Several members of the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization transportation policy board inquired about several cost increases to transportation projects, including along MoPac South, during Monday’s board meeting.

CAMPO coordinates transportation planning for six counties in Central Texas and creates the four-year Transportation Improvement Program. This document outlines upcoming construction of projects submitted by area counties, cities and transportation and transit agencies. The agency hosted a public hearing and presentation Monday on proposed amendments to the Transportation Improvement Program, and the board will vote on the amendments at the May 8 meeting.

Twice a year, CAMPO amends the Transportation Improvement Program to allow local jurisdictions to provide updates to projects, such as cost increases, cost decreases or timeline changes. To be listed in the Transportation Improvement Program, funding must be identified and construction must be set to start in the 2017-20 timeframe.

One amendment to the Transportation Improvement Program shows the MoPac intersections project to grade separate, or add overpasses and underpasses at Slaughter Lane and La Crosse Avenue, increased from $62.9 million to $85.97 million. Previous estimates put the cost in the $40 million range.

“I’m quite shocked to learn of the doubling of the cost,” said Brigid Shea, CAMPO board member and Travis County commissioner.

Resident Kelly Davis, who is the attorney for the Save Our Springs Alliance, or SOS, said this is the fourth cost estimate increase she has seen for the project.

“We have to have some accountability and understand why this price increase is happening,” she said. "There’s certainly no information in the public about why this cost increase is happening.”

SOS filed a lawsuit in July against the Texas Department of Transportation over the MoPac intersections project for perceived failure to comply with the Endangered Species Act, according to SOS legal documents. The suit alleges TxDOT failed to ensure the project “does not jeopardize the survival of the federally endangered Austin blind salamander, Barton Springs salamander or golden-cheeked warbler.”

Projects in the Transportation Improvement Program may include those of regional significance and those receiving federal funds. CAMPO board chair Will Conley, who is also a Hays County commissioner, said projects often are included in CAMPO’s plans while in a conceptual phase, and more firm costs arise during the planning process.

“This is supposed to be a living, breathing document,” he said.

Some board members said they would like to receive more information when presented with project cost increases.

“I feel like we lose the trust of the community bit by bit by bit every time a number goes up,” said Jimmy Flannigan, CAMPO board member and District 6 Austin City Council member. “If we want to do big stuff we need to be able to confidently build the numbers we put out to the community. Even if there’s a completely rational reason to [a cost increase], we better understand what those rational reasons are.”

Proposed 2017-20 Transportation Improvement Program amendments

  • I-35 from Yarrington Road to RM 150: Project cost to repave the roadway changed from $1.3 million to $1.81 million

  • I-35 from Posey Road to Comal County line: Construction year to replace bridges changed from 2017 to 2018 and cost increased from $18.55 million to $35.67 million

  • I-35 at Williams Drive: Project to reconstruct the interchange for $67.57 million was added to 2017-20 Transportation Improvement Program

  • I-35 at Parmer Lane: Project cost to reconstruct the intersection increased from $27.3 million to $38.77 million

  • I-35 at Wells Branch Parkway: Project to make operational improvements to the interchanged added to 2017-20 TIP for $41.49 million

  • I-35 from Holly to Oltorf streets: Project to add bypass lanes, auxiliary or merge lanes, ramp improvements and pavement improvements for $204.6 million was added to the 2017-20 Transportation Improvement Program

  • 183 North toll project from RM 620 to MoPac: Project to add two express toll lanes in each direction and maintain the fourth continuous general-purpose lane was added to the 2017-20 TIP for a cost of $355 million

  • MoPac from US 183 to RM 2222: Project to add direct connectors for $145 million was added to the 2017-21 Transportation Improvement Program

  • Toll 183A Phase 3 from Hero Way to SH 29: Four-lane extension of tolled highway for $179 million was added to the 2017-20 Transportation Improvement Program

  • Bell Boulevard from Buttercup Creek Boulevard to Cedar Park Drive: Project added to 2017-20 Transportation Improvement Program to realign this section for $20 million

  • SH 130 from SH 71 to SH 45 N: Project to add one lane in each direction added to 2017-20 Transportation Improvement Program for total cost of $253.96 million

  • MoPac from Slaughter Lane to La Crosse Avenue: Project cost increased from $62.92 million to $85.97 million to grade separate MoPac mainlanes at intersections