Drivers entering or exiting the Sam Rayburn Tollway from or onto Interstate 35E in Lewisville will now have to pay a toll. The charges associated with taking the ramps and using the TEXpress lanes went into effect Friday.
The two ramps, one connecting southbound drivers from I-35E to Sam Rayburn Tollway and the other connecting drivers from the tollway to I-35E north toward Denton, will cost drivers with two-axle vehicles and a Toll Tag $1.16 to use. Ramp users without a Toll Tag with a two-axle vehicle will pay $1.74.
The prices increase up to $5.80 for six-axle vehicles with a Toll Tag and $8.70 for six-axle vehicles without a Toll Tag.
Drivers will not be charged to take ramps going to and coming from Dallas because those ramps opened more than a decade ago without tolls. By law, tolls cannot be placed on lanes that have already opened without tolls, said Tony Hartzel, spokesman for the Texas Department of Transportation.
The prices to use the ramps will remain the same for the first six months. After the six-month period, prices will fluctuate based on a supply and demand model — the more congested the ramps and TEXpress lanes are, the higher the toll charge will be.
Average rates after the evaluation period are estimated to range from 15 cents to 35 cents per mile during periods with low traffic volume and up to 45 cents to 75 cents per mile during peak or rush-hour times, according to the TEXpress website.
Hartzel said that in his experience on other toll lanes with similar price structures, the prices don’t fluctuate much.
“It is just market-driven,” Hartzel said. “Generally you're going to pay in the 50 cents per mile range during peak hours during congestion. It all just depends on the level of congestion.”
The two ramps cost $65 million to build. The ramps are part of the TEXpress project that includes an 18-mile stretch of managed toll lanes on I-35E, from near Swisher Road in Corinth to Interstate 635 in Dallas. The cost of the project is $285 million.
Hartzel said the need to charge tolls on the ramps and TEXpress lanes is a way to recoup the costs of construction.
“Federal funding has to be repaid to pay back that loan,” Hartzel said. “Tolls are being used to pay back that loan.”
The loan is a Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Investment Act loan. The TIFIA loan allots 35 years for repayment and will be repaid in May 2052, Hartzel said.
Drivers still have the option to avoid the toll ramps by choosing to take the frontage road exits instead and using those on ramps to the tollway.
“For these ramps and the TEXpress lanes, it's all about having a choice,” Hartzel said. “[The ramps] give motorists new options where they don't have to stop [on the frontage road at the traffic signals before getting onto the tollway]. What we found is in most cases, TEXpress lanes are not used every day by the same people. If you need to get somewhere more quickly one day, you can use them. These ramps can save motorists a few minutes a day and they're there for them.”
FEATURED PHOTO: Vehicles travel on the exit ramp from Sam Rayburn Tollway on Wednesday in Lewisville and reach an interchange for Interstate 35E, where drivers will be charged for the taking the on ramp to Denton. Drivers heading south to Dallas will not be charged.