Weather, paving corrections push back North MoPac opening date

North MoPac Expressway on Aug. 25, 2016 (KXAN Photo/Calily Bien)
North MoPac Expressway on Aug. 25, 2016 (KXAN Photo/Calily Bien)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Paving corrections have to be made to sections of North MoPac Expressway, and that could further delay its planned opening.

The Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority says repairs will start on the sections, between RM 2222 and U.S. 183, in the next few weeks. CTRMA told KXAN weekend rains threw back the planned and already delayed opening of the express lanes, saying it will be difficult to open before Labor Day.

Crews will be paying particular attention to two stretches, about one-tenth mile in length, that need pavement patches. The pavement is a special variety that allows some rainwater to flow through to lessen the amount of rainfall that forms into large puddles.

KXAN reported on July 1 the project contractors are facing up to $20 million in penalties for not having the project complete on time.

The North MoPac toll lanes were originally scheduled for completion in September 2015.

On August 10, officials with the MoPac Improvement Project said they expected the first half to open by August 30, but admitted that date could change once again. Now, it has.

Drivers we spoke with say they are frustrated with the delays.

“It’s super frustrating how long it’s taken to get his toll road open,” said driver, Dustin Fontenot. “It’s terrible. I mean, every morning I sit in traffic and every afternoon I come home [and] it’s the same way each time.”

After learning about the delay due, in part, to the need to repave patches of the stretch of roadway that did not pass a smoothness test, other drivers we spoke to understood.

“The area of smoothness is an issue on that far right lane. It’s dangerous,” said Andrew Burns. “If they can do anything to make it safer, I’m for it. I’m certainly not for more delays ‘cause I also understand it was supposed to be completed last year.”

KXAN spoke with corporate communications officials with CH2M, the company behind the project. Representatives said they can’t talk about it and referred us to the company’s latest disclosure filings on their website, here.

Friday a CTRMA spokesperson issued this statement:

We are disappointed that MoPac Improvement Project is not yet complete and understand how frustrating and disruptive the construction has been on Central Texans. The record amount of rainfall has impacted the schedule, but we are working closely with the contractor on a recovery schedule.

The contractor, CH2M, has a new team in place including one of the top contractors in the country. Their workforce numbers have increased significantly over the last several weeks and we are pleased with the renewed commitment we are seeing from the CH2M to get the project complete.

We have several weeks of work left on the Northbound, north end section if weather cooperates. The community is getting several critical elements with this project that were not a part of the original plan – underpasses that provide protection from visual disruption by elevated direct connects, a huge new waterline, sound walls along the corridor.  

CTRMA undertook this project when no other agency was willing to step up and we stand by it. Completion of is this critical project is right around the corner, which will serve the community well for the next 30 plus years.

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