MoPac express lane benefits will be many and lasting

If you’re one of the thousands of drivers who use MoPac every day, I hope you’ve noticed the difference north of Lady Bird Lake.

Such as an additional express lane giving commuters a choice for a more reliable means of getting to points between Parmer Lane and Cesar Chavez. A lane where CapMetro transit riders can travel in the express lane without paying a toll. Or the improved pavement, offering a smoother ride, noise mitigation and better water quality. And, as important, the improved travel times in the general purpose lanes.

The Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority (CTRMA) recently completed the new express lane and improved MoPac in a number of ways, and it’s now open for your use. We know we have landscaping and sound wall work left to do, but our priority after the long period of delay was to drive the contractor to completion.

Thank you for your patience and your tolerance during the construction. It’s been painful, I know, but the benefits to the commuter and this community are many and long lasting. MoPac has seen its last major overhaul.

The MoPac Improvement Project has maintained a high profile, for good reason. MoPac is a vital artery that connects Central Texans to Austin and points beyond. More than 180,000 cars and trucks drive on MoPac each day. The number will only increase.

Throughout construction, MoPac remained open to traffic.

It’s hard to build a road when people are driving on it, especially when it’s one of the most important roads in Central Texas. But it’s not as if we had any place else to move the traffic during construction.

Neighbors have put up with nighttime construction. Commuters have dealt with delays in traffic. And we at the CTRMA have not shied from discussing the struggles that impeded this project’s timely completion. But the region now has a high-quality, high-tech transportation asset, and we saved money on interest and pricing.

We also created an investment that prepares us for future regional transportation projects, and we’ve strengthened our local partnerships through the process.

Every time you, as one of those hundreds of thousands of daily drivers, use the MoPac Express Lane, you are investing in other mobility projects and improvements in our community.

In exchange for $130 million from the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, the CTRMA created an investment partnership with CAMPO so that a portion of the tolls will go toward new projects. CAMPO will share in the net revenues of the tolled express lanes – up to $230 million over 22 years that can be used for a wide variety of regional transportation endeavors. Improving mobility now sets us up for improved mobility in our future.

The express lane now represents more than a reliable transportation thoroughfare or shortened commute time, the lanes represent an example of collaboration and cooperation within this community. Transit riders can ride in the lane without paying a toll and emergency responders now have a reliable route. We knew from the beginning that improving MoPac would be a difficult process, but all of the players involved worked together to make it work.

Central Texas has changed dramatically over the past decade. We’ve long benefitted from an educated workforce and a high quality of life, but we’ve added increased diversity, both in industry and population, and a stable economic climate to our region. These are hallmarks of positive change.

As significant as our progress has been, we believe the future is even better. Our goal is to continue and improve the quality of life for Central Texans through mobility – from roadways, to green spaces, leveraging our existing infrastructure whenever possible. As opposed to just spreading more concrete for roadways, we need to see where we can implement high-tech approaches that make existing roadways smarter. Bigger may not always be better.

But as we’ve learned, with vision, teamwork, planning and patience, we will develop the mobility solutions that propel us forward, while keeping the community spirit that identifies us as Central Texans.

Thank you again, Central Texans, for your vision, support and patience, and for being a part of our mobility team.

Wilkerson is chairman and presiding officer of the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority.

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