The so called 'Super toll Initiative,' first unveiled by 1200 WOAI news in November, got the green light today from the Texas Department of Transportation.


  "We are looking at $825 million in projects," TxDOT Executive Director Phil Wilson said.  "This effort will have a huge impact on the San Antonio region."


  The plan will bring the first toll roads ever to Bexar County.  It involves building new toll lanes on Interstate 10 from Loop 1604 to Ralph Fair Road and on US 281 outside Loop 1604. 


  The plan also involves building additional non tolled lanes along Loop 1604 from Highway 151 to Culebra Road.


  Wilson said metro San Antonio's population will boom by an additional 1.4 million people by 2040, and unless new highways are built now, the gridlock will drastically harm the region's economic growth.


  "These projects will save citizens and businesses a substantial amount of time each year, and stimulate economic growth," Wilson said.


  He said the 'managed lanes' which will be built along 10 and 281 will allow the toll to rise and fall depending on the traffic volume.  During rush hours when traffic volumes are large, the toll can be raised by as much as 50 cents a mile.  During slack periods the toll can be lowered or even eliminated.


  The managed lanes will also allow Via Metro Transit busses and authorized and permitted car pools to take the lanes for free.


  Wilson says the funding for the project will come from sales tax money from the Advanced Transportation District sales tax approved by the voters in 2004, as well as from a $10 increase in the annual vehicle registration fee.  The additional funding will be loans from TxDOT which will be paid back from the revenue from toll collections.


  "As the seventh largest city in the United States, San Antonio continues to grow at a pace that is expected to see its population number more than 3 million people by 2040," Texas Transportation Commission Chairman Ted Houghton said.  "The collaborative infrastructure projects we are announcing today will help relieve congestion and keep San Antonio drivers and the region's economy moving in a way that improves business, enhances the quality of life and decreases the number of hours lost sitting in traffic."


 He says the projects will be done in one half of the ten to twelve year span usually allotted for construction projects of this magnitude.  He says groundbreaking on the first project, the US 281 project, could begin later this year.


  Mayor Julian Castro said as part of the deal, San Antonio, will resume performing maintenance on several local streets which are actually state highways or Farm to Market Roads, including Culebra, Grissom, Broadway, and Hausman Roads.


  This so called 'take back' agreement has been sought by TxDOT as a way to control their spiraling costs.