According to the Austin American-Statesman, the two year, $200 million project to overhaul the MoPac Expressway kicks off in earnest tonight, when construction crews start to narrow the existing traffic lanes to make way for a fourth toll lane in each direction of the heavily trafficked highway. The daily paper has been calling the project “Mopacalypse.”
The lane narrowing will require temporary lane closures, most of which will only be permitted between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. The narrowed lanes will be followed shortly by the installation of concrete barriers on each side of the median to protect the workers as they set about construction.
After the dust settles, Mopac commuters will have access to new variable-rate toll lanes whose prices fluctuate in response to road demand. The goal is to keep traffic on those new toll lanes moving at a minimum of 45 mph using nothing more than economics.
The Mopac Expressway is the second busiest north-south highway in the Austin area after I-35.
The toll lanes are just one part of a larger push across state and local transportation agencies to find ways to break Austin’s often-gridlocked traffic.
The Austin area was ranked as having the 21st worst traffic in the western hemisphere, according to GPS maker TomTom.
A typical Austin motorist with a 30 minute commute will experience an estimated 83 hours of traffic delays over the course of a year, according to various studies. Motorists experienced about 34 minutes of delays per hour driven during the increasingly lengthy rush hour period.
Motorists on highways actually fare a bit better on congestion than those who choose to take local roads. Highway motorists experienced an average 17 percent more time in traffic over the last year, compared to 24 percent more time in traffic for those who toke local roads.
By: Michael Theis
Information courtesy of: Austin Business Journal