CAMPO approves $425M cost increase to 183 North project

The Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority unveiled a rendering of the proposed direct connector from US 183 to RM 620 during a November public hearing. That connection, at a cost of $147 million, has contributed to an overall project cost increase of $425 million.

The Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority unveiled a rendering of the proposed direct connector from US 183 to RM 620 during a November public hearing. That connection, at a cost of $147 million, has contributed to an overall project cost increase of $425 million.

A $425 million cost increase to the 183 North project received approval from a regional transportation group Feb. 8 but not without scrutiny from public officials on the group’s policy board.

The Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority is proposing the 183 North project, which would add two express, or toll, lanes in each direction on US 183 between RM 620 and MoPac. Revising the original project cost, scope and limits required support from the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization. Those changes were added to CAMPO's 2040 long-range transportation plan.

The 183 North project would also connect to the MoPac express lanes under construction and to RM 620. From the approved budget, $5 million would go toward 4.5 miles of sidewalks and 1 mile of a shared-use path that would link existing bicycle lanes on Pond Springs and Jollyville roads.

When CAMPO, which manages transportation planning for six Central Texas counties, initially approved the project as part of its 2040 long-range plan last May, the estimated project cost was $225 million. The project had also been included in the 2035 plan with the same dollar amount and was essentially grandfathered into the 2040 plan, CAMPO Executive Director Ashby Johnson said.

Travis County Commissioner Brigid Shea, who sits on the CAMPO policy board, questioned how the Mobility Authority was so off on its early estimated cost.

Justin Word, Mobility Authority director of engineering, told the board that the project planning predates his time at the agency, and he was not sure how CTRMA arrived at that cost estimate.

Some policy board members also wanted to know why CAMPO staff did not include a recommendation from the agency’s technical advisory committee in November to also add to the 2040 plan language that included a continuous shared-use path.

“After some discussion between CAMPO staff, [Texas Department of Transportation] Austin and CTRMA in looking at corridor, we had serious concerns about the addition of that language based on safety mainly,” Johnson said.

Word said the Mobility Authority previously studied adding a shared-use path but realized the numerous driveways and cross streets brought safety risks.

“Alternative parallel routes made sense,” he said.

The agency then proposed creating a connection across the US 183 corridor to allow cyclists to connect to the Pond Springs and Jollyville bike lanes.

Austin City Council Member Ann Kitchen, who also sits on the CAMPO board, made a motion to add language to the 2040 plan that would allow consideration for adding a shared-use path on the US 183 corridor where feasible. That motion failed.

Williamson County Commissioner Cynthia Long suggested the city of Austin could step up and fund shared-use paths where it sees fit.

“There’s no reason to rule it out at this point in the process,” Kitchen said in response. “We’re also not talking about who’s specifically going to pay for it at this point. The city of Austin is open to talking about who should pay for it.”

History of cost increases


During a March 2015 open house, the Mobility Authority had already estimated the project cost would be between $500 million and $600 million. The agency also unveiled an additional $5 million in improvements for sidewalks and a shared-use path as well as building a direct connector to the MoPac express lanes, which are under construction.

But Bunch said he never heard that amount mentioned before and does not believe the cost increase is a direct result of the Mobility Authority incorporating public input.

“Nobody we’ve talked to knew that,” he said.

During the Jan. 11 CAMPO board meeting, Johnson provided information on some of the cost increases, some of which he said is a result of inflation and moving the project start date from 2017 to 2019.

“When you look at all the things that have been added over time, it’s really not that alarming,” he said.

Word also went over details of the cost increases at the Jan. 27 Mobility Authority board meeting. The MoPac direct connector, which would tie in north of Steck Avenue and transition at-grade to MoPac until Far West Boulevard, would cost about $117 million. The direct connectors to RM 620 would cost about $147 million, and the fourth continuous general-purpose lane would be about $90 million.

183 North project Adding direct connectors from the 183 North project to the MoPac express lanes would add about $117 million to the project cost.[/caption]

“Two-thirds of that cost increase have been a direct result of public input we have received on the project, changes and scope changes we’ve made to get what the public has asked for,” he said.

At that Jan. 27 meeting, Mobility Authority Executive Director Mike Heiligenstein addressed why changes were not brought to CAMPO sooner to update the 2040 plan.

“There were a lot of elements changing, and the thinking was why go to CAMPO to amend it more than once,” he said. “Hopefully [the project cost] will be a lot less than [$650 million]. There’s nothing surreptitious about it.”

For more information visit www.183north.com.
By Amy Denney
Amy has worked for Community Impact Newspaper since September 2010, serving as reporter and then senior editor for the Northwest Austin edition and covering transportation. She is now managing editor for the nine publications in the Central Texas area.


MOST RECENT

The RealReal in Domain Northside
Luxury resale shop The RealReal opens first Texas store in North Austin

The RealReal offers high-end brands at a discounted price through consignment and resale.

The Pushing for Justice Caravan for Javier Ambler was held in San Gabriel Park on Aug. 15. (Ali Linan/Community Impact Newspaper)
Javier Ambler’s Law awaits Texas Senate approval

The bill passed the House on April 15.

Austin transportation officials said April 15 the range of corridor construction program projects initiated through the city's 2016 Mobility Bond remain on track for completion by late 2024. (Iain Oldman/Community Impact Newspaper)
Several Austin corridor mobility projects moving forward in 2021, program on track for 2024 completion

Transportation officials said some corridor program improvements previously planned along Guadalupe Street and East Riverside Drive are being reduced ahead of Project Connect expansions.

Round Rock ISD trustees voted to maintain the district's mask policy that requires masks on school property. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Mask policy remains in place for Round Rock ISD

A motion that would have lifted part of the district's policy failed.

The program, which began this week in San Marcos, gives Amazon and Whole Foods employees and contractors direct access to COVID-19 vaccinations. (Courtesy Amazon)
Amazon begins rollout of statewide vaccination clinics for employees

The program, which began this week in San Marcos, gives Amazon and Whole Foods employees and contractors direct access to COVID-19 vaccinations.

Teachers in Round Rock will receive a 1% pay increase for the 2021-22 school year. (Photo courtesy Round Rock ISD)
Teachers in Round Rock ISD to see 1% salary increase for 2021-22

The increase will cost the district roughly $4.6 million and is included in the proposed budget.

Here are the latest coronavirus updates from Williamson County. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
New coronavirus cases continue to be reported even as vaccinations ramp up in Williamson County

Here are the most recent coronavirus updates from Williamson County.

Austin FC supporters celebrate the official announcement of the team in January 2019. (Amy Denney/Community Impact Newspaper)
How, where to watch historic first Austin FC match April 17

Check out this list of breweries, pubs and restaurants around Central Texas that are hosting watch parties for April 17's inaugural Austin FC game.

Z'Tejas' chorizo dumplings are served on the Arboretum location's porch. (Iain Oldman/Community Impact Newspaper)
Z'Tejas to open in Avery Ranch; butcher, deli to open in Dripping Springs and more Central Texas news

Read the latest business and community news from the Central Texas area.

Williamson County Judge Bill Gravell predicted the end of mass vaccination sites by Memorial Day. (Ali Linan/Community Impact Newspaper)
Williamson County judge predicts end of most mass vaccination sites by Memorial Day

As of April 14, its waitlist had dwindled to fewer than 50 for those in phases 1A, 1B and 1C and teachers, officials said.

Maj. Vito Errico, left, and Maj. Jason Zuniga are co-directors of Army Futures Command's Software Factory, for which the first cohort of soldiers started in January. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
From a rifle to a keyboard: Army Futures Command opens Software Factory at downtown ACC campus

Twenty-five soldiers started in January as part of the Software Factory's first cohort. Gen. Mark Milley, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will be at the Rio Grande campus for a ribbon-cutting April 15.

The Bowen in The Domain
Local business leaders say The Domain continues to drive growth in North Austin market

The Domain continues to attract high-skill labor talent to the area through an employment market rife with tech opportunities and a real estate market close to nightlife and entertainment amenities.