Travis County speeds up progress on 2017 bond work; 3 projects still behind schedule

According to Travis County staff and consultants, the pace has quickened on projects county voters approved in a 2017 bond.

According to Travis County staff and consultants, the pace has quickened on projects county voters approved in a 2017 bond.

In 2017, Travis County voters approved a bond that allowed the county government to take out loans in order to fund transportation and park improvements in the local area.

By September 2018, only 23% of the bond-funded projects were active, meaning they had started the design procurement phase.

The pace of the work has picked up recently, according to staff and consultants who provided a quarterly update on the $301 million program to Travis County commissioners Sept. 3.

Today, 51 of the 59 projects are active, including two that are complete and five that have started construction. Those two completed projects are transportation improvements on the north section of Ross Road and a Wells Branch Parkway study.

Jesse Milner, the chief operating officer of Frontline Consulting, the consulting firm working with the county on the projects, told commissioners Sept. 3 that 12 projects have begun the design phase and 10 have started the design procurement phase since June, which has helped to speed up the process.

In addition, the county turned to the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority for help getting projects finished on schedule. The Mobility Authority is managing two active projects in the design and construction phase—transportation projects on Elroy Road and the south portion of Ross Road—and its board will vote in September to finalize an interlocal agreement to begin managing six additional projects.

County Judge Sarah Eckhardt said working with the Mobility Authority was a risk and a “seismic change” for the county from the way it usually operates, but it proved to be a worthwhile decision.

“It’s so gratifying to see change managed so well,” Eckhardt said. “The dividends are really showing.”

Although the majority of programs are scheduled to finish on time—48 are classified as “on schedule” and eight “on a tight schedule”—according to Milner, three projects are still not on track to be finished by the target end date of December 2022.

Those projects are 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.

As work continues on this bond, county staff and commissioners briefly discussed the potential of bringing another bond to voters in 2023.

The Travis County Transportation and Natural Resources Department keeps a list of needed projects that total $1.7 billion, but TNR County Executive Cynthia McDonald said the total that would end up going before voters would be much less.

“It’s a list we keep so the bond committees can go through and pick the most critical [projects] to act on,” McDonald said.
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