'Minor' construction issues could affect MoPac express lanes completion date

The first section of the MoPac express lane project opened in October between RM 2222 and Parmer Lane.

The first section of the MoPac express lane project opened in October between RM 2222 and Parmer Lane.

A newly set completion date of June for the MoPac express lane project could change again, the contractor told the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority board Wednesday morning.

In late 2016, the Mobility Authority was targeting an opening in the first half of 2017, but at the board’s Jan. 25 meeting, contractor CH2M told the board it was “pretty confident in hitting mid-June.” CH2M also is subcontracting remaining construction work to Lane Construction.

Now CH2M said it could be June but that the date could also be pushed back again because of two construction issues it discovered since that Jan. 25 meeting. The first is discovering concrete-encased conduits, or tubes, located at a higher elevation than previously thought, and the conduits have to be removed. A sound wall also needs to be reconstructed, CH2M Project Executive Rick Volk said.

“Both of them will have minor impacts,” he said. “June will be difficult [for completion], but it will be there or shortly thereafter.”

MoPac Crews could be finished with work on the MoPac express toll lane underpasses to and from downtown Austin in April.[/caption]

Volk said his team is working on a detailed plan to add the final layer of paving, called permeable friction course, or PFC, and the contractor will have the plan ready in early March.

The timing of when the final paving is completed could also affect the completion date, Mobility Authority and CH2M officials have previously said.

“It will be at some time in April we anticipate we could really get into the PFC pavement,” Volk said.

Mobility Authority board members have been critical of CH2M and getting the most up-to-date information since the contractor began facing issues that have delayed the project. CH2M provides the board with regular updates on progress, issues and work flow.

“It’s important to us to make sure the public is relying on what we’re sending out there with our timing,” Mobility Authority board Chairman Ray Wilkerson said. “My hour and 15 minutes spent on MoPac last night to get to downtown—I can assure you people are ready to be through with that.”

Weekly toll transactions have also bounced back from a holiday slump to the 18,000-19,000 range, officials said.

Board member Charles Heimsath, who said he is a user of the section of northbound toll lane that opened in October, asked CH2M to consider installing an additional sign on northbound MoPac near the entrance north of RM 2222.

“If there were a second, smaller sign [that would] let them know what the price would be at the very entrance to that lane, you [would] have two opportunities to understand how much you will be charged, not just one,” he 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.