Since 2000, TxDOT has had plans to upgrade US 281 north of Loop 1604 to a freeway. (A freeway is a roadway with high-speed, divided mainlanes that go over or under intersecting roadways and access those roadways via entrance and exit ramps. It can be tolled or non-tolled.) Due to a sudden funding shortage in 2004, the state updated their plans to use tolling of the new freeway lanes to help fund the project, setting-off a decade-long battle between the state and anti-toll activists and environmentalists. With the passage of new funding measures for highways in 2015, funding became available to drop the toll component of this project. The expansion will now include toll-free freeway lanes, HOV lanes, and access roads. Construction of the first phase began in July 2017.
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