Cross section of the new HOV lanes on IH-10. Image courtesy of TxDOT.
Cross section of the new HOV lanes on IH-10. Image courtesy of TxDOT.

Plans to expand parts of U.S. 281 and Interstate 10 with high-occupancy vehicles lanes were approved by the Texas Transportation Commission at a meeting in Austin Thursday.

HOV lanes are restricted traffic lanes reserved for buses and private vehicles with more than one passenger. The Texas Department of Transportation plans to expand U.S. 281 between Loop 1604 and Borgfeld Drive to include two general purpose lanes and one HOV lane in each direction. IH-10 will receive one HOV lane and one general purpose lane in each direction between La Cantera Parkway and Ralph Fair Road.

Laura Lopez, public information officer for the Texas Department of Transportation-San Antonio District, said the U.S. 281 and IH-10 expansions will not affect funding for other projects.

“There is no funding that is being taken away from other projects that are already allocated for,” Lopez said.

Lopez said IH-10 will move forward with the $70 million already allocated through the Commission Discretionary.  U.S. 281 Segment 1 (between Loop 1604 and Stone Oak Parkway) is funded by various local, state and federal sources.

She said U.S. 281 Segment 2 (between Stone Oak Parkway and Borgfeld Drive) is anticipated to be funded with money that will be made available as a result of the last legislative session and recent federal legislation including Proposition 1, Proposition 7, Diversions and the FAST Act.

Prop. 7 will add up to $2.5 billion to the State Highway Fund per year beginning in 2018. Prop. 1 is predicted to contribute $1.1 billion in severance tax revenue this fiscal year with future annual amounts depending on crude oil prices. Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, signed into effect in December 2015, authorizes $305 billion between 2016 and 2020 for highways and other related things such as public transportation and motor vehicle safety.

The expansion of U.S. 281 will be constructed in two parts, with the portion of the highway between Loop 1604 and Stone Oak Parkway beginning in 2017 and the stretch between Stone Oak Parkway and Borgfeld Drive starting in 2019. Both segments are three year-long projects.

In addition to widening the highway, the approved improvements include bicycle and pedestrian facilities, necessary transition and auxiliary lanes and a direct connection to the new VIA Metropolitan Transit U.S. 281 Park & Ride at Stone Oak Parkway, set to begin construction in late 2016.

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Katie Walsh studies journalism and English at the University of Texas at Austin and will graduate in May 2017.