TWO MOPAC LANES TO BE CLOSED THIS WEEKEND
Huge backups expected when all but one lane closes during weekend.
Stay away from southbound MoPac Boulevard in Central Austin this weekend.
And probably more weekends in the next couple of months.
In an effort to bring the long-delayed toll lane expansion project to a close in the late summer or early fall, the contractor will close all but one southbound lane between RM 2222 and Enfield Road from late Friday evening to early Monday morning.
The closure of two lanes almost certainly will cause huge backups on the road, officials said.
“Drivers are urged to avoid southbound MoPac” during what could be a 55-hour closure, the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority said in a Thursday afternoon news release.
Austin police will be stationed near each of the on-ramps in that 3-mile stretch, directing traffic alongside the freeway, the release said.
The closure will allow preparation for paving of the center and left lanes. Only the outside lane will be usable this weekend.
The closure will begin as early
as 10 p.m. Friday and last no later than 5 a.m. Monday, the mobility authority says. The agency is developing and will operate an added toll lane on each side of MoPac between West Cesar Chavez Street and Parmer Lane, an 11-mile interval.
Workers will remove existing asphalt in preparation for laying the final layer of new pavement in this 3-mile section. That new type of asphalt, called “permeable friction course,” emits less noise from tires than normal asphalt and suppresses spray when the road is wet. But it can only be applied when the temperature is 70 degrees or higher, the authority said, lending an urgency to get it done before overnight temperatures begin to fall below that level.
The mobility authority in its release said “a number of weekend closures may be needed.”
Mobility authority officials said last month that the rest of the northbound toll lane should open by late September, with the full southbound toll lane to open a couple of weeks later. Part of the northbound toll lane opened last October.
The toll project, which began construction in January 2014, was originally projected to be complete in September 2015, an estimate that has proved to be wildly optimistic. Contractor CH2M, which bid about $60 million less than its closest competitor in 2013, proposed a design change — short tunnels south of Enfield — that added considerable time to the project when the limestone bedrock was harder and more difficult to drive through than expected.
And the project has run into a number of other problems: labor shortages, a delay in the city’s design of a replacement water main and numerous old and unexpected utility installations underground.
The toll lanes — with entrances and exits only at the north and south ends and one place in the middle — will have tolls that fluctuate as often as every five minutes in response to traffic levels. The ever-changing tolls, officials maintain, will allow them to maintain a speed of at least 45 mph in those added lanes, absent an accident that completely blocks the lane.
“Drivers are urged to avoid southbound MoPac” during what could be a 55-hour closure, the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority said Thursday.