MoPac contractor fined $20M; another company to finish job

Northbound MoPac, where drivers can enter the express lanes. (Robert Maxwell, KXAN)
Northbound MoPac, where drivers can enter the express lanes. (KXAN Photo/Robert Maxwell)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The remainder of the work on the MoPac express lane construction project will be completed by Connecticut-based subcontractor, Lane Construction.

CH2M, the company overseeing the construction of the project, has hired Lane Construction for subcontract work on the project before, along with other subcontractors. Now, Lane Construction will finish it.

Despite the contractor change, representatives with the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority, CTRMA, say they expect the project to finish in June, as last reported.

Jeff Dailey, the deputy executive director, told KXAN Thursday that CTRMA has seen good results from Lane Construction and that CH2M has “made some good moves” toward completing the long-delayed MoPac project. Dailey said since October 2016, they’ve seen really good progress on the project and that Lane Construction is staying on schedule.

However, it doesn’t change the fact that the project’s original completion date was September 2015.

Homeowners in the Tarrytown neighborhood of Austin, near the intersections of Windsor Road and Winsted Lane, say they’re optimistic about the contractor change, hoping the project will finish faster. But, they also say they’ll need some convincing.

“As much as I’d like to be the eternal optimist, history tells me that it’ll probably still be slow,” said homeowner Linda Bentley, who lives on Margranita. “Having the project finished and finished in a timely manner would be amazing. It is a good sign that they’ve you know, re-contracted with someone else and so I’m hopeful that it’s quicker and they get it finished. But, I think it’s kind of a ‘wait and see.'”

Ambyr and Anthony Lostracco live in a home off of Winsted. Their home backs up to MoPac. They also have two young children.

“I do sleep in earplugs every night. I can’t go to sleep without them. For sure it’s loud, whether it’s the traffic or the construction,” said Ambyr Lostracco. “They were breaking up the concrete about 11 p.m. one night. We came out here a couple times to ask them to stop because our kids were asleep.”

The couple is still waiting for relief from sound barrier walls that have yet to be built in their backyard. “When did we first hear the wall was coming in?” asked Ambyr. “It’s been a few years,” her husband, Anthony, replied.

The couple says matters get worse when it rains.

“Since they’ve removed all the brush and things from right here, we have water that just rushes into our yard,” said Ambyr. “We have pools of water around the yard, and water that rushes over there on the fence line.”

“They said they’re working on a drainage,” said Anthony. But, they’re just focusing on their first priority: the wall.

They’re trying to hold out hope the change to Lane Construction will speed up the process.

“Hopefully they can take over and get it done. Fingers crossed they can get it done. Soon,” added Lostracco.

In December 2015, CH2M said the lanes would open in summer 2016. The contractor blamed underground cables, a soft work force and harder than expected rock. That’s when CTRMA slapped CH2M with a default notice.

CTRMA said Thursday they reached the $20 million cap they can cut from CH2M’s pay within the last month, as penalty for not having completed the project on time.

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