MoPac settlement avoids courtroom detour

- Drone video released Tuesday of northbound MoPac shows how most of the lanes have now been marked.

The painted lines separate the freeway and the new expressway which will require paying a toll. The image provided enough assurance for officials with the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority to sign off on a multi-million-dollar settlement deal with the contractor.

The vote is a symbolic exit ramp for a project that's 2 years past due.

"Absolutely it’s a relief we are ready to turns this over to the public, the public is ready to receive this project, its time,” said CTRMA chairman Ray Wilkerson.

A short term loan, of up to $25 million, was needed to pay for the settlement. In return the contractor, CH2M, is to have northbound lanes open by this weekend - or next if rain causes a problem, and southbound lanes open by October 27th.

"This extra borrowing will not impact the rates that people will pay,” said CTRMA Executive Director Mike Heiligenstein.

CH2M was awarded the project in 2013 with a low bid of $136- million. The settlement approved Tuesday - along with previous change orders increased the cost to $180 million. But because of a $20-million late penalty the company will only be paid $160-million. The deal also prevents future legal detours.

" It think it would have cost more than just money, it certainly would have cost money, it would have cost staff time, it would have cost distraction, of resources, we've got a lot of projects that are ongoing right now, and a lot next year that will be initiated, so there were a lot of reasons to get this behind us, but I think the risk factor of going to a courtroom outweighed the idea we shouldn't get this settled,” said Heiligenstein.

The settlement is not entirely a clean break.  If the contractor fails to complete work by October 27th new fines kick in totaling up to $100,000 a day.

The mobility authority originally had a total budget for the project of $203 million.

But there are some additional costs, that will not be paid to the contractor- affecting the bottom line. So as of today, the new final amount is estimated to be about $233-million.

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