820 Express Joy Ride


After coming off of almost 4 years of construction (ever since we moved to Texas), it would seem almost “whiny” to find fault with the “school taxi” route being reduced by 5-10 minutes both ways.  Of course, categorizing this as an observation clears my conscience and allows me to do the retelling…

The closest highway to our house is due south.  It is “820”.  It is an outerbelt to Fort Worth.  Just to the east to southeast of us are a couple of more well-traveled highways.  And, to the west, there is US 35.  (US 35 is a slightly messed up highway.  It “splits” north of DFW and reunites south of DFW north of Waco.  This allows directions containing “Go north on 35W off of 820W”) The story I heard is when “the really smart highway engineers” realized all of these highways were generating more traffic than could reasonably be handled by the existing structure, somebody came up with a rather unique plan.  Since we have quite a few toll roads in Texas-even though some of them are lightly used, “the really smart cheapskates who make decisions on how to pay for highways” decided they would allow someone (enter a rich guy from the Middle East-remember, I am not researching this-it is what I was told) to pay for the construction of this new road.  Fortunately, due to the incredible volume of traffic, “the people in Austin who have a conscience” would not allow the road to become a toll road with no alternatives.  They chose to split the difference.  They created a “normal” chunk of 820 (speed limit 60 mph), and they created a chunk of 820 (and points slightly east) where there is a toll with a speed limit of 70 mph.  (Having a toll card makes the pain minimal.)  “The people who sucked in an investor to this unique project” did give him/her (“the person/company who needed to spend lots of money on a project where they may never get a return on their money”) a concession.  Not only did “the greedy investor” get a toll road, but they got a road with varying tolls.  I have seen the tolls as low as $0.25 and as high as $3.25.  It varies on time of day and how thick the traffic is at that particular moment.

My adventure occurred yesterday morning.  It was a thick foggy day with visibility of less than 1/2 a mile.  After dropping off the girls at school, I began the normal 7:30ish route home.  Due to the visibility or the novelty of fog or the arrogance of some over-zealous Texas driver, my normal, non-toll route was WAY backed up.  I detoured to the access road (This is also a phenomenon in Texas.  I was not aware of “access roads” in Ohio.  Essentially, it is a road that runs parallel to many of the highways.  It allows a driver to get on the highway from the access road without having to enter an entrance ramp from a complete stop.  It also allows many addresses to incorporate the names of the highways.  An address like, “8200 820E” might be a completely valid address.)   to avoid sitting in traffic for any extended time.  At the next intersection, I could make a turn to the left or right OR I could go straight before choosing to take the left or right fork – one to the “normal” 820 and one to the “toll” 820.  Unfortunately, I chose left.  (I should have known left was the toll because on the highway the toll road is situated inside of the normal road.) I endured a near traffic free journey to the next exit. (This exit was past my normal exit.  The “express” did not allow me to get off where I wanted, but it was close…)  The rest of my journey home was uneventful.

As I dropped off the girls today, there was minimum fog and light traffic on the normal route home.  When I drove by the sign where my toll would have been displayed yesterday, the same “detour” today would have cost me $1.40.  I have convinced myself I would have sat in traffic for a considerable amount of time if I did not take my “joy ride”, so it is obviously money well spent!

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