Northern MoPac section on track to open June 8

Workers have been building the express lane underpasses near downtown Austin.

Workers have been building the express lane underpasses near downtown Austin.

Barring any issues, the northern section of the MoPac Improvement Project between RM 2222 and Parmer Lane is on track to open June 8, the project’s contractor confirmed March 30.

The MoPac project is adding one express, or toll, lane in each direction on MoPac between Parmer and Cesar Chavez Street. Because of delays with contractor CH2M, the full project opening date was pushed back from fall 2015 to Nov. 29, 2016.

Craig Martell, executive director for special projects at CH2M, said the agency is on track to meet the June 8 deadline for opening the northern section. That still depends on workers being able to lay down the permeable friction course pavement, he told the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority board March 30.

One of the last major efforts to finish the northern section is adding the final layer of permeable friction course pavement that will reduce noise and runoff into water streams. However, this paving will require lane closures, said Steve Pustelnyk, the Mobility Authority’s director of community relations.

“It is intense and will require a lot of lane closures,” he said.

MoPac Crews are finishing the bicycle/pedestrian bridge that spans the railroad tracks.[/caption]

Recent work

In March, the agency closed several entrances and exits on MoPac near The Domain to repave sections of the bridges over the Union Pacific and Capital Metro railroad tracks. Pustelnyk said those closures went smoothly, and the work will prepare the road for the permeable friction course.

In February, the agency realigned the northbound section of MoPac near Fifth and Cesar Chavez streets and reduced the number of lanes over Lady Bird Lake to two. That caused more congestion issues, but Pustelnyk said issues have leveled out since then and the additional travel time is between five and 10 minutes.

“We have been monitoring closely everyday the traffic travel times northbound because of the realignment,” he said. “The good news is for the most part its functioning pretty well and within the limits that we had anticipated.”

Workers have finished excavating the area for the northbound underpass and will be working on installing drainage, he said. On the southbound side, workers have finished installing the walls for the underpass and are forming the concrete deck for the top part of the underpass, Pustelnyk said.

On the northern end, crews are continuing construction of sidewalks and the shared-use path near Duval Road, he said.

Toll operations

In April, the Mobility Authority board will vote on an express lane toll policy that will set a minimum toll rate of $0.25 per zone—$0.50 cents for the entire MoPac stretch—but not set a maximum cost, said Tim Reilly, the agency’s director of operations.

The agency is still working on how it will calculate tolls on MoPac, Reilly said, but the express lanes will be variable priced, meaning as traffic in the express and main lanes increases, so will the cost of the toll, and vice versa. Traffic sensors set up every one-quarter of a mile will also feed information into how the tolls will be set, Reilly said.

The Mobility Authority will use an algorithm as well as traffic cameras to monitor traffic for any incidents such as vehicles with flat tires. Reilly said employees could decrease or increase tolls as needed if incidents arise or even freeze the cost.

“We can put a hold on the toll and not let the toll do anything until [the incident] clears, and we can get back into normal operation and then restart the toll,” he said.

Drivers will be notified via message signs of the price of the toll about a half-mile before the toll entrance, and the price will not change. The price will list the cost for just drivers with a TxTag, and drivers who pay by mail will pay a higher amount, but that amount will not be displayed, Reilly said.
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.


Lawmakers began hearings Feb. 25 to hear from energy executives about what led to dayslong power outages following a Feb. 14 winter storm. (Ali Linan/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin weekly roundup: The storm is over, but the questions are just beginning

In hearings last week, a state senator from the Houston area called the power and water outages in Texas "the largest trainwreck in the history of degregulated electricity."

Samsung's proposed $17 billion chip-making plant would dwarf other recent megaprojects that sought tax incentives in the region.
Samsung’s request to pay no property tax on $17 billion plant tests Austin’s incentive policy

Samsung is asking for 100% property tax reimbursement over 25 years, which would mark the most aggressive corporate tax break in Austin history.

A new Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine could help expand vaccination availability in Travis County, according to local health officials. (Courtesy Pexels)
Johnson & Johnson vaccine could mean additional supply, easier distribution rollout in Travis County

If approved, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be a valuable weapon against the ongoing pandemic, according to local health officials.

Austin ISD students will begin the 2021-22 school year Tuesday, Aug. 17. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)
Take a look at Austin ISD’s newly approved calendar for the 2021-22 school year

Austin ISD trustees have approved the academic calendar for the upcoming 2021-22 school year.

Snow covers I-45 in Houston during a winter storm that hit Texas the night of Feb. 14. (Shawn Arrajj/Community Impact Newspaper)
Legislators probe energy officials over power failures, lack of preparation heading into winter storm

The Texas Legislature held hearings Feb. 25 with energy companies including Oncor Electric Delivery and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas in response to last week’s historic winter storm, which left millions of Texans without electricity for days.

Austin ISD students are scheduled to return to classrooms March 1 for the first time since Winter Storm Uri. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Winter storm damage could prevent 10 Austin ISD campuses from reopening next week

Austin ISD students are scheduled to return to classrooms March 1 for the first time since Winter Storm Uri.

A tree's branches fell on a car in North Austin in the midst of Winter Storm Uri in February. With downed tree limbs and burst water lines causing property damage across Austin, the city has directed additional funds into programs to help some homeowners with emergency home repairs. (Iain Oldman/Community Impact Newspaper)
Still in crisis mode, Austin City Council initiates recovery following winter storm

With 200 to 400 apartment and condo complexes in Austin still without water, City Council is aiming to direct aid and relieve some of the financial burden felt by residents following the devastating winter storms.

ArborView is a 62-plus active-living community. (Courtesy ArborView)
Southwest Austin active-living apartment community set to open March 1

The 62-plus active-living community will have 151 total apartment units for rent.

H-E-B will open a new location in the Oak Hill neighborhood of Southwest Austin in August. (Rendering courtesy H-E-B)
H-E-B to open in Oak Hill in Aug.; comedy club coming to The Domain and more news from February

Read business and community news from the past month from Central Texas.

Jo's Coffee opened a North Austin location in January. (Courtesy Chad Wadsworth)
Jo's Coffee opens in Central Austin; new restaurant coming to Georgetown Square and more Central Texas news

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

As many as 31 stores across nine states will be shuttered as Fry's Electronics shuts down due to market changes and the pandemic. (Courtesy Qygen, Wikimedia Commons)
Fry's Electronics calls it quits after nearly 36 years in business

As many as 31 stores across nine states will be shuttered as Fry's Electronics shuts down due to market changes and the pandemic.