Contractor works to keep northbound MoPac on track for June opening

A view from a camera on MoPac near RM 2222 shows traffic May 2. The northbound section of MoPac between RM 2222 and Parmer Lane will open in June.

A view from a camera on MoPac near RM 2222 shows traffic May 2. The northbound section of MoPac between RM 2222 and Parmer Lane will open in June.

Although wet weather, cooler temperatures and scheduling conflicts have contributed to more delays on the MoPac project, the contractor CH2M is working to make up that lost time.

Senior Project Manager J.D. Stokes said CH2M has continued to commit resources, such as labor and materials, which is a good sign for the project’s schedule. The MoPac project is adding one express, or toll, lane in each direction between Parmer Lane and Cesar Chavez Street. Completion is expected in November.

“We’re working together very closely with the contractor to look at how we can reel in some of the opportunities we have to gain back that schedule where those delays occurred,” Stokes said May 3 during the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority board meeting.

CH2M Project Director Craig Martell said they had planned to start paving the final layer of asphalt called permeable friction course, or PFC, in early April but faced issues with trying to schedule daytime lane closures.

“We’re working together to find ways to ensure we can get the northbound lane from [RM] 2222 to Parmer complete by the eighth of June, and this may require some additional daytime lane closures, [for] which we humbly seek your endorsement,” Martell told the board.

Steve Pustelnyk, Mobility Authority’s director of community relations, said daytime lane closures generally are not permitted on the project unless under certain circumstances.

Although June 8 is the technical deadline to open the northbound section between RM 2222 and Parmer, Pustelnyk said the agency would prefer to open the express lane on a weekend and will likely do so June 11. June 18 is the backup date. He said the agency has not planned to open the southbound section north of RM 2222 in June to avoid adding to congestion.

CH2M has started applying the PFC on the north end of the project but still has several sections to go.

“We still have a month and a half or so to go; we don’t know how weather is going to affect us,” Pustelnyk said. “Right now we can believe they can make June 8 based on where they’re at. They can continue to revise their plans and make it, but if we get a week or two of heavy rains or we get another long cold snap that’s unusual, there’s always the potential that could interfere [with the schedule].”

Toll policy

During the May 3 meeting the Mobility Authority board of directors approved the variable toll policy for MoPac. This policy sets a minimum toll rate in the express lanes of $0.25 per segment and does not set a maximum rate. MoPac will have two segments in each direction: north of Parmer Lane to north of RM 2222 and 2222 to Cesar Chavez Street.

Tolls will be based on variable pricing to promote “free flowing” traffic, which means tolls will go up to prevent the express lanes from being congested and will go down when traffic is lighter.

Tim Reilly, the agency’s director of toll operations, said the goal is to maintain between 1,100 to 1,500 vehicles per hour, or about 45 to 50 mph, in the express lanes.

The toll policy also prohibits semitrailers and other trailers from using the express lanes.
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.