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Accidents are an unfortunate common occurrence on all highways. The operator of North Tarrant Express and LBJ Express always strives to clear an accident as soon as possible, even beyond the contractual requirements of the Texas Department of Transportation. In those accident situations, when there are unusual delays in the non-tolled lanes, the TEXpress Lanes tolls may proactively increase to ensure a continuous flow of traffic. This is done to avoid sudden surges in traffic that could stop the continuous movement at the exits and block the lanes that users are paying for. However, depending on the circumstances and magnitude of the accident, the management team in the Traffic Control Center will assess each situation on a case-by-case basis to determine the safest way to proceed.
During the first six months following the opening of the North Tarrant Express project in October 2014, prices on the NTE TEXpress Lanes were fixed and did not make use of the real-time price increases and decreases. Rather, our pricing was scheduled higher during peak hours and lower during non-peak hours. This essentially simulated the demand-based tolling policies as we developed final pricing for the real-time, demand-based phase of our operations. After that six-month evaluation period, which occurred on April 2, 2015, new tolling policies were implemented in which the price changes based on a number of factors, including real-time congestion levels in each segment and/or the time of day.
Now that the NTE TEXpress Lanes have entered into the dynamic pricing phase, average toll prices may range from 15 cents to 35 cents per mile during lighter traffic, and 45 cents to 90 cents during rush hour. In the event that the average speed on the NTE TEXpress Lanes drops below 50 mph and starts to deteriorate, the toll rate will rise in order to maintain an average 50 mph trip in each segment of the corridor (the NTE TEXpress Lanes are comprised of two toll segments).
Applicable prices will depend on:
Traffic conditions as they change during the day (for instance, there will be higher toll rates during periods of higher congestion to maintain the 50 mph traffic speed)
The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) receives its funding from taxpayers, through taxes on gasoline and bond money that leverage those gas tax dollars. Over the past few years, gas tax revenue has decreased due to improved fuel efficiency in automobiles and motorists driving less frequently for a variety of reasons. The gas tax rate per gallon has not increased for nearly 20 years and does not fluctuate with the unpredictable price of gas.
The North Central Texas Council of Governments' Regional Transportation Council (RTC) determines the prioritization and funding of transportation projects in North Texas. In our growing North Texas region, transportation needs are significantly greater than the available gas-tax dollars. Simply put, the sole source of revenue to pay for transportation projects in Texas has decreased, while both the population and need for improved roadways have increased.
In response, RTC developed the region's managed toll lane policy. The region expects NTEMP to maintain a reliable level of service for motorists traveling at 50 mph. Because having fewer cars on the roadway improves mobility throughout the project corridor, the region also has developed a discount for mass transit and peak period carpoolers as an incentive.
Even with the addition of the new TEXpress Lanes, drivers will continue to have the choice to drive at no cost on the completely rebuilt main lanes and continuous frontage roads.
No. Tolling policies are set by the Regional Transportation Council (RTC), a standing committee of the North Central Texas Council of Governments. The managed lanes policy for the TEXpress Lanes currently in use by the RTC can be viewed here: North Texas Council Managed Lanes Policy.
Toll rates vary and are unique to the region where the roadway exists, but they are always capped by state and federal authorities. A clearly defined tolling regulation and toll setting is imperative, given the importance of revenue and traffic forecasting to the development of toll projects. (Texas Association of Business; "P3 Roadways; Public-Private Partnerships that Work")
NTE Mobility Partners (NTEMP) is required to increase the price of the tolls every 5 minutes when traffic reaches a maximum car-per-lane threshold or the speed drops below 50 miles per hour for a 15-minute period. NTEMP is charged a penalty under its Comprehensive Development Agreement with the Texas Department of Transportation for not meeting that performance requirement. Those penalties increase as the speed continues to drop.
As a private company, NTEMP has an interest in: 1) providing TEXpress Lanes that drivers want to use, and 2) providing that convenience at a price that drivers are willing to pay to avoid heavy traffic congestion.
The Base Toll Rate Cap is 90 cents a mile for every toll segment in each direction (the NTE TEXpress Lanes have two toll segments). This is adjusted each year by a percentage equal to the previous year's Consumer Price Index.
Congestion-management pricing for the NTE TEXpress Lanes was implemented on April 2, 2015, and tolls are now raised or lowered based on traffic demand and to keep traffic moving in accordance with a pre-defined mechanism approved by the Regional Transportation Council (RTC) and TxDOT.