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Battling convenience vs. price on Central Texas’ toll roads

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TWC News: Battling convenience vs. price on Central Texas’ toll roads
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It is a problem that nearly everyone in Austin has an opinion on -- traffic.

As the city continues to enjoy a boon in population, the infrastructure is straining to carry the load.

"This morning I left North Austin from my sister’s and had to come downtown and it has taken over an hour, an hour and a half, you have to plan so much better," driver Amy Smith said.

Some of the newest toll roads across the state offer an alternative. One of the newest toll roads is 183A, which is managed by the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority. Thursday, the highway’s speed limit increased to 75 miles an hour.

According to statistics from tollway managers, the toll booth on Park Street main plaza had over 18,500 vehicles pass through in 2007. Five years later, close to 40,000 vehicles used the highway, marking a 110 percent increase.

YNN's Traffic Anchor Joe Taylor says the toll roads could effectively pull traffic away from a congested downtown, but the challenge is getting people to use them.

"It comes down to one thing and that is money. It costs a lot of money in a lot of people's eyes to drive toll roads, but what's money without convince?" Taylor said.

YNN wanted to find out exactly how much time and money you save getting through Austin in the middle of rush hour.

Assignment Editor Develon Douglas took the traditional route down Interstate-35. Senior Producer Jean Schlitzkus took the 130 tollway. Both of them drove from Georgetown to Buda at 4 p.m., traveling the speed limit with a full tank of gas.

Jean covered 57 miles from Georgetown to Buda in 44 minutes. Develon traveled 42 miles in one hour and 42 minutes.

Between tolls and gas, Jean paid $12.44. Develon paid less than half that at $5.24.

A race that was far from close, and proves that congestion can be avoided, but like many things, it comes at a price.

"We have a lot of people that move through Austin, we have a lot of people that get off of work early some people that are just out and about for various reasons,” Taylor said. “That's why if you have the opportunity to use the road less traveled in this case that would be the toll roads would be to do it so you can avoid all the congestion and downtown."

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