Local Motion - August 2017

Campaign highlights how real people use TEXpress

North Texans have begun to see several new videos highlighting how drivers take advantage of TEXpress Lanes to avoid traffic snarls and get to their destinations on time. Along with social media, infographics and resources for community leaders and lawmakers, the videos are part of a multimedia campaign to educate the public about TEXpress Lanes. The videos feature the testimonies of real North Texans – young professionals, retired people, parents and grandparents – as they drive on TEXpress Lanes and discuss how the lanes give them more reliable commutes and visits to family members.
Transportation partners around the region are also spotlighting the testimonials and infographics across their social media platforms in an effort to widely distribute information to drivers about this new transportation option. Drivers decide when TEXpress is right for them, and TEXpress Lanes are only added to the most congested highways in North Texas, such as IH 635 or IH 820. Drivers seeking a reliable trip with a predictable travel experience simply pay a toll to access the lanes, which typically offer speeds of 50 mph or greater. TollTag users get a discounted rate, and carpoolers also receive lower rates when they register their trip through the Drive On TEXpress mobile app.
The lanes not only improve highway reliability by allowing users to skip the line, but they also lower the stress of commuting. TEXpress Lanes are separated from the general highway lanes to enhance roadway safety and efficiency, and with fewer entrance and exit ramps, merging and weaving are minimized. Electronic signs posted in advance of each ramp make the current toll rate clear to drivers before they access TEXpress Lanes. Drivers who choose to remain in the general lanes benefit from TEXpress as well, since traffic speeds in those lanes have been shown to increase as tolled lanes attract more users.

Electric vehicles to be spotlighted for a week in September

National Drive Electric Week, September 9-17, is a nationwide celebration to heighten awareness of today's widespread availability of plug-in electric vehicles and highlight the benefits of all-electric and plug-in hybrid-electric cars, trucks, motorcycles and more. For the past two years, Dallas-Fort Worth has boasted the largest single-event NDEW celebration in the country outside of California. The local event has brought together EV companies, advocates, private owners and curious individuals for a day of electric driving, conversation, fun and prizes.
This year, the regional celebration is growing from a single event to a full week of activities and learning. The week will kick off September 9, from 10 am-noon at Grapevine Mills Mall.
Hosted by the Dallas-Fort Worth Clean Cities Coalition and the North Central Texas Council of Governments, the event will feature EV industry and advocacy exhibitors, as well as the largest gathering of EVs in the state of Texas. EV owners and enthusiasts will show off their rides, discuss the ownership experience, and demonstrate this incredible – and incredibly clean – technology.
The following week, free open webinars will be held daily from Monday, September 11 to Friday, September 15 on a variety of EV-related topics including "EV 101," and workplace charging. For more information, registration and details about additional opportunities to experience EVs and learn about the role EVs can play in the future of transportation, visit https://driveelectricweek.org/ev101.

Next phase of Bush Turnpike widening underway

The North Texas Tollway Authority is continuing its efforts to improve traffic flow on its system this summer with projects underway to add a fourth lane to two separate segments of the President George Bush Turnpike. Work on the stretch between IH 35E and the Dallas North Tollway began last month and is expected to be complete in late 2019. In June, expansion of the segment between US 75 and State Highway 78 began. This segment will be finished late next year.
Motorists can get a sneak peak of how the Bush Turnpike will look when finished by viewing an animation at http://bit.ly/2vjrMyL.
An additional lane in each direction between US 75 and the Dallas North Tollway opened to traffic in November 2016.The section from Belt Line Road (Irving) to IH 35E is currently in the design phase. The portions between IH 30 and SH 183 and IH 20 to IH 30 in Grand Prairie are currently in the planning phase. For more information about the PGBT Widening Projects, visit www.progressntta.org, email Pro-gressNTTA@NTTA.org or call 972-628-3134.

High-speed rail station areas selected for study

Progress continues on a project to link Dallas and Fort Worth by high-speed rail and set the stage for a network providing service to other Texas regions.
Planners have identified three potential station locations along the proposed Dallas-Fort Worth Core Express. The stations would be in Fort Worth, at the Intermodal Transportation Center; Arlington, between Interstate Highway 30 and the convention center; and Dallas, between the Cedars Station and Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center. Studies of the potential station locations are being finished.
Planners must now create a path to allow for the completion of the Environmental Impact Statement for the Dallas-to-Fort Worth line, important because of its potential to link passengers to both the Dallas-to-Houston line and a possible future rail corridor offering HSR to Oklahoma and South Texas.
The Regional Transportation Council has allocated $5 million to assist in the completion of the Core Express’ EIS. The draft EIS for Texas Central Partners’ Dallas-to-Houston line is expected this fall, with a record of decision expected in late 2018.

Diesel Inspection and Maintenance report

In the Dallas-Fort Worth region, approximately 49 percent of on-road emissions of nitrogen oxides are a result of heavy-duty diesel vehicles. Yet, these vehicles are excluded from the State’s Inspection and Maintenance (I/M) Program.
To evaluate the feasibility of incorporating diesel vehicles, NCTCOG partnered with the Texas Department of Transportation, Texas A&M Transportation Institute, the Texas Department of Public Safety and the University of Denver. Through this partnership, the second prototype of an emissions-testing technology called the On-Road Heavy-Duty Emissions Measurement System was tested.
The OHMS technology is seen as viable option for several potential applications, including a traditional Inspection and Maintenance Program, clean screening of vehicles, or identifying high emitters from a fleet. The final implementation will depend on the application that the system will be used for, based on the needs and priorities of the local stakeholders and relevant public agencies.
Nearly 1,000 heavy-duty diesel vehicles were included in the study and the final report can be found at www.nctcog.org/DieselRpt2.

EV incentive program reinstated

Future alternative fuel vehicle drivers in Texas can look forward to saving a little more on their vehicle purchase or lease thanks to the recently passed Senate Bill 1731, which includes the reestablishment of the Light-Duty Motor Vehicle Purchase or Lease Incentive Program.
The program will offer $2,500 for the purchase of new electric vehicles, $5,000 for the purchase of compressed natural gas or liquefied petroleum gas vehicles (LPG). Incentives are also available in pro-rated amounts based on a three-year lease term, for up to 2,000 EVs and up to 1,000 CNG/LPG vehicles per state fiscal biennium.
Implementation of the program is pending rulemaking to determine administrative and accounting details, including whether the incentive may be applied retroactively.

NCTCOG to present Cotton Belt rail update

NCTCOG will present background information as well as a financial overview of the Cotton Belt project at a public meeting at 2:30 pm August 17 in Arlington. Residents are encouraged to provide input on the passenger rail project, which will extend from Dallas Fort Worth International Airport to Plano.
Commuter rail service between southwest Fort Worth and Plano was included as a transit recommendation in the Mobility 2035 transportation plan for the North Central Texas region. The Cotton Belt will connect with the Fort Worth Transportation Authority’s TEX Rail line, which is under construction, at DFW Airport.
Information on the Regional Smoking Vehicle Program’s 10-year anniversary will also be highlighted. RSVP allows residents to report vehicles they suspect are violating Texas’ smoking vehicle statute and is one tool NCTCOG uses in its effort to meet federal air quality standards. Ten North Texas counties are currently in nonattainment for ozone pollution.
Watch the meeting in real time by clicking the "live" tab at www.nctcog.org/video. A recording of the presentations will also be posted at www.nctcog.org/input.

North Texas cities taking lead on solar

Efforts to improve solar-friendly policies and practices in North Texas are underway. On June 22, the North Central Texas SolSmart program was kicked off with an informational webinar, during which interested cities learned about the program, its benefits and why other local communities are already participating. To date, the cities of Plano, Kennedale, Cedar Hill and Denton are participating, and more are expected to sign up. To learn more about SolSmart, visit www.gosolartexas.org and select "SolSmart" in the top menu.