CTRMA announce MoPac express lane openings

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The end is in sight for MoPac construction after an agreement between the Regional Mobility Authority and its contractor CH2MHill.

The Regional Mobility Authority had a special meeting Tuesday to discuss the agreement and amendment to its contract with CH2M, the contractor hired to construct the MoPac Expressway project.

RMA issued a "notice of default" in December saying the contractor was off schedule and wasn't going fast enough. The two sides negotiated and came up with an agreement the board voted for and approved Tuesday.

"We feel like this amendment to the contract will be in the public interest to get this job done as expeditiously as possible." RMA executive director Mike Heiligenstein said.

CH2M Chair and CEO Jacqueline Hinman released a statement after the approval saying, "The MoPac Improvement Project resolution provides both CTRMA and CH2M with a definitive path forward to complete the project. Key stakeholders are aligned, making every effort on this final phase of construction to deliver a superb project by the end of the year. We could not have achieved such alignment without the leadership efforts of Mike Heiligenstein and Ray Wilkerson, the strong working relationships between the CTRMA and CH2M project teams, and the support of federal, state and local project stakeholders. We're all pulling together to achieve a positive outcome for the people of Austin."

In the agreement, RMA kept on CH2M on several conditions. Those include deadlines for completed parts of the project. On June 8, RMA requires the express lanes north of FM 2222 to be completed. Then it requires all express lanes to be completed by November 29. There will be some more work to get done after November, but the construction that affects traffic on the major lanes should be completed.

"We've got another nine months to go, eight or nine months to go, and we'll be done with this project," Heiligenstein said.

If the contractor does not make those deadlines then it will have to pay damages. That includes more than $73,000 a day between Tuesday and June 8 if the contractor doesn't make that deadline. Then it would accrue $43,000 a day if it doesn't make the November 29 deadline.

"Those remain in place," Heiligenstein said.

In order to quicken the process of construction, the contractor will increase the amount of workers, hire better quality management and get better equipment. RMA said it wasn't happy with the equipment the construction company had in the start of the project.

All of this sounds great to commuters like Judy Moscheo who take MoPac everyday. She works at a company off 5th street and the MoPac service road. She didn't think the construction would ever get done, and she still has her doubts.

"If it really is true then that would be awesome, but I don't know if I can, we'll see," Moscheo said. "Well it's been delayed so much and I mean just, look at it. They may get it done who knows. More power to them if they do."

With the agreement settled, the final phase of construction can begin. That includes a major lane realignment at Cesar Chavez and northbound MoPac. On Saturday, drivers coming from the south will be diverted to two lanes instead of three. This is so construction workers can start on the excavation of the underground tunnel ramps.

While it will cause a five to ten minute extra delay for traffic coming from the south, it would benefit traffic coming from downtown.

Drivers on the 6th Street/ Cesar Chavez on ramp will get their own lane to get onto MoPac. Drivers would not have to merge.

This is about a quarter mile stretch that's similar to southbound MoPac at the 5th Street and Cesar Chavez exit.