Central Texas toll agency settles dispute with MoPac contractor, will pay $21.5M

Drone footage from the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority shows the nearly complete northbound express lane near downtown Austin in September.

Drone footage from the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority shows the nearly complete northbound express lane near downtown Austin in September.

The Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority has agreed to pay the MoPac contractor $21.5 million to settle disputes over issues that led to the project’s two-year delay.

The agency’s board approved the amount Tuesday with CH2M, which alleged the Mobility Authority owed it a total of $113 million because of issues, such as unknown underground utilities, hard rock and inclement weather.

The MoPac Improvement Project is adding one express toll lane to MoPac in each direction from Parmer Lane to Cesar Chavez Street.

In October 2016, the Mobility Authority opened part of the northbound express lane from RM 2222 to Parmer. It is anticipating opening the rest of the northbound lane from Cesar Chavez to RM 2222 as early as Sept. 30 or in early October. The southbound lane would open at a later date.

“This settlement ensures that all future claims are off the table, avoiding a lengthy and costly court process,” said Jeff Dailey, the Mobility Authority’s deputy executive director, in a statement released Tuesday morning.

However, the Mobility Authority will only have to pay the amount if CH2M meets a new set of project milestones. In accepting the settlement, the contractor has agreed to complete the full project, including the southbound express lane, by Oct. 27. CH2M faces a loss of $50,000-$100,000 per day if it does not meet that milestone.

“The Mobility Authority’s top priority is opening the full project as soon as possible, and we’re confident this course of action will help achieve that goal,” Dailey said. “We believe the MoPac Improvement Project is an investment that will benefit Central Texans for decades to come, and that is a win for the community.”

The agency also reported that payment of the $21.5 million will not affect toll rates, which are based on the speed and traffic volume of vehicles in both the express toll lane and main lanes. The price goes up when traffic increases to keep traffic flowing.

The amount the Mobility Authority would pay to CH2M is separate from the $20 million CH2M has already accrued in liquidated damages because of the project being two years late.

In December 2015, the Mobility Authority issued a notice of default against CH2M because of those delays. However, the toll agency opted not to proceed with the default and instead continue with dispute resolution to settle ongoing issues related to the delays.

CH2M has previously stated it has lost about $66 million because of the MoPac project delays and opted in January to subcontract the remainder of the project to Lane Construction.
By Amy Denney

Managing Editor, Austin metro

Amy has worked for Community Impact Newspaper since September 2010, serving as reporter and later 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.


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