Dallas North Tollway Expansion: good or bad?

Lindsey Heier- Honorbound

Does widening the North Dallas Tollway have a positive or negative effect on opportunity cost? In June of 2015, the North Texas Tollway Association (NTTA)[i] began the project to expand the tollway from three lane road to four lanes on each side. They decided it was in our best interest to widen the tollway due to increasing traffic. The tollway has become very crowded due to many large corporations moving to Dallas (such as Toyota and Liberty Mutual) and because North Texas has such a low cost of living relative to other large cities.

There is a lost opportunity cost for commuters to be stuck in traffic when they could be at work or at play. The NTTA’s answer to this problem was to widen the tollway. The problem with this plan is that it looks like it is going to take at least two to three years to accomplish which will greatly worsen the traffic during that period. Also it seems that there have been a lot more accidents on the tollway as a result of the construction zones and smaller lanes.

The opportunity cost of an action is what you must give up when you make that choice. Another way to say this is: it is the value of the next best opportunity.[ii] Everything we do is based on limited resources and choices need to be made between alternatives in terms of using our resources (time and money). In this case, is there a benefit of having significantly delayed traffic to one day make the flow on the tollway much better? So in terms of the tollway expansion, is the significantly increased traffic over a two to three year period and with the estimated hundred   fifty one million dollar cost of the expansion be worth it in the long run?[iii] With the expansion, we will all have less time and less money due to missed opportunity and the cost of expansion. After completion, the expectation is that we will have more time which will also lead to being more productive, for ourselves and for society.

The easy answer is that for the commuters of Dallas over the next two to three years, they will have decreased opportunity cost due to the widening of the tollway. The hope is that five years from now, we can look back at this as a great decision to widen the tollway when the traffic flow is improved and the tolls from the road have helped to pay off the expansion. Of course this whole premise assumes that the growth in North Dallas doesn’t outgrow the single lane expansion of the tollway on each side. So while it takes longer for me to get to school and home due to the increased tollway traffic in 2016, I will be better off five years from now after I have graduated college, moved back to Dallas, and  become one of the North Dallas Tollway commuters.

 

[i] “DNT Improvements.” Accessed October 19, 2016. https://www.ntta.org/roadsprojects/projprog/Pages/DNT-Improvements.aspx.

[ii] Mankiw, N. Gregory. Principles of Microeconomics. 2nd ed. Mason, OH: Thomson/South-Western, 2004.

[iii] Formby, Brandon. “See What an Expanded Dallas North Tollway Will Look like.” April 2015. Accessed October 19, 2016. http://www.dallasnews.com/.

 

Picture Citation

Dallas: Expect Heavy Traffic Delays Today.” July 12, 2016. Accessed October 19, 2016. http://dallastexasrealestateblog.com/.

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