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About the MoPac Improvement Project

General

  • The MoPac Improvement Project is a $200 million project to add Express Lanes on MoPac from Cesar Chavez Street north to Parmer Lane. In addition to the Express Lanes, the project also includes the construction of sound walls, the enhancement of bicycle and pedestrian facilities and upgrading the visual appearance of the corridor.

  • MoPac is a heavily congested corridor with unreliable travel times during peak hours. The Express Lanes are intended to give buses, van pools and individuals who choose not to sit in traffic the ability to avoid congestion and get to their destination without delay.

  • The Express Lanes are being built by the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority in cooperation with the Texas Department of Transportation, the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, the City of Austin and the Federal Highway Administration.

  • Express Lanes are special barrier-separated lanes that are designed to remain congestion free. They utilize variable tolls to manage the amount of traffic in the lane. This is accomplished by increasing the toll when traffic is heavy and lowering it when traffic is light.

  • Additional pavement is being constructed to fit an additional lane and a buffer zone adjacent to the inside (left) lane in each direction. The same number of non-tolled lanes that exist today will remain open and untolled. In some areas, additional pavement will be added in the median of the roadway to accommodate the new lanes. In other locations, the widening will occur to the outside. None of the widening will require the purchase of additional property.

  • The study team analyzed all of the alternatives and compared them to the need and purpose that was developed for the project. The team found that Express Lanes best serve the need and purpose for the project and are the most feasible alternative.

  • The project includes approximately $5 million worth of improvements to bicycle and pedestrian facilities. The project includes 3 miles of shared use path, a new bridge over the railroad tracks north of Braker Lane, four miles of sidewalks, Americans with Disablities Act enhancements and bike lane improvements at 13 cross streets along the corridor.

  • For those driving on MoPac, there will be numerous trees and landscaping elements added along the side of the road. Also, where sound walls are being constructed, the walls will be textured and painted to fit in with the look and feel of the surrounding area. Many of the concrete structures, including the sound walls, will be painted.

  • No. Once the Express Lanes open, there will be just as many non-tolled lanes on MoPac as there are now.

  • The project is being financed through a unique partnership with the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) and the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT). CAMPO and TxDOT have approved grants totaling $199.5 million to fund the project. As part of the partnership arrangement, the Mobility Authority has agreed to set up a Regional Infrastructure Fund, and over the next 25 years, will deposit $230 million into the fund. CAMPO can then allocate money from the fund to other transportation projects in the region.

  • The project includes the construction of 7 miles of sound walls with heights ranging from eight to twenty feet. Sound wall locations were identified through the environmental process with adjacent property owners voting to decide whether they wanted walls or not. Sounds walls were rejected in just a few locations. For detailed information visit the sound walls page.

  • Initially, the addition of an Express Lane in each direction may reduce some of the congestion in the general purpose lanes. Over time, these benefits will decrease as traffic continues to grow. However, variable tolls in the Express Lanes are intended to keep traffic in the Express Lanes free flowing over the long term giving buses, van pools and drivers who choose to use the Express Lanes a faster and more reliable trip.

  • Trucks using the MoPac corridor are more likely to be making local deliveries and are not likely to utilize SH 130 as an alternative route. 

  • All of the existing entrance ramps and exit ramps will remain open once the project is completed. There will be some minor adjustments to the ramps due to the widening of the existing highway.

Construction

  • The contractor will have the option to work anytime including nights, weekends and holidays. However, lane closures will be restricted to minimize travel delays especially around major holidays or during special events such as SXSW, Austin City Limits and University of Texas home football games. The contractor will face financial penalties if unapproved lane closures occur.

  • Construction phasing and timing of lane closures will be developed as the design of the project progresses. As information becomes available, the Mobility Authority will distribute this information to neighbors and drivers through multiple communication channels.

  • Yes. Significant Austin Energy electric lines, Time Warner Cable, AT&T fiber, and waterlines exist in the corridor and some relocations will be required in order to construct the sound walls and expand the roadway.

  • Any time there is construction near existing lanes, even if there is no impact to the lanes, there is a tendency for traffic to slow down. This is expected on a corridor as constrained as this one. There will be some instances where the contractor will require a lane closure to do work. In an attempt to reduce the impact on traffic, lane closures are allowed on weekdays between the hours of 8:00 pm and 6:00 am. On Sundays, the contractor can close the MoPac mainlanes as early as 5:00 pm. Closures of shoulders, frontage roads, and cross roads are allowed during the day. Lane closures may be allowed at other times, but efforts will be undertaken to minimize their impact on travel. Lane closures will be limited during special events or during holiday periods.

  • All construction activities will be conducted in accordance with federal and state laws/rules regarding the safe maintenance of traffic.

  • Neighbors should anticipate increased noise, light pollution and dust. Some work will take place in close proximity to nearby homes during nighttime hours. There is the potential for additional cut-through traffic during construction and potential increases in traffic congestion along the corridor. Businesses may experience similar issues. However, some may experience increased business from workers who will be on the job. There will be a 24/7 hotline that will be available if impacts become an issue.

  • The contractor will coordinate construction activities with Union Pacific Railroad, and there should be little or no disruption to operations.

  • Noise will be an unavoidable issue. The contractor is required to minimize noise whenever feasible. If the Mobility Authority determines that the contractor is not taking reasonable steps to minimize noise, then appropriate action will be taken to address the problem.

  • A signicant amount of the construction work will occur at night.

  • Sound walls will be built along the property line where feasible. In limited instances, they will be constructed on bridge railings or along the side of the highway.  Wall heights will vary between 8 and 20 feet tall. Examples of the wall design can be found on the sound walls page of the MoPacExpress website.

  • The contractor plans to prioritize early construction of sound walls, but an exact schedule is not known at this time.

  • Construction of the Express Lanes requires the widening of MoPac. North of US 183, the corridor has a large median that has enough room to accommodate an Express Lane in each direction. Between US 183 and RM 2222 there will be a combination of widening to the median and widening toward the frontage roads. South of RM 2222, the Union Pacific Railroad limits the ability to widen in the median, so widening will occur toward the outside of MoPac. In some areas there is limited room between the existing pavement and the property line, lane widths will be reduced from 12 feet to 11 feet in these areas.

  • Yes. Trees and vegetation will be removed, especially in areas where sound walls are being constructed. The additional pavement will also impact trees and vegetation in the median north of RM 2222 and along the roadside between 45th Street and Cesar Chavez Street.

  • The contractor will have a safety officer on site to ensure workers are complying with federal safety rules. Concrete barriers and other safety devices will be used as much as possible to separate construction workers from passing vehicles.

  • The contractor will hire off duty police officers and security guards as deemed necessary to ensure the safety of the traveling public and to protect equipment and supplies being used on the job site.

  • The contractor will be establishing a field office near the project (specific location to be determined). Workers will either park at that field office or in designated locations along the roadway near the site of construction activity.

  • The contractor will be required to maintain the MoPac corridor during construction of the Express Lanes. Required maintenance activities will include cutting grass and vegetation, picking up garbage and roadway debris, sweeping the highway surface and repairing any roadway structures that may get damaged, such as guardrail. With all construction projects, there may be times that these issues occur, please call the 24 hour hotline if you have concerns.

  • The Mobility Authority has established a project website at www.MoPacExpress.com. The Mobility Authority will offer drivers, residents and business owners the ability to sign up for construction updates via email, Twitter, text messaging, and through our mobile ap. Regular updates will also be provided to traffic reporting services and the general media.

  • The Mobility Authority is established a project hotline that will be monitored 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In addition, individuals with questions or concerns will be able to email the Mobility Authority through a contact link on the contact us page.

  • Yes. It is called Permeable Friction Course or PFC and it offers a number of benefits. It drains better than other types of asphalt, which limits the ponding of water, thereby reducing hydroplaning and back spray and improving visibility. It can also help reduce pollutants discharged from the roadway. Most important to the residents who live along MoPac, it is a quieter roadway surface. New PFC will be laid in all lanes from Lady Bird Lake north to Parmer Lane.

Using the express lanes

  • Drivers will be able to enter or exit the Express Lanes at the following locations:

    • - Cesar Chavez Street in downtown Austin
    • - In the vicinity of RM 2222 and Far West (for access to and from US 183)
    • - Near Parmer Lane in north Austin

    Once in the Express Lanes, the minimum trip length will be 5 miles. No interim entering or exiting will be allowed.

  • There will be ramps that allow drivers to enter and exit the Express Lanes directly from the existing Cesar Chavez Street / 5th Street connections without entering the MoPac general purpose lanes. All other Express Lane access locations require users to enter and exit from the left lane of the MoPac general purpose lanes.

  • Cost limitations and space constraints were factors that impacted the decision regarding where to build direct connections.

    An environmental study is underway to explore options for connecting mobility improvements on US 183 North to the MoPac corridor by examining the section of MoPac between US 183 and RM 2222 (please visit www.183North.com).

  • The Express Lanes are expected to open to traffic sometime in 2016.

  • Most of the lanes will be 12 feet wide. South of RM 2222, where space is limited, lanes will be 11 feet wide to avoid the purchase of property.

  • Yes, there will be full shoulders along the vast majority of the corridor. South of RM 2222, where space is limited, some shoulders will be narrowed to avoid the purchase of property. Shoulders in that stretch are already narrow in many locations.

  • There will be cameras and traffic detection equipment monitoring the flow of traffic at all times. The Mobility Authority will be coordinating with the Austin police and fire departments to provide rapid response to any incident that occurs in the Express Lanes or general-purpose lanes. The Express Lanes will have 10 foot wide shoulders along the majority of the corridor that allow for disabled vehicles to pull completely out of the lane. In areas of reduced shoulders, there will be sufficient room to pass a disabled vehicle without exiting the Express Lane.

    If the Express Lanes become completely blocked, the buffer zone is design with flexible delineators so that drivers and emergency response personnel will be able to cross the buffer zone back into the general-purpose lanes. The Mobility Authority is also planning on operating the HERO roadside assistance program on MoPac once the Express Lanes open.

  • If an incident is blocking the Express Lane or if we need to perform maintenance, we may need to close the lane. When possible we will block access to the lane. However, if the Express Lane is closed, but not blocked, drivers should not enter the lane. If you enter the lane when the sign says the lane is closed you may be required to pay a toll equal to the amount that was posted on the toll rate sign before the lane was closed, even if the lane is congested.

  • If the toll rate sign is malfunctioning and no toll rate is shown, drivers using the lane will be charged the historical rate for that time period according to a chart that will be posted online at www.mobilityauthority.com.

  • It is illegal to cross a double white line in Texas. If you cross the double white line and enter the Express Lanes illegally you will be charged the applicable toll and may be issued a traffic citation (ticket). Drivers should also be aware that the flexible poles located between the double white striped lines can cause vehicle damage if struck. Drivers could be held financially or criminally liable for any injuries or damage caused as the result of an illegal lane change.

  • The Express Lanes are intended for cars and light trucks with no more than two axles. Large trucks with three or more axles such as dump trucks, concrete trucks and tractor trailers are prohibited. Vehicles pulling any type of trailer are prohibited. This prohibition includes passenger vehicles and/or pickup trucks pulling items such as boats, campers or lawn equipment.

  • They will look like most other traffic lanes except they will be separated from the regular lanes by double white lines and plastic delineator sticks. Entrances to the Express Lanes will be well signed to reduce accidental entrance into the lane

  • The current MoPac Improvement Project Express Lanes will transition into regular lanes south of Cesar Chavez Street. The Mobility Authority is currently conducting an environmental study to determine the scope and type of improvements needed south of Cesar Chavez Street. The study is anticipated to take 3 to 4 years. Visit MoPacSouth.com for more information about this environmental study.

Tolling

  • It will cost as little as 25-cents to use the Express Lanes. However, when traffic is heavy, the toll will increase to help prevent the lanes from becoming congested. The more people who use the lane, the higher the price will go. Preliminary studies suggest toll rates will normally be less than $4.00, but they could go much higher at times of peak demand. The goal of the higher toll rates is not to increase revenue but to manage traffic and maintain free flow speeds on the Express Lane.

  • Tolls will be collected electronically using TxTag, TollTag or EZ-Tag. Drivers who don't have a tag account will still be able to use the lanes. The Mobility Authority will take a picture of their license plate and send them a bill in the mail.

  • Drivers will be able to pay their tolls using TxTag, TollTag or EZ-Tag. Drivers will also be able to use the Pay by Mail program where a toll bill is mailed to them. Toll bills can be paid online, over the phone, via mail or by visiting any ACE cash office.

  • Anyone who does not pay their toll bill can be charged with a misdemeanor and face penalties including fines and/or jail time. 

    If a vehicle attempts to avoid tolls by entering or exiting the Express Lane anywhere other than a marked entrance and exit, they are committing a moving violation for crossing a double white line and could receive additional citations.

  • There is no limit on the toll rate. Most of the time, the rate is expected to be $4.00 or less, but it could be much higher at times when traffic is especially heavy and demand to use the Express Lanes is high.

  • No. Buses and vanpools operated by a public transit agency like Capital Metro are exempt from toll payment.

  • No. Authorized emergency vehicles are exempt from paying tolls under state law.

  • Yes. Drivers who carpool will pay the same toll as regular users. However, because carpoolers are sharing a ride, they will have the option to split the cost, making trips more affordable.

  • Yes. While the Mobility Authority encourages the adoption of green vehicle technology, due to the limited capacity of the Express Lanes only buses and van pools operated by a public transit agency like Capital Metro and vehicles specifically exempt from toll payment under state law will be allowed to use the lanes for free.

  • The Mobility Authority Board and staff are grateful for the dedication and sacrifice of our military veterans. However, in order to ensure the Express Lanes remain free flowing, toll free travel will only be provided to buses and van pools operated by public transit agencies like Capital Metro and to vehicles specifically exempt from toll payment under state law.