Firm selected for construction of MoPac express lanes

A Colorado-based design-build firm was selected for the MoPac Improvement Project, which will add one express toll lane in each direction from Parmer Lane to Lady Bird Lake.

The Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority board of directors approved choosing CH2M Hill, which has an office in Austin at 12301 Research Blvd., Bldg. 4, Ste. 250, to design and construct the project. The final design and construction of the project is expected to cost almost $137 million with a total project cost of $204 million that includes $13 million for unexpected costs.

The Mobility Authority is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the final contract with CH2M Hill during its March 27 board meeting, and the agency should receive a notice to proceed in mid-April. Engineering Director Wes Buford said CH2M Hill will need to have 30 percent of the design completed before it can begin construction and that "dirt won't be flying yet."

"Summer is my guess when we will start to see the work," he said.

The MoPac Improvement Project also includes constructing and widening existing pavement and bridges, adding 7 miles of sound walls, and upgrading bicycle and pedestrian facilities. The project is expected to be completed by late 2015. The cost of the toll will vary between 25 cents to about $4 based on time of day and heaviness of traffic.

Mobility Authority Executive Director Mike Heiligenstein said he is continuing to meet with Austin City Manager Marc Ott and other City Council members to determine the best design for the Fifth Street interchange with MoPac. Buford said that element likely will finalized in the first several months of the project.

The Texas Transportation Commission approved a financial assistance agreement with the Mobility Authority in August for $199.5 million in the form of a grant for the MoPac Improvement Project. That amount includes $130 million from the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization.

"We're in a good place with the bids. We're in a good place with the total project cost, and we're pretty confident about what we can make happen with this," Buford 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.