More sections of MoPac Improvement Project will open by this summer

Monitors inside CTRMA allow employees to monitor the traffic on North MoPac (KXAN Photo/Amanda Dugan)
Monitors inside CTRMA allow employees to monitor the traffic on North MoPac (KXAN Photo/Amanda Dugan)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority has agreed to a contract extension for HNTB, the civil engineering firm working on the MoPac Improvement Project. During Wednesday’s board meeting, the board agreed to extend the engineering oversight contract to the end of this year without any additional cost.

Justin Word, director of engineering contact at CTRMA, says he anticipates the bulk of the work to be done this summer but the rest of the year will be spent on closing out the project, which is why the extension is needed. The contract was last extended in June of 2016 and since then, Word says, CTRMA staff has worked with HNTB to keep cost to an “absolute minimum, while still delivering the required services.”

After the board approved the extension, Mike Heiligenstein joked that Word’s use of “constructive use of the facility” means when the lanes are finally open.

A spokesperson for the MoPac Improvement Project says they expect the rest of the northbound express lane to open next, followed by all of the southbound lane. “At this time the contractor is telling us that some sections should be open by sometime this summer,” said spokesperson Steve Pustelnyk.

The first section of the North MoPac express lanes opened in October, nearly a year after the original completion date. According to CTRMA, since that one section has opened in the northbound lanes, drive times on the freeway are faster than before.

During the meeting, board members also got an update on the other big projects currently underway, one of the biggest being the 183 South project.

With an expected cost of $858 million, Heiligenstein says the 183 South project is the “largest project by a local entity in the history of Austin.” If your commute takes you along US 183 on the eastside, you are familiar with the massive amount of construction going on in the area.

Word says moving utilities along US 183 alone will cost $75 million–$35 million of which is just for relocation of Austin Water lines.

Over the next few months, CTRMA will hold nine community meetings to discuss the changes at US 183 and MLK Jr. Boulevard. The next big closure will be Loyola Lane, but that probably won’t happen until the end of the year. Current project completion date is slated for November 2019.

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