Thursday, October 19, 2006

Toll Road Plays Starring Role in Coming Attraction
by Ben Wear


Monday, October 09, 2006

We don't normally do movie reviews in Getting There.

But there's a new, $50,000 independent film that I wanted to tell you about, literally a road movie. Now, the title — "183A Toll" — is a tad bland, but the film itself is pretty good. And if you live in Cedar Park, Leander or points north, pretty useful.

Just so I don't bewilder folks beyond repair, be aware that the starring role in this 11-minute, mostly computer-generated travelogue is played by a toll road — U.S. 183-A — that won't open until spring.

The three toll roads that are about to open up Nov. 1, all of them built and operated by the Texas Department of Transportation, are not in this movie. The department didn't make a version for its roads, which is too bad.

U.S. 183-A, on the other hand, is being built and operated by the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority.

That agency's communications director, Steve Pustelnyk, came from the Orlando toll road agency, which created these computer-generated tours of their new roads. Pustelnyk, who narrates the 183-A film, brought the idea with him.

Basically, the film looks like what you might see driving the road, and from above in a virtual helicopter swooping back and forth. You find out where the toll plazas and exits are, how the frontage roads and interchanges work and what the road will actually look like.

The mobility authority is going to distribute the film every way it can, including through the Statesman Web site (go to www.statesman .com/wear to see it).

It should cut down on consumer confusion when the 11.6-mile-long road opens this spring.


Speaking of confusion, I sowed a bit of it last week.

I said in a Monday article that people would get Dash bobblehead dolls if they signed up for toll tags. Well, some will, eventually.

As John Kelso reported in his Tuesday column, the dolls of the wise-cracking toll road mascot won't be available for four or five months.

And tollway officials tell me they'll likely hand them out at promotional events rather than sending one along to each new toll tag subscriber.

Guess we'll all live.


On a related matter, after the Dash article appeared, I was besieged the next day with calls and e-mails from people wanting to know how they could get a TxTag. And pointing out that the reporter should have had that information in the article. One of the pointer-outers was, well, the editor of this newspaper, Rich Oppel. Ouch.

With that in mind: You can get a tag by calling (888) 468-9824, going to www.txtag .org, or visiting the state's tollway customer service center at 12719 Burnet Road. This is on the east side of MoPac Boulevard, just north of Parmer Lane.

The implanting of the toll tag chip in your forehead, by the way, is a relatively painless, in-patient procedure lasting about 30 minutes.

(Note to readers: The above was "humor" and untrue. The toll tag will be implanted by you on your car's forehead, that is, the windshield's interior. It may or may not be painless.)

Getting There appears Mondays. For questions, tips or story ideas, contact Getting There at 445-3698 or

by Ben Wear



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