UPDATED: First MoPac toll section still “several weeks” from opening, Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority says

In July crews work on the Steck Avenue bypass lane that will allow drivers to avoid the intersection at MoPac on the northbound side.

In July crews work on the Steck Avenue bypass lane that will allow drivers to avoid the intersection at MoPac on the northbound side.

Updated: Aug. 26 at 11:50 a.m.

After hoping to open the first section of the MoPac toll project by the end of August, the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority announced Aug. 26 that the project still has several weeks of work remaining.

“We have several weeks of work left on the northbound north-end section [between RM 2222 and Parmer Lane] if weather cooperates,” said Jeff Dailey, Mobility Authority deputy executive director.

The agency had a meeting Aug. 25 with contractor CH2M about the status of the project. Dailey said the agency has seen a renewed commitment from CH2M to complete the project by adding more numbers to its workforce.

“We are disappointed that the MoPac Improvement Project is not yet complete and understand how frustrating and disruptive the construction has been on Central Texans,” Dailey said. “The record amount of rainfall has impacted the schedule, but we are working closely with the contractor on a recovery schedule.”

Mobility Authority officials said they do not have a new target opening date set because more rainfall is forecast in the coming days.

Dailey said the project will also add other elements not in the original plan, including underpasses near downtown, a new waterline and sound walls.

“This important project will serve the community well for the next 30 years,” he said. “The RMA undertook this project when no other agency was willing to step up and we stand by the project. Completion of it is right around the corner, but there is no gain without pain.”

Original post: Aug. 24 at 8 a.m.

Contractor CH2M is targeting a late August opening for the first section of the MoPac express toll lanes, but recent rains could lead to more delays.

“The goal is to get it done,” said Jeff Dailey, deputy executive director for the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority, at a July 27 meeting. “We don’t want to be slipping into September.”

Delays have continued throughout the project, which will add one express toll lane in each direction on MoPac between Parmer Lane and Cesar Chavez Street. CH2M has accrued $20 million in liquidated damages as a result of the project being delayed.

The express lanes were originally slated to open in fall 2015, but that deadline was pushed back to the end of 2016. CH2M had agreed to open the northbound section between RM 2222 and Parmer in June but also missed that date after failing to execute work according to an updated approved work plan and record spring rains, Dailey said.

He said CH2M also missed that deadline because worker productivity declined from about 350 workers on-site daily before July 4 to about 250 workers daily after July 4. Dailey added CH2M has recently been ramping up the number of workers on-site since then.

On July 27, the Mobility Authority board of directors authorized staffers to “take any and all action” to enforce the terms of the contract with CH2M.

“The contract term includes our ability to charge liquidated damages for a delayed completion of the project, both for the interim milestone, which is the opening of the northbound express lane from 2222 to Parmer, as well as for the ultimate completion of the project by the end of the year,” Dailey said. “We’ve been accruing liquidated damages. That [authorization] allows us to start assessing them against any payments.”

CH2M is fined $73,500 each day the northbound section remains unopened, Dailey said, and the contract capped damages at $20 million. He said CH2M has reached that cap, so daily accruals have stopped.

“[The amount of liquidated damages] could change because there’s contract changes,” Dailey said. “There’s claims that are in processing that we’re working with CH2M on that could adjust the days [of accruement], so their total amount could go down.”

He said CH2M has indicated it is committed to completing the project.

“We don’t see that on the horizon right now,” Dailey said. “They are moving forward. They’ve made commitments to us. As you go out there right now you can see they’re getting a lot of work done in a short period of time. They’re not within that area where we’re going to start looking for default.”

In late July, construction north of RM 2222 was more than 85 percent complete, Dailey said. Remaining work includes bridge painting and adding lettering on the roadway, which require lane closures.

“That’s a critical pinch point in the road,” he said. “Once we get that done we can make more room to complete the express lane work in that area.”

Work on the underpasses near Cesar Chavez is also nearing completion, and Dailey said he expects traffic shifts to occur in September or October.

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.


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