The MoPac Improvement Project, which will add one express lane in each direction to the roadway, passed several hurdles in the past week after the Texas Transportation Commission approved additional funding and the Federal Highway Administration issued its approval of the environmental study.

During its monthly meeting Aug. 30, TTC approved a financial assistance agreement with the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority for $197.6 million in the form of a grant toward the project.

This amount includes $130 million that the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, which is composed of elected officials in the five-county Central Texas Region, allocated for the project. CAMPO entered into an agreement in June with the Mobility Authority to fund $130 million of the total $200 million cost.

"The state came up with extra money this year, and because there was no other [shovel-ready] projects, they allocated the money to us," Mobility Authority Communications Director Steve Pustelnyk said.

The partnership with CAMPO also includes creating a Regional Infrastructure Fund, in which the Mobility Authority will deposit $230 million from toll revenue during the span of 25 years. CAMPO may use that money to fund other transportation projects.

The Mobility Authority will operate and monitor the express lanes, which will run from Parmer Lane to Cesar Chavez Street. Drivers will pay a toll that on average will range from 25 cents to $4, but Pustelnyk said when traffic is heavier, the toll could increase to more than $4. Additionally, the project includes $5 million for bicycle and pedestrian improvements and more than $3 million for aesthetic enhancements and landscaping.

Once construction starts, Pustelnyk said it should take three years to complete. The project is slated to wrap up in 2016.

The Texas Department of Transportation completed the environmental assessment of the project's effect in August. On Aug. 23, the Federal Highway Administration issued a letter to the Mobility Authority stating that it finds the project will have no significant social, economic or environmental impact.

"By sticking to the agreed-upon path and time frames, [the different government agencies] were able to expedite the environmental coordination process and shorten the wait for solutions in the MoPac corridor," state Sen. Kirk Watson, D-District 14, said in a news release.

Pustelnyk said the Federal Highway Administration issuing its letter opens the door to begin construction, slated to start in mid-2013. He said the Mobility Authority will begin receiving proposals for the design-build process in the fall.

"It's already under way. We started working on it early this year," he said.

The board approved a short list of three potential firm partnerships in May that consist of design and construction contractor companies. The three partnerships are the Abrams-Lane Joint Venture, CH2MHill and DWCo-Sundt. Pustelnyk said the board will select the contractor in early 2013.

Updates about the project are posted at