DFW Connector Sounds Like A Lose – Lose For The Average Working Grapevine Resident

The cost of the the DFW Connector Project which will expand the 121/114 highways and other roadways in and around Grapevine will be a massive $1.05 billion.  That is billion with a capital B.  $250 million of this amount comes from federal stimulus dollars.  Who pays for this?  The answer is you, the United States tax payer.

Our tax dollars are finally being put to some good use.  That’s great news!  That is until we hear the details.  The expansion of the highway will be to add additional toll lanes.  The current number of lanes will remain free, but the expanded lanes will be tolls.  So if you are in a hurry, get out your checkbook.  You will be paying (again) for use of the newly created lanes.

And if it could not get any better, the rates are variable!  That is right.  The toll lane price can change based on the amount of traffic, time of day, time of the year, etc.  If you are trying to get through this area during rush hour, you can expect to pay more, in fact probably a lot more.  After all, who the heck would pay for a toll lane in the middle of the day when there are free lanes available?

In essence, the only times these additional lanes will be used at all will be during rush hour.  This sounds like another way to tax the people who work around here. 

I think we are being sold a Trojan horse here.  It sounds like an additional way to tax Grapevine residents.
Can we still send it back?

UPDATE (2/20/10):

Just want to clarify the point above about additional lanes being toll lanes.  We now have learned the intent of the DFW Connector Project is to have only two new toll lanes in each direction on the 121/114 connector. 

This still does not make it a good idea, but at least it is not all new lanes as toll lanes as we originally thought.

13 Comments

  1. just tell it like it is…. same old gov’ment rip off of people who actually have to work for a living.

  2. This is just another case of double taxation. When our tax dollars pays for a highway to be built, it shouldn’t become a toll road. This shouldn’t happen even in a temporary situation. Our elected officials should try finding ways to cut our taxes instead of ways to get more of our money.

    • And not only that, but you would think Grapevine which is becoming somewhat of a destination city is hurting itself. Toll lanes only give people more reason not to go somewhere.

  3. “The expansion of the highway will be to add additional toll lanes. The current number of lanes will remain free, but the expanded lanes will be tolls.”

    This is incorrect. From the DFW Connector web site:

    “How many general purpose lanes will there be when the project is complete?

    The number of general purpose lanes being added will vary from location to location, but as a general rule there will be:
    # Four to six general purpose lanes along SH 114 between SH 1709 and William D. Tate
    # Three to five northbound lanes and three southbound lanes along SH 121 near the merge with SH 114
    # Six to eight westbound lanes and six eastbound lanes along SH 114/SH 121 from the merge near William D. Tate to International Parkway
    # Four to seven northbound lanes and three to six southbound lanes along SH 121 between the north entrance to DFW Airport and I-635”

    A general purpose lane is another term for a free lane. In addition to those described, there will also be two “managed” (read: toll) lanes in either direction. “At its widest point, the highway will include 13 to 14 general purpose lanes plus two tolled managed lanes in each direction. The managed lanes will be located in the existing median on SH 114.”

    This can all be found at: http://www.dfwconnector.com/faq.php

    In addition, Mary, it’s easy to say that “[o]ur elected officials should try finding ways to cut our taxes instead of ways to get more of our money,” but you realize that refusal to raise taxes is what’s gotten us in this mess, right? The Texas gas tax hasn’t been increased since 1991. In addition, Texas voters have consistently refused to allow the Legislature to “pay as it goes” for other services we require, so they redirect portions of the gas tax. Because of both of these, what would you have done? We won’t pay for the roads we say we need, and we won’t pay for anything else, either.

    To predict your rebuttal, Texas receives back, on average since the Federal Highway Trust was enacted in 1956, 90% of all the gas tax revenue it sends to Washington DC. Last year, we received 107%, yet TxDOT still has insufficient funds for building and maintaining roads. So, knowing all of this, out of the relatively few public services Texas does offer, what would you cut?

    • Hi Kieth,

      Yes, you are correct. Only two of the additional lanes will be toll lanes. One of the original articles I read was unclear on this. When I spoke to the Dallas Morning News about my post I let them know that the one thing I regretted was that I did not clarify that only two of the additional lanes are tolls. I will go back and post a correction later today.

      Two more quick points. As a city I would think the leaders of Grapevine would be against adding any toll lanes. Toll lanes are only an obstacle for people to reach the city. It doesn’t matter if it is one toll lane or ten, it sends the wrong message.

      Point two, most people are pretty smart. They are going to avoid these additional toll lanes as much as possible. If that means not coming to Grapevine, or working from home instead of traveling through these lanes to get to work, or traveling in off-peak hours to avoid the tolls, I’m pretty sure people will figure out ways to get around them. And this point should not just be specific to the tolls being added in Grapevine. It should be a general statement about the idea of tolling. It’s a bad one. By adding tolls, you are only adding more incentive for people to drive less. It is pretty simple logic.

      I am very aware this an enormously complex issue. I do not have the ego to think I have all the answers. This is just a simple website about Grapevine, Texas.

      But tremendous thanks for your informative and well thought out post!

      Joe

      • I don’t have all the answers either, though my wife thinks I don’t have any of them. 😉 You’re right that it’s probably not smart for Grapevine’s leaders to be in favor of tolls, but given the current situation, I would imagine they’re in favor of anything that gets extra capacity through that area. A quick look at the Grapevine Funnel at rush hour, or pretty much any time plenty of people want to go to the mid-cities area, turns me off completely and I have to drive through there to get home from work.

        Of course, the argument can be made that getting people to drive less and use other forms of transit (the TRE?) is a good thing overall. I’m not saying that’s my argument, just that there’s another possibility. Then again, The Colony and Frisco (especially, Frisco, which has virtually no free road access on the south) seem to be doing OK, so maybe people just suck it up and pay.

        I’m against tolling. I was one of those people who was out protesting when SH121 went toll–back when I lived there–and that was a straight up theft of a taxpayer-funded road.

        Good luck. 🙂

  4. here’s an idea on some of the stuff that could be cut from the budget… how about all those useless traffic cameras, and those useless computerized traffic signs that tell us to “buckle up”… “click it or tickit” and that we are in the middle of a traffic jam… who voted for those? and while you are at it, cut all those folks watching out the cameras out in the bunkers somewhere… scrap the bunders.. we don’t need them either. We don’t need our tax dollars spent on any of that stuff… and who knows what else the Dept of Transportation spends money on….. it seems that it is easy for politicians to raise taxes and add tolls, but not so easy to cut budgets down to just the necessities.. cutting budgets takes intelligence and courage… our politicians just seem to only know how to spend and to find more ways to tax us to death…. as a matter of fact, we could probably do with a lot less politicians and bureaucrats..

  5. and, Keith, while your post was detailed, it did not address the fundamental issue of double taxation.. roads paid for via gasoline taxes and taxed again via the toll…. how many times must we be taxed???

    • If this road follows the same path that SH121 Toll did, the revenue from this road will be returned to the NTRTC for local road projects. For example, FM 423 through The Colony and Frisco is being widened and that project is paid for by SH121 Toll funds.

  6. I hope someone can answer this for me:

    With the “deisgn-build” fast track, was TXDOT able to avoid public hearings regarding tolling of the lanes?

    Where will the toll money go? What will it be used for?

    Who are the “local and state” leaders mentioned in the DMN article who approved this?

    • Hi Philip,

      All great questions. I think House Bill 3588 is the answer to most of your questions.

      It allows tolling on all new roadways in Texas that use private contractors for design and construction. It also appears to allow current highways to be converted to tollways if the “commision” approves it.

      The money is intended to support other regional transportation projects.

      The state leaders are the state house, senate, and govenor that approved this in 2003.

      I’ve added more here: http://www.grapevinetxonline.com/2010/03/dfw-connector-project-we-were-wrong/

      Thanks again for the great questions.

      Joe

  7. Thanks for the answers (and legwork)Joe! Sounds like aanother “gift” from our friends in Austin.

  8. Well it looks like I will be avoiding Grapevine altogether by taking 35W South to 183 West. That road is still free. I avoid toll roads on principle. So my shopping on the way home will not be including Grapevine businesses.

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