Haley Burns loves her toll tag.
Toll 49, she said, is a “godsend” when it comes to daily commutes from her home off Paluxy Drive to her job just north of Texas Highway 31 and trips to see family in Emory and Sulphur Springs.
“Some mornings were just unbearable. Hitting every light on your way in to work is not a good way to start the day,” she said. “People talk about Dallas traffic and Houston, but Tyler can be worse at times.”
Ms. Burns said using the toll road can be “too convenient” at times and she tries to minimize her use because the tolls do add up.
The connection to Interstate 20 is of great interest to her. She said almost half of her weekend or holiday trips home were spent getting out of Tyler and expects she will use the entire toll road to make the connection and avoid traffic.
“It is really a convenience thing,” she said.
Tyler traffic is expected to see a significant shift, although officials acknowledged that it’s only speculation at this point. The areas expected to see the most impact are U.S. 69 and the western portions of Loop 323.
The intersection of Loop 323 and U.S. 69 filters more than 67,000 vehicles daily according to Texas Department of Transportation numbers. The intersections of Loop 323 and major arterial roads, including Texas Highway 110, 64, 31 experience less than half the number, but traffic numbers increase along the loop as traffic flows south.
The 23,000 cars traveling west from U.S. 69 increases to 27,000 south of 110 and to 36,000 south of 64 before numbers start dropping.
Expectations are for traffic along Loop 323 to reduce because drivers will be able to bypass U.S. 69 and the loop.
Additional capacity on Old Jacksonville Road, which was widened in 2008, Old Grande Boulevard and other projects within the city limits have reduced some of the strain but continued growth in the region means officials are struggling to keep pace.
“It takes a lot longer to build roads than it does to build houses,” TxDOT spokesman Larry Krantz said.
Patrick Lund, owner of Lund Trucking Inc., said he already uses Toll 49 to save time getting to his “yard” south of Tyler. The connection to I-20 will cut time and expenses for him, he said.
A one-way “start-and-stop” trip from I-20 to the truck yard down U.S. 69 can take an hour because of traffic and traffic lights, he said. As long as the toll stays reasonable, Lund said he will continue to avoid town.
He expects other truckers and trucking companies will follow suit when the road opens.
“Once they figure out they can avoid (U.S.) 69, Loop 323 and stop lights to get south of Tyler and go to Nacogdoches, Jacksonville, Lufkin or wherever, I think they’re going to do it,” he said. “The less time I have to spend on I-20 and the less time I spend on 69 the bigger smile I get on my face.”