Mobility Authority, contractor reach agreement to open MoPac project by end of 2016

Workers add rebar in January before concrete is poured for the southbound express lane underpass.

Workers add rebar in January before concrete is poured for the southbound express lane underpass.

MoPac drivers can expect about nine more months of construction until the MoPac Improvement Project will be complete by Nov. 29.

The Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority and contractor CH2M reached an agreement Feb. 16 to complete the entire project in November and finish the northernmost section between RM 2222 and Parmer Lane by June 8.

In a statement, CH2M CEO and chair Jacqueline Hinman said the resolution provides a definitive path to complete the project.

MoPac Crews have almost completed expansions on bridges along MoPac, including at RM 2222, to accommodate the new express lanes.[/caption]

“We’re all pulling together to achieve a positive outcome for the people of Austin,” she said.

The agreement comes within the 60-day period CH2M had since receiving the notice of default from the Mobility Authority on Dec. 17. The two agencies have been discussing the schedule since then, and the Mobility Authority will withdraw the notice of default if CH2M adheres to the updated completion dates.

Issuing the notice of default was a result of the Mobility Authority citing failure to complete the project “in accordance with the project schedule” and provide resources to substantially complete the project within 180 days of the original completion date.

CH2M previously told Community Impact Newspaper the delays were from a lack of labor, inclement weather, unknown underground utilities and discovery of hard rock. The two parties are still resolving disputes related to claims of the hard rock through a dispute resolution board.

The $204 million project is adding one express, or toll, lane to MoPac in both directions between Parmer and Cesar Chavez Street. The express lanes will connect to Cesar Chavez, Fifth and Sixth streets via underpasses.

CH2M will accrue liquidated damages as a result of the delays, but damages will be reduced if it meets the June 8 deadline to complete the northernmost segment, according to Dee Anne Heath, the Mobility Authority’s director of external affairs.

Within about a week, the project will enter into the final phase of construction, meaning construction workers do not have any major project elements to start, said Steve Pustelnyk, director of community relations for the MoPac project. Drivers will see most work being done on the southern end of the project where crews are building the underpasses connecting the express lanes to the downtown streets.

MoPacStarting Feb. 20, the northbound main lanes of MoPac will shift to temporary pavement, Pustelnyk said. The right-hand lane will exit to Enfield Road, while the center and left lanes will continue north. This will allow crews access into the area for the underpass.

Now that a 42-inch water line near Camp Mabry has been relocated, crews are able to complete other work between 35th and 45th streets, Pustelnyk said. They will be drilling to install foundations for a sound wall and will be widening the roadway.

“That is really the last area of the project we’ve yet to work in,” he said.

North of RM 2222, most of the work that remains is removing temporary traffic barriers to install permanent barriers, installing toll lane equipment and widening the road near Anderson Lane and Far West Boulevard.

The final element will be adding the permeable friction course pavement on top of all the lanes. This topcoat is quieter and will reduce the risk of hydroplaning and the amount of dirt and oil running of the roadway, Pustelnyk said.
By Amy Denney

Managing Editor, Austin metro

Amy has worked for Community Impact Newspaper since September 2010, serving as reporter and senior editor for the Northwest Austin edition as well as covering transportation in the Austin metro. She is now managing editor for the 10 publications in the Central Texas area from Georgetown to New Braunfels. She enjoys spending time with her husband, son and two cats.