Travis County bond program mostly on track despite Atlas 14 funding challenges

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The majority of Travis County’s five-year, 59-project bond program are in active status and on track to be completed by the end of 2022, according to the Travis County Transportation and Natural Resources Department.

“We have 47 active projects right now, so we’re very busy juggling a lot of balls,” said David Greer, the assistant director of the county’s public works, at a June 4 meeting of the Travis County Commissioners Court.

Challenges

Three projects are expected to not be substantially complete by the deadline: safety improvements to Thaxton Road in Southeast Austin, increased roadway capacity along South Pleasant Valley Road, and an extension of Harold Green Boulevard in East Austin.

“The Travis County Public Works [Department] is making every effort they can to tighten those schedules,” said Jessy Milner, the co-owner and chief operating officer of Frontline Consulting, a private firm hired by the county to manage the bond program.

The $301 million program includes nearly $185 million for roadway and parks projects approved by voters in November 2017, nearly $95 million for critical safety projects approved by commissioners, and $22 million to address additional costs associated with updated rainfall and flood plain data released as part of a federal study called Atlas 14.

Due to “unforeseen challenges related to the Atlas 14 rainfall study,” four projects have been identified as having potential budget shortfalls, according to a brief prepared by county staff.

Commissioners will provide direction to the public works department for how to address these budgeting challenges at a work session scheduled for June 27, Greer said.

Improvements

Milner last updated commissioners on the status of the bond projects in early March. He attributed the delayed projects, in part, to challenges with procurement—the process by which private companies bid for contracts to complete certain projects.

As of March 5, the procurement process for bond projects averaged 190 days, which is nearly two months longer than the 132 days the county had planned.

Since then, however, this average has been shortened by 34 days—or 21.6%—thanks to improved processes at the county level.

Additionally, the public works department has identified four projects that, while slated for fiscal year 2020 funds, could be started this December and result in significant time savings.

The department will propose a reimbursement resolution this fall that would allow the funds to be available before the end of this year, allowing the projects to begin the design phase six months earlier than planned.

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Emma Freer
Emma Freer began covering Central Austin for Community Impact Newspaper in 2017. Her beat includes the Travis County Commissioners Court and local business news. She graduated from Columbia Journalism School in 2017.
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