feed back. 

"I'm really excited about the possibility of a managed lane, because then it could possibly tie in to the managed lane that we're doing on MoPac. And the ability to have a reliable commute when I needed it, I think, is really important," said Beth Ann Ray, Vice President of Regional Infrastructure for the Austin Chamber of Commerce and a daily Highway 183 driver.

"An HOV lane would be wonderful," said Witschorke. "Especially on the morning commute."

"I don't know about a toll, just because I know a lot of people, or at least people I've talked to, don't want to have to pay," said Snipp.

The Mobility Authority is also looking at less expensive strategies, including metered entrance ramps, or increasing alternatives such as carpools and bus transit.

Some people have asked if more than one lane can be added to help with future growth. The development team says it's feasible, but it would require them to get additional right-of-way or build a double deck.

Crews will spend the next year and a half getting feedback and plan to present a recommendation on what should be done at the end of 2016.

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