CTRMA board unanimously voted Oct. 30 to formally tell the Texas Department of Transportation that it means to proceed with a project that will add up to two express toll lanes to MoPac, in both directions, between Slaughter Lane and Cesar Chavez Street.
CTRMA staff also said the scope of work could wind up including Texas Highway 45 Southwest, but that has not been figured out yet.
Map of the planned expansion of MoPac South Expressway. Image: Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority
The estimated cost of widening this 8-mile stretch of MoPac ranges from $435 million to $540 million.
The transit authority board’s actions permit CTRMA staff to execute and issue a maximum of $6.6 million in work authorizations to its general engineering consultants, Atkins North America Inc. and WSP USA Inc. to resume their work.
Atkins North America is a subsidiary of the Montreal-based SNC-Lavalin Group and has dozens of offices worldwide. WSP operates several offices nationwide and specializes in civil/infrastructure work.
The MoPac South project was put on hold when a lawsuit was filed against that project, the Texas Highway 45 Southwest project and TxDOT’s MoPac Intersections initiative.
Additionally, the state kept MoPac South from proceeding because of a brief moratorium on new toll road projects where funds from state Propositions 1 and 7 were proposed as the funding mechanisms.
In August 2019, TxDOT gave CTRMA preliminary approval to resume planning for the MoPac South effort.
CTRMA staff will now work with counterparts from TxDOT and other partner agencies to shore up the project timeline, design and cost projections.
The mobility authority plans to have a public hearing about MoPac South in January or February 2020. TxDOT expects to do a review of schematics in May 2020. Another public hearing would be slated for summer 2021.
The MoPac South project’s environmental feasibility study recommends adding toll lanes to the current northbound and southbound lanes as the preferred build option of several that were considered.
CTRMA estimates construction could start in 2023. CTRMA is scheduled to release final environmental findings by September 2021.
According to the mobility authority, MoPac Expressway has become a vital artery for Austin-area commuters, providing a critical link between downtown Austin and other highways, and that it needs capacity expansion to keep pace with population growth.
“Consistently ranked as one of the most congested roadways in Texas, (MoPac Expressway) attracts up to 130,000 cars and trucks per day. Over time, expanding population as well as residential, retail and commercial development in the corridor, has led to increased traffic congestion,” CTRMA states in a project website.
Edmond Ortiz is a lifelong San Antonian and a 20-plus-year veteran in local journalism, He previously worked full-time at the San Antonio Express-News, and has been freelancing for outlets such as the Rivard Report.