Transportation
1:54 pm
Mon July 16, 2012

Drought Takes Toll on State Highway 130

Despite setbacks, State Highway 130 is still set to open in its entirety by November. The toll road will connect the North Austin area with Interstate 10, hopefully easing traffic on Interstate 35.

But SH-130 was the victim of drought-induced damage to its structural integrity. Once-moist clay dried out and contracted, causing shifts in the ground underneath the asphalt and cracking the road on top. Parts of the 41-mile stretch of road between Mustang Ridge and Seguin need to be redone and preventative measures are being taken to keep the damage from reoccurring.

SH-130 is being constructed by a private company, acting as a proxy for the Texas Department of Transportation. Chris Lippinpott is the spokesman for the State Highway 130 Concession Company, the organization in charge of the design, construction, finance, operation, and maintenance of the highway. Lippincott says the cost of the road will total nearly $1.325 billion.

He says the repairs won't come at any cost to taxpayers. "All of the work that's being done is being paid for by the private sector company that's developing the road,” Lippincott says. “All this preventive work, all the replacement that we’re doing, is not of any cost to the Texas Department of Transportation or the State Highway Fund.”

Lippincott says the company would rather replace damaged roads now than repair them after the road has been opened to traffic. “The work we’re doing now to stabilize the moisture underneath the roadbed should protect us far into the future,” Lippincott says. “The moisture barriers are made up of particular types of concrete and soil that’s compacted in a way that will keep moist areas separated from dry areas, and that reduces the expansion and contraction of the clay soil.”

The State Highway 130 Concession Company has a nearly 50 year lease with TxDOT. Over that period of time, the two will share revenue from the toll.