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Managed Toll Lanes Get New Name; HOV Lanes Get New Rules

The new managed toll lanes that are part of highway improvements in North Texas now have a name. Those are the new toll lanes that charge different rates at different times. And existing HOV lanes also have some changes ahead.  

Going forward all managed toll lanes in the region will be called TEXpress Lanes. That includes the LBJ Express, North Tarrant Express, the DFW Connector and the I-35E project. TEXpress is the winner chosen from among 3200 entries in the “Name the Lanes” contest.

The new brand was announced at yesterday’s meeting of the Regional Transportation Council, where new policies for TEXpress toll lanes and HOV lanes were adopted.

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins led the charge that defeated one proposed change: that only cars with three or more occupants could use the current HOV lanes free.  Others would pay. Jenkins says that was a bad idea.

“I’m concerned about public policy that takes roads that are free for certain users and makes those users pay for them,” he says. “We’ve got enough toll roads and public-private partnerships already doing that.”

So, two in the car still equals a free HOV ride. But, starting sometime next year, single occupant vehicles can pay to drive on the existing HOV lanes. And there are more changes down the road. Eventually all HOV users will need a toll tag even if the ride if free. And commuters will have to register the number of occupants in a vehicle, probably using smartphones.  2016 is the target date for all the changes.

The new managed toll lanes will charge varying rates depending on congestion and time of day. The first one opens a year from now, December 2013 when Phase 1 of the LBJ Express opens between 75/Central and Preston Road.

Former KERA reporter BJ Austin spent more than 25 years in broadcast journalism, anchoring and reporting in Atlanta, New York, New Orleans and Dallas. Along the way, she covered Atlanta City Hall, the Georgia Legislature and the corruption trials of Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards.