Financing projects of this scale is never easy.
In the CAMPO 2040 plan, as well as previous versions of the plan, the Oak Hill Parkway project is designated as a toll road. Tolling is a creative financing mechanism that allows communities to bond transportation improvements and pay back the bonds and ongoing highway maintenance with user fees, or tolls. Tolling is similar to other fees for public uses such as entrance to swimming pools, emergency services, car registration, parking meters, air traffic service, entrance fees to local, state and national parks, and court fees.
It is important to note that the proposed design would be essentially the same if it was to be built non-tolled. If the project were to be a non-tolled facility, there would be a less than 1% decrease in the overall amount of concrete pavement required by Alternatives A and C. To change the project to a non-tolled facility, one entrance ramp and one exit ramp near McCarty Lane, and one entrance ramp and one exit ramp near Scenic Brook Drive would be reduced from 2 lanes to 1 lane. The rest of the project would remain as proposed.
We are often asked if a smaller project could address the congestion problems in Oak Hill. Unfortunately, the answer is no. Traffic demand on this corridor is just too high. The project team is designing a project that meets the traffic demand along the corridor today and best manages the traffic projections of tomorrow.
Can Oak Hill Parkway be funded by the new state funds made available through Prop 1 or recent legislation?
We’ve been asked a lot about some of the new transportation funding from the State of Texas and could it be used for the project. If it was a non-toll project, the Oak Hill Parkway Project could be partially funded through Proposition 1; however the money allocated for Proposition 1 is nowhere near enough to cover the cost of the total project. Learn more about Proposition 1 here. Proposition 7 funds, which were approved by voters in November 2015, are already planned to be allocated to improve I-35.
However, if other funding sources become available to fund construction and maintenance of the Oak Hill Parkway project, and the region prioritizes spending that money on the Oak Hill Parkway, it would not need to be tolled.
Currently, state and federal fuel taxes are the primary funding source for roads and bridges in Texas. However, this funding source has remained static since 1991, even though fuel costs have risen. Because this is an incremental revenue source, more fuel efficient vehicles are decreasing demand for fuel affecting revenue generation through the fuel tax. When you factor in the state’s significant population growth and demand on the roadway infrastructure, funding has not kept up with demand, and mobility is likely to continue to get worse.
Beyond the cost to construct new roadways is the need for funding to maintain and keep the roadway in good repair for years into the future. The cost of maintenance is rising, and TxDOT has no control over the costs of commodities (e.g. oil and steel) needed for road maintenance. Tolls collected on the Oak Hill Parkway project would be used to maintain the facility.
If the project is approved as a toll facility, at least the same number of taxpayer funded, non-tolled travel lanes that are available today would remain so in the future, in accordance with state laws. Drivers would have a choice whether or not to use the tolled or the improved and expanded non-tolled travel lanes.
Public transit and emergency response vehicles have non-tolled access which encourages ride sharing and improves emergency response times. Those looking to bypass traffic congestion have a choice to use the expressway, pay a toll, and bypass traffic signals. Learn more about tolling here.