Plans to widen SH 130 back on after delay

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After six months of sitting in uncertainty, the SH 130 expansion project, an undertaking local officials urge is necessary for regional mobility, is now scheduled to break ground before the end of the summer.

The Texas Transportation Commission approved a $36.7 million construction package for a portion of the SH 130 widening project April 26, reviving the stalled project. According to a Texas Department of Transportation fact sheet, the agency estimates an additional $4.5 million in engineering costs.

Every portion of the SH 130 segments 2 and 3 expansion project will be funded through the Central Texas Turnpike System according to TxDOT officials.

“This is not a taxpayer funded roadway,” said Dianne Hodges, TxDOT spokesperson. “The funds raised from the toll system are put back into the system for expansions and maintenance of those roadways.”

Construction on the project will be phased out in two separate segments. Segment 2, which runs through Pflugerville from SH 45 to US 290, is expected to wrap up construction in two years.

Segment 3, which runs from US 290 to Hwy. 71, has yet to go to bid. Work on the southern portion of the expansion project will commence shortly after construction on Segment 2 begins this summer, according to TxDOT officials.

Though the budget for the project is less than half of the original estimate–the initial price in fall 2017 was $86.5 million–TxDOT officials state that the original expansion plans remain intact.

Plans for construction of Segment 2 were approximately 50 percent complete when the initial $86.5 million estimate was calculated by TxDOT-hired consultants. According to Hodges, the initial estimate was shaved down to $41.2 million once the details of the project became more defined.

The total project will add a third lane to both the northbound and southbound portions of the toll road from SH 45 N to Hwy. 71, with additional entrance and exit ramp construction.

Utilizing toll funds for the SH 130 project allowed state officials the flexibility to resume construction on the congested roadway. Traffic numbers on SH 130 continue to increase year over year.

In 2017, SH 130 tolls registered approximately 70.24 million transactions, an 8 percent increase from 2016. Five years ago SH 130 registered around 41.36 million transactions.

But plans to add extra lanes to the toll road were briefly scuttled in November after Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick called to freeze state funding for new toll road construction statewide.

“The commission has had the opportunity to consider the funding [and]financing of the project and move it forward, recognizing that it is being entirely funded with toll system revenue,” said Veronica Beyer TxDOT spokesperson.

In March, Pflugerville City Council voted to formally call on TTC to resume the SH 130 widening project. The resolution was part of a coordinated effort to pressure state officials to greenlight the project again.

“For a while there we thought it wasn’t going to come back online,” said Pflugerville Mayor Victor Gonzales.

Gonzales sent letters to Pflugerville’s state representatives and senators and council member Rudy Metayer testified in front of the TTC on behalf of the SH 130 expansion project.

“Ultimately, [we were]just having those conversations back and forth and I think that certainly provided some fuel to help promote our interests,” Gonzales said.

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Iain Oldman
Iain Oldman joined Community Impact Newspaper in 2017 after spending two years in Pittsburgh, Pa., where he covered Pittsburgh City Council. His byline has appeared in PublicSource, WESA-FM and Scranton-Times Tribune. Iain worked as the reporter for Community Impact Newspaper's flagship Round Rock/Pflugerville/Hutto edition and is now working as the reporter for Northwest Austin.
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