Only one of 25 projects complete so far for 2017 Travis County bond

Ten months after the $185 million Travis County bond was approved, only one of the 25 projects is complete. Nine other road and park improvements are in the design phase, but the majority are either under negotiation or awaiting evaluation.

“I was hoping for something speedier,” County Judge Sarah Eckhardt said. “We have completed one project. One is at 100 percent design. None of the rest of the projects is shovel-ready yet. That is concerning to me.”

The county is utilizing a three-pronged approach to tackle the improvements. Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority has been contracted to complete two projects in Precinct 4. County staff in transportation and natural resources are completing outstanding projects from the 2011 bond and a handful from the 2017 bond. The third group is a model new to Travis County, comprised of a program manager consultant, or PMC—responsible for coordinating, scheduling and consolidating engineering and consulting projects—and a general engineering consultant, or GEC—responsible for streamlining engineering guidelines and standards for all 2017 bond projects.

“This is an exciting, new approach, particularly in light of the fact that the state government really isn’t doing a whole lot of transportation infrastructure,” Eckhardt said. “Counties and municipalities certainly have to find a way to get much more sophisticated really fast.”

For past projects, county project managers have used a procurement method to develop a series of contracts for each project followed by one-off bids for design and construction. That model works, Eckhardt said, with a smaller number of projects.

“Travis County has never had this many projects in the pipe before,” she said. “We have a system available for tracking projects, but it’s not as sophisticated as what we’re seeing in the private market.”

To manage the projects, commissioners are in negotiation with Front Line Consulting as a possible PMC. In March, the county hired Travis Transportation partners as the general engineering consultant.

“We’re just a little bit behind on bringing the consultants onboard,” said Cynthia McDonald, county executive of transportation and natural resources. “With the PMC on board, that will help keep us on track. I think we have everything lined up and we’re ready [to move forward] on these projects.”

More about the 2017 Travis County Bond

The bond was divided by two propositions.

Proposition A totals $93.4 million in bond funds allocated toward countywide transportation fixes, including roadway capacity improvements, bicycle safety projects and drainage stream crossings repairs.

Proposition B sets aside $91.5 for park improvements, including a sports complex in Bee Creek and improvements to the Northeast Metropolitan Park and the Onion Creek Greenway.

That total does not include $94.9 million for locally funded county projects that do not require voter approval.

What’s next

Future discussions will be needed as the county and the city of Austin determine how to address preliminary rainfall intensity data and possible floodplain remapping with the upcoming release of Atlas 14. The county anticipates impacts on estimated costs and schedules for the road and park improvements.

Frontline Consulting’s contract will return to Commissioners Court later this month, Eckhardt said.
By Taylor Jackson Buchanan
Taylor Buchanan joined Community Impact Newspaper in 2018 after completing a master of journalism degree from the University of Texas. She worked as the senior reporter for Community Impact's Southwest Austin edition and is now the editor for the company's flagship Round Rock/Pflugerville/Hutto edition.


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