June 17, 2004
Now how much would you pay for that?

Price tag to widen I-10 rises to $2.2 billion.

The costs of widening the chronically congested Katy Freeway are expected to reach $2.2 billion, more than 50 percent higher than the 2001 estimate, the Texas Department of Transportation said Wednesday.

TxDOT's initial estimate was $1.4 billion in March 2001. Last July, the Houston Chronicle put the likely cost at $1.7 billion, based on data provided by TxDOT, which did not vouch for that total.

Department spokeswoman Janelle Gbur said the increases should not be described as overruns because when the 2001 estimate was made, detailed design work had just begun. The estimates are also very likely to climb higher, she said.

For the record, $2.2 billion over 20 miles works out to $1736.11 per inch. And counting. Via Ginger, who has a few things to say about this herself.

UPDATE: Greg asks "Where's Steve Radack?" Good question.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on June 17, 2004 to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles | TrackBack

They need to just suck it up and do it already. That freeway has to be one of the most congested in TX right now. Of course, it's not as much fun to study traffic clogs as it is to study cost estimates. I'm just guessing here, but I bet the price tag doesn't drop any time soon.

Posted by: Alan W on June 17, 2004 2:50 PM

Yes, something needs to be done with that corridor, but we've got to stop defaulting to widening the freeway as the solution to congestion. It doesn't solve it. Need proof? Take a look at the design of this freeway.

One of the key features is toll lanes added to defray the costs. The only way toll lanes running parallel to the main lanes will have users is if they provide some advantage to the user. Since they are going on the exact same route, the only advantage they could offer a driver is less congestion and faster transit time. Initially the increased free lane capacity will improve congestion and the toll lanes will offer no advantage.

But once the growth in the Katy area takes off like the backers of this expansion know it will, the congestion will return and that toll lane to the left with relatively few cars will look mighty enticing. Eventually, all the lanes wil be at capacity again and that's what the toll authority is counting on.

At a presentation last year on the Katy freeway by TexDOT, I asked this one of the consultants about the issue of the toll road. He mentioned that the company backing the bond had looked at their modeling data and was confident the bond would be paid off by 2025. He also mentioned that one of the features they will use is a variable toll. In periods of low traffic the toll would be lower and as the congestion increased on the main lanes the toll would increase.

He blanched a little when I asked, "So you mean when someone is in an accident and ties up traffic, you're going to be able to collect a higher toll?"

"Uh, I guess you could look at it that way."

"And, aren't you counting on the free lanes reaching capacity in order to make the tool lanes appealing? If you are projecting that you have the bond paid for by 2025, then I'm guessing that would happen a few years before that, huh?"

He shifted a bit, grinned sheepishly and said, "I really can't comment on that. If you'll excuse me."

Posted by: Patrick on June 17, 2004 6:52 PM