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Thoughts on Home (and Highway) Improvement

A couple of years ago I decided to plant a couple of trees in my backyard. After living in sandy Florida for 20 years I was surprised to learn how hard it is to dig a hole in your backyard in Central Texas. I had a pick axe, but progress was slow and I gave up before the holes were likely big enough. End result, dead trees. It was a hard lesson, no pun intended. I’ve also spent far more time on projects than I planned for due to unexpected conditions. How does this tie back to the MoPac Improvement Project you may ask? Well it turns out even the professionals’ experience many of the same situations us amateur contractors endure.

For example, geotechnical engineers tested the ground below MoPac prior to construction, but once work began they were surprised to learn the rock underneath MoPac, especially in the area south of Enfield Road is some of the toughest around. Cutting through it to install drainage pipes turned into a time consuming endeavor. Special tunnel boring machines had to be shipped in from out of state, and work on other elements of the Express Lane ramps into downtown came to a standstill while the underground drilling issue was resolved.

Have you ever cut a cable television line or broke a sprinkler system pipe with a shovel? I’ll plead the fifth here. Well, MoPac was built through existing neighborhoods way back in the 1970’s. That means there are a lot of utilities crisscrossing the corridor and the maps delineating their location are old and somewhat unreliable. As a result, workers have encountered underground stuff that wasn’t supposed to be there. In some cases the utilities were damaged and had to be repaired. Regardless of damage, work had to be stopped until the engineers could figure out how to design around the previously unknown utility. The good news is that we now know where many of the utilities are and we are upgrading a number of them so we don’t have to go back in after the project is completed.

And then there is the weather. Activities such as paving or drainage structure installation require favorable weather conditions in order to be performed. The chilly temperatures and rain this winter have not been a friend to the project.

However, there is a light at the end of the (very hard to drill) tunnel! The MoPac Improvement Project has been ramping up work activity. We have added dozens of new workers in the last few months, and anticipate adding nearly 20% more to the workforce in the coming weeks.

With all the uncertainties associated with construction, why would a company take on a huge task such as the MoPac Improvement Project? As I look back on my own home improvement projects, I think part of the answer is pride and a sense of accomplishment. Despite the repeated trips to the hardware store, and the occasional visit to the doctor’s office, I take great pride in the beautiful kitchen tile, the new wood floor, and the freshly stained front door. Those of us who are working on the MoPac Improvement Project share this same sense of pride and accomplishment as we work to bring you a better MoPac.

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