Mobility Authority considers add-ons to MoPac project

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Workers install portions of a sound wall Jan. 14 as part of the MoPac Improvement Project.

Workers install portions of a sound wall Jan. 14 as part of the MoPac Improvement Project. (via )

The MoPac Improvement Project is still on track to open in the fall, but if the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority adds on any new work, that opening date could shift.

Steve Pustelnyk, director of community relations for the MoPac project, said initially the scope of the MoPac project, which will add one new toll lane in each direction from Parmer Lane to Lady Bird Lake, was scaled back because of funding constraints. Now the Mobility Authority, which is the manger and owner of the project, is able to consider change orders, which is work outside the initial scope of the project.

Pustelnyk said some of the change orders are for safety issues that could arise later but that the Mobility Authority can address now. These include rebuilding the northbound on-ramp at RM 2222 and the southbound off ramp at Westover Road.

One project that could affect the critical path—the order in which construction activities must occur—is rerouting a 42-inch water main from the west side of MoPac near Camp Mabry to the east side near the Westminster retirement community.

Paul Petrich, project manager with engineering consulting firm HNTB Corp., said relocating the pipe will involve drilling down 30 feet to insert the pipe below MoPac and the Union Pacific railroad. He said the city of Austin still needs to approve the final plans.

“Timing, obviously, is critical for the progress of the project,” he said.

Petrich said HNTB has weekly meetings with the city to ensure city employees are aware of the timeframe. Construction will take about 22 weeks.

“Its a fairly lengthy process,” Petrich said. “Then we get into issues of [connecting the new line]. We cant take a water line out of service of that large of size.”

Other change orders the Mobility Authority is considering are more aesthetic. Petrich said HNTB, contractor CH2M Hill and the Mobility Authority will analyze the changes orders the Mobility Authority adds and how they might affect the schedule. Some work could be done concurrently, he said.

Change orders are a natural process to the design/build process, Petrich said. Its viewed as one of the last, best opportunities to fix some things in the corridor while were in there and have things torn up.

Mobility Authority board chairman Ray Wilkerson said it is important for the public to understand the importance of the change orders and their benefit to the project.

“These are big enhancements to the project; they’re not just minor things,” Wilkerson said.

Some enhancements could improve the aesthetics of cross streets including Enfield, Westover and Windsor roads and 35th and 45th streets where bridge work is occurring. Mobility Authority Executive Director Mike Heiligenstein asked to see the concepts being proposed at the Feb. 25 board meeting.

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Amy Denney

Amy has been reporting in community journalism since 2007. She worked in the Chicago suburbs for three years before migrating south and joined Community Impact Newspaper in September 2010. Amy has been editor of the Northwest Austin publication since August 2012 and she is also the transportation beat reporter for the Austin area. As senior editor, she is the point person for the company's partnership with Fox7 Austin.

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