North MoPac toll lanes now slated for completion by November

Construction along North MoPac on Dec. 18, 2015.
Construction along North MoPac (KXAN Photo/Dani Guerrero)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — After numerous setbacks and delays, the toll lanes for North MoPac are now scheduled to be fully operational by the end of November, a full year behind the original schedule. Tuesday, a new ultimatum for the contractor working the MoPac expansion: Wrap it up or pay millions.

On Tuesday, the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority (CTRMA) agreed to a new construction timeline with contractor, CH2M. The contractor was slapped with a default notice from the CTRMA in December. The notice gave 60 days for CH2M to respond, which recently expired.

CTRMA connected big fines to not getting this project done. The express lane needs to be done north of 2222 by June 8 or else the contractor will be fined $12.8 million. If all lanes aren’t operational by November 29, an additional $7.5 million gets tacked on.

“Of course we wished that happened a year or so ago. But at this point, what we have to do is look to the future and say how can we get this job done with as little pain to the public, and that’s what we did today,” said Mike Heiligenstein, the Executive Director of CTRMA.

The group unanimously voted to keep CH2M on the project, but raised the stakes for failing consequences. A project expected to be done in Sept. 2015 was delayed by harder than expected limestone rock, an unforeseen Austin water line and an investigation into whether crews would hurt an endangered spider species.

‘This lanes will be in place for 30 years. Put it in perspective and say we have another eight or nine months to go and we’ll be done with this project,” said Heiligenstein.

He reminds us that the CH2M Hill was the low bid, saving the project $60 million. But orange fence and heavy equipment will be seen a year longer than we all hoped.

Last December, CTRMA was considering dropping the contractor but Tuesday they decided that would only add more money and more delay for Austin drivers. They just want to get done with this express lane and move on.

Both agencies agreed to have a large portion of the project from Parmer Lane to Ranch Road 2222 completed in both directions by June 8. Construction on the project started nearly two years and the original completion date was Sept. 2015. In December, the construction deadline was pushed back to this spring but now the new timeline has the project completed on Nov. 29.

“The project will enter into the final phase of construction within the next week and CH2M has committed itself to meeting critical milestones to ensure timely progress,” says the CTRMA in a press release.

The total amount allotted for the project was $203 million. If CH2M does not meet the June deadline, the company will be fined $73,000 a day. If the entire project isn’t finished by Nov. 29, the contractor will be fined another $43,000 a day.

Once complete, the toll lanes will be a 11.2 mile stretch of North MoPac from Parmer to downtown Austin.

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