MoPac

CTRMA Announces MoPac Project Delay, Again

Jul 30, 2015
MoPac Improvement Project

From our city reporting partner, the Austin Monitor: Mike Heiligenstein, the executive director for the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority, told board members Wednesday that the MoPac Improvement Project is expected to be fully operational sometime in the second half of 2016, a far cry from its originally stated Sept. 17, 2015, completion date.

Lead contractor CH2M Hill is responsible for the design and construction of CTRMA’s express lane project, which affects MoPac from Cesar Chavez Street to Parmer Lane. But the originally budgeted $200 million proposal has seen numerous delays because of labor shortages, drilling problems, weather issues, continual run-ins with unidentified utility infrastructure and debatably differing site conditions than those originally agreed upon, Heiligenstein said.

Miguel Gutierrez, Jr./KUT News

KUT and our city hall reporting partner the Austin Monitor are looking at needs that have typically been paid for by the state, but have become local responsibilities. Some call them unfunded mandates. KUT News and the Austin Monitor will look at key examples of that interaction in our series, “The Buck Starts Here.”  Today, we take on Austin’s highways. You can read Tyler Whitson's companion piece over at the Austin Monitor.

We hear it all the time: Austin’s growing too fast, and we don’t have enough housing or roads for the people already here, not to mention the million more people that will be in the region in a little over a decade. To better accommodate an influx of people and cars, new additions are being planned for several of the region’s major highways. 

But there’s no such thing as a free ride on most of these new lanes, and to understand why, it helps to do a little time traveling.

Texas Department of Transportation

Austin City Manager Marc Ott has asked the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to reconsider its environmental impact study on State Highway 45 Southwest.

The proposed extension would connect South MoPac and FM-1626 in northern Hays County.

In a letter to TxDOT, Ott also asked the department to expand the public comment period ahead of tonight's final public input meeting at Bowie High School.

Wells Dunbar, KUT News

Disclosure: Carma is a sponsor of KUT. 

The Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority cut the ribbon today on a new project that could reduce traffic congestion while saving drivers money.

The project is a public-private partnership between the city and state transportation officials, the CTRMA, Texas A&M and a ride-sharing app: Carma.

Carma is based on the concept of "casual carpooling." Paul Steinberg, vice president of business operations for Carma, calls it a mutually beneficial model that affords people rides and grants drivers access to cheaper toll roads and high occupancy vehicle lanes.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

The Austin City Council had a long day at the dais yesterday, with a meeting that sputtered along for the better part of 15 hours.

"Stealth dorms," fee waivers, economic incentives, an officer-involved shooting, the MoPac sound wall and  even a proclamation for KUT's own Cactus Cafe. 

With that in mind, here's a rundown of the council action, and inaction, from yesterday.

Four decades ago, Austin, Texas, had a population of 250,000 and a reputation as a laid-back oasis of liberal politics and live music. Today, the Austin metro area is home to 1.8 million people and has some of the nation's worst traffic congestion.

For years, the city has done little to address the growing problem. But most in the Texas capital now agree something has to change if Austin is to save what's left of its quirky character.

Courtesy of CTRMA

 

Construction crews will install temporary highway lighting along MoPac tonight, and will also remove existing light poles that in the way of the construction of the forthcoming MoPac express lanes. A full map of construction is available online.

The project will add North and Southbound express lanes between Parmer Lane and Cesar Chavez.  

Jillian Schantz Patrick/KUT News

Update: Austin's latest surge of winter weather means postponement of lane restriping work on MoPac.

While lane closures continue, lane restriping  probably won't begin until after Friday's expected rains, and possible freezing precipitation on Saturday. See the tweet below:

Original story (Dec. 9): Construction work on MoPac is about to get underway. Overnight lane closures begin tonight as crews install construction signs in preparation for restriping portions of the road.

Leslie Boorhem-Stephenson

In 2015, an 11-mile stretch of Austin’s MoPac Boulevard will expand to eight lanes from six. The two new lanes will be tolled, giving drivers the chance to pay a premium to avoid the road’s frequent congestion. 

While the toll lanes will help ease traffic on the free lanes, neither the Texas Department of Transportation nor any of the local entities involved in the $200 million project are predicting it will transform MoPac into a free-flowing thoroughfare. With robust population growth projected for the region, MoPac traffic is expected to continue periodically slowing to a crawl for decades. When it does, local officials are optimistic that frustrated commuters will notice that it is not only personal vehicles zipping past them on the toll lanes. 

Callie Hernandez for KUT News

In Austin, it's a constant: Traffic.

There’s recent statewide and local efforts to mitigate congestion – which will take substantial investment and extensive construction. So despite proposals in the pipeline, traffic will continue to be a slow-going, fast-growing problem.

So, it got us wondering: What are the worst intersections in Austin? 

Ben Johnson

Many people the world over are inspired by the 'Austin sound.' But Dallas native and composer Ben Johnson found his inspiration in the sounds of Austin. Literally.

In fact, "The Sounds of Austin, Texas" is the title of his new album – a collection of impressionistic pieces inspired by his adopted hometown, where he studied music in college. Johnson considers his latest album a collection of love songs to Austin. 

Johnson mixes field audio recordings from sites all over the Austin area with his own custom piano compositions, each dedicated to a particular place.  

There are few things most drivers despise more than sitting in traffic.  Add the sweltering heat of a Texas summer day, and you’ve introduced even more suffering.

That’s bad news for Austin, a city that was ranked fourth-worst nationally for traffic in 2013.  A good deal of this infamous congestion is born along MoPac.  Designed in 1961 to meet the needs of less than a quarter of a million people, MoPac has been under strain since the beginning of Austin’s demographic boom.  Today, the design is simply incapable of meeting the needs of the city’s burgeoning population.

Can MoPac Be 'Fixed?'

Aug 30, 2013
Jillian Schantz Patrick for KUT News

About a thousand people a day move to Texas. And if you’re driving on the MoPac expressway at rush hour, it might feel like every one of them is commuting with you.

That's how Sara Robertson feels most days. She's been commuting on MoPac for about eight years. “And every year it gets longer and longer,” Robertson says.

flickr.com/rutlo

Update: A sprawling discussion on the Austin page of Reddit - prompted by a photo of bicyclists on I-35 - has renewed interest in this topic. Read on for more details. 

Original story (April 3, 2013): Despite general public perception – and all standards of common sense – it’s actually legal to ride bicycles on the state highway.

Recently, users on the Austin page of Reddit got into a heated discussion about the legality of riding a bike on Mopac, when one user posted a photo of a couple people doing just that.

Jillian Schantz Patrick for KUT News

Overnight lane closures on MoPac between Lady Bird Lake and Parmer Lane have begun. They'll last from now until the end of July as roadway designers begin a plan to add toll lanes.

The MoPac Improvement Project will expand the highway by adding one express lane in each direction.

Callie Hernandez/KUT News

Sections of I-35 and MoPac are singled out in a new report as being among the 100 top traffic challenges in the Texas.

The report (PDF) by TRIP, a national transportation research group, identifies four problem areas here in Austin. The worst and the toughest to fix, they say, is a stretch of U.S. 290 from MoPac to Farm Road 1826. The road offers no access for emergency vehicles during rush hours.

courtesy flickr.com/alienratt

Good morning. Central Texas winds have slowed down today as Isaac has been downgraded to a tropical storm.

Traffic Relief for Some Austin Commuters

Some northbound Austin drivers should see traffic relief starting tomorrow.

Texas Department of Transportation spokesperson John Hurt tells KUT News that the flyover from northbound MoPac to eastbound U.S. 290 will open up sometime late tonight or early tomorrow morning – before most commuters head to work.

Right now, those drivers have to go through a traffic light and down a frontage road before getting on Ben While Boulevard.

Hurt says the other part of the project – a flyover from westbound 290 to southbound MoPac – won’t be complete until around Thanksgiving.

flickr.com/mirsasha

The Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, better known as CAMPO, last night approved its MoPac Improvement Project.

The project will put a managed toll lane in each direction on MoPac, from Cesar Chavez to Parmer Lane. Toll pricing would be adjusted based upon MoPac's level of congestion at the time of use. The hope is to make traffic on the entire freeway move faster.

The $200 million project was put together by the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority and is being paid for by state and federal funding. The agreement between the mobility authority and CAMPO also creates an infrastructure fund. Basically, $230 million in money collected from tolls on MoPac over the first 25 years of its operation will be used to pay for other transportation projects in the area.

Photo by Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Low-Turnout Election Returns Incumbents to Council

Voters returned all four incumbents on the Austin City Council – including Mayor Lee Leffingwell – to the dais on Saturday.

The council members’ fates were revealed as soon as early voting totals were released, with the incumbents – Leffingwell, Place 2 council member Mike Martinez, Place 5 council member Bill Spelman, and Place 6 council member Sheryl Cole – all leading by comfortable margins.

Many of the council members commented on the exceedingly low-turnout in the election – just under five percent in early voting, and roughly the same amount on election day. Similarly, many of the council members also endorsed the idea of moving municipal elections to November, and moving to a form of geographic representation for the city council. Voters will most likely have a chance to vote on those proposals this November.

Photo by flickr.com/alphachimpstudio

MoPac Improvement Plan Makes Move for New Funding

The Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority has offered a preliminary proposal to acquire $135 million for the MoPac Improvement Plan.

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) notified Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization board (CAMPO) of an unexpected funding windfall of $135 million. During a CAMPO work session last night, CTRMA requested that they receive the new funding to begin the improvements to MoPac.

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