Gridlock relief isn’t coming anytime soon along MoPac. It was announced Tuesday the long-running expansion project, from downtown to Parmer Lane, will not be complete until November.
At times the freight train that rolls between the north and south bound lanes of MoPac can travel at a faster pace than traffic on the notoriously crowded roadway.
Tuesday morning the board of directors of the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority made a decision that will keep MoPac prone to intense gridlock essentially for the rest of the year. The decision was to amend the construction contract, and as a result November is the new deadline. That's a year and 2 months beyond the original September 2015 completion date.
"What we got to do is look to the future and say how can we get this job done with as little pain as possible to the traveling public and that’s what we did today,” Mike Heiligenstein, Executive Director of the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority,
While the entire $204 million project will not open until around Thanksgiving, a northbound section between 2222 and Parmer Lane could be ready by July. Despite that promise, for those who live along the construction zone, like Jennifer Modesett, the news of another delay comes as a surprise and a disappointment.
“I am stunned, that it is taking them so long. I just can’t believe we will have to put up with this traffic and the noise for almost another whole other year,” said Modesett.
The delay has been blamed on two main things. The contractor reported they ran into very dense rock the closer they got to Lady Bird Lake, and they also had to relocate a very large water main line north of Enfield. The Mobility Authority was not entirely buying those excuses.
“It’s hard to believe hard rock was going to be a surprise to anybody, I think the extent of it was a bit of a surprise,” said Heiligenstein.
Accepting the excuse does not get the contractor, CH2M Hill, off the hook. Since December 27th, a daily late penalty of $73,500, has been assessed. The mobility authority will start collecting the cash in May.
If by June the road builder hits specific milestones the amount will be reduced to a little more than $43,000. The money offsets the loss of toll revenue that was expected to be already coming in.
Officials note that the contractor was the low bidder, and although it’s taking longer than expected, the final cost is expected to be about $60-million below the original estimated.
A critical phase in meeting the November deadline starts Saturday. Major excavation work will start south of Enfield. As a result, north bound lanes at Lady Bird Lake will be reduced to 2 lanes.
According to a press release sent to FOX 7 by CTRMA...
The Board of the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority has approved an agreement with Design-Build Contractor CH2M HILL Engineers, Inc., to achieve substantial completion of the MoPac Improvement Project in 2016. CH2M and the Mobility Authority have been engaged in discussions since December 2015 to develop a firm schedule to provide congestion relief to the North MoPac Expressway this year.
“This has been a long and arduous process, and I commend CH2M Chair and CEO Jacqueline Hinman, as well as RMA Board Chairman Ray Wilkerson, for their hands-on involvement and many productive discussions to deliver this resolution,” says Mike Heiligenstein, Executive Director of the Mobility Authority.
Hinman commented, “The Mopac Improvement Project resolution provides both CTRMA and CH2M with a definitive path forward to complete the project. Key stakeholders are aligned, making every effort on this final phase of construction to deliver a superb project by the end of the year. We could not have achieved such alignment without the leadership efforts of Mike Heiligenstein and Ray Wilkerson, the strong working relationships between the CTRMA and CH2M project teams, and the support of federal, state and local project stakeholders. We’re all pulling together to achieve a positive outcome for the people of Austin.”
For more information about the MoPac Improvement Project visit MopacExpress.com.
CTRMA Board meet on MoPac Construction delaysPosted by Rudy Koski on FOX7 on Tuesday, February 16, 2016