Central Texas officials finalize partnership to build express lanes on MoPac

On June 27, the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization and the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority finalized a $230 million partnership that will jump-start the construction of an express lane in each direction on MoPac between Parmer Lane and Cesar Chavez Street.

Under the agreement, CAMPO, composed of elected officials in the five-county Central Texas region, will give the Mobility Authority $130 million to help fund construction of the lanes, which will start next year and have a total cost of about $200 million.

Once complete in 2017, drivers would be able take the express lane if they pay a variable toll that will range from 25 cents to $4 or more depending on how heavy traffic is.

The partnership also includes creation of a Regional Infrastructure Fund, into which the Mobility Authority will deposit $230 million from toll revenue over the course of 25 years that CAMPO may use to fund other transportation projects. Details of the repayment schedule were not disclosed until the contract for the partnership was approved by the Mobility Authority board June 27.

The Mobility Authority will begin depositing $2 million annually into the regional fund in 2017 and will incrementally increase the amount to $12 million by 2036. The partnership will end in 2041 with a final payment of $16 million.

By going through CAMPO, the Mobility Authority will save about $314 million that it would otherwise go toward interest and principal payments if the project were financed through more traditional methods, the agency said. At the earliest point in the discussion about the partnership, the potential amount saved was estimated at $50 million.

The Mobility Authority will monitor use of the express lanes, and the toll rate will fluctuate by the minute depending on demand. At night, the rate may go as low as 25 cents. Electronic signs at the entrances and at the single exit/entrance at Far West Boulevard would alert drivers of the going price.

The $130 million that CAMPO is giving to the Mobility Authority comes from a $136.6 million bundle the Texas Department of Transportation made available for shovel-ready projects in Central Texas. The board of CAMPO was charged with distributing that money and said the express lanes were the only project in the region that fit TxDOT's criteria.

A decision has not yet been made about what to do with the remaining $6.6 million.

For more information about the express lanes, visit www.mopacexpress.com