Bond money could make 620/2222 connector project a reality

Construction could begin by late 2018 if funds are in place

Four Points News

Following the approval of a $720 million mobility bond by Austin voters in November, Four Points’ representatives are hoping to get the ball moving quickly on projects such as the RM 620/RM 2222 connector project, also known as the bypass.

“This infusion of money enables us to move forward much more quickly on this project than previously estimated,” said Kelli Reyna, public information officer for the Texas Department of Transportation Austin District. “More money to the table ultimately means more projects getting approved and built, and this would not have been possible without the cooperation and partnership with the city of Austin and the voters who approved the 2016 Mobility Bond.”

Included in the mobility bond funding is $101 million for regional mobility projects. Of that amount, $30 million is earmarked for projects in District 6 that would increase pedestrian, bicycle, and vehicular mobility. The District 6 projects outlined on the ballot included:

• Anderson Mill Road from Spicewood Parkway to US Hwy 183,

• Intersection of RM 620 and RM 2222, and

• Parmer Lane between SH 45 to Brushy Creek Road.

One caveat is that it was not specified how much bond money would go to each project, or that all three are guaranteed funding, according to Joe Petronis, chief of staff for District 6 council member Don Zimmerman.

“There were three projects for District 6 that were all combined in the ballot language,” Petronis said.

He said Zimmerman was concerned by the fact that the ballot language did not specify how much money would go toward specific corridor improvement projects and so he wanted to earmark a specific amount for District 6.

“This was the way to bracket $30 million for District 6,” Petronis said. “We at least protected it so at least one of them will get funding. If we play our cards right, we should be able to get all three accomplished.”

He estimated that it would cost between $40-50 million to complete all three projects.

“The theory is we’re going to get with TxDOT and Travis County and other municipalities and get some more money,” Petronis said. “We’re working with the rest of those entities to raise the rest of the money.”

TxDOT estimates the total cost for the improvements to the RM 620/RM 2222 bypass to be between $25 million to $35 million, according to Sara Behunek, public information specialist with the city of Austin’s Capital Planning Office. The project is currently in the environmental phase.

Reyna said that a portion of the construction funds would come from the 2016 Mobility Bond, but that, ultimately, CAMPO is the agency that will make the decision on how the project gets funded.

“We will continue to work with CAMPO to secure construction funding in full anticipation of being ready to begin construction in fall 2018,” Reyna said.

Next steps

Moving forward, TxDOT will need to enter into a funding agreement with the city of Austin to secure the funds, according to Reyna. Meanwhile, local representatives plan to work with both the city and TxDOT to ensure the RM 620/RM 2222 project remains a high priority.

“We need to make sure that the project gets streamlined by the city transportation and bond departments,” said Brian Thompto, chairman of the Steiner Ranch Neighborhood Association. “The best way to do that is to ensure that the city council members understand the urgency of the project and the strong desire to promote rapid funding and avoid any potential delays.”

He said the West Austin Chamber of Commerce met with incoming District 6 city council member Jimmy Flannigan on Dec. 16. Thompto said funding of the RM 2222/RM 620 improvement was one of the central topics of discussion.

“We are looking forward to working with Mr. Flannigan to ensure the project gets implemented as soon as possible,” Thompto said.

The Steiner Ranch Neighborhood Association will host a neighborhood meeting at 7 p.m. on Jan. 25, which will also be open to the public. At that meeting, TxDOT will review the connector project status and outlook and will also reveal the next steps for RM 620 looking forward, based on their recent corridor study.

Projected timeline

There are two parts to the RM 620/RM 2222 bypass road project, according to Reyna.

“The timeline for completion and construction costs are all estimates associated with preliminary engineering work, but we expect to begin construction in fall 2018,” Reyna said. “This is subject to change pending detailed design/construction drawings.”

Project 1 would consist of the construction of a six-lane section on RM 2222 from the proposed bypass intersection location to Ribelin Ranch. The timeline is projected to be as follows:

• Anticipated environmental decision: early 2017

• Right-of-way acquisition: anticipate winter 2017/2018

• Utility coordination and relocation: anticipate summer 2018

• Ready to go out to bid: anticipate summer 2018

• Construction cost estimate: $11 million

Project 2 would consist of the construction of the bypass road from RM 620 to RM 2222 and other improvements to RM 620. That timeline is projected as follows:

• Preliminary biological study along bypass road has been completed

• Anticipated environmental decision: anticipate summer 2017

• Right-of-way acquisition: anticipate summer 2018

• Utility coordination and relocation: anticipate summer 2018

• Ready to go out to bid: anticipate summer 2018

• Construction cost estimate: $7 million

Thompto said ensuring all the necessary funding is in place on time will be critical.

“The city will need to provide the bond money by 2018 to avoid any project delays,” Thompto said. “TxDOT and the city are working to ensure that the funding gets into place. Our understanding is that TxDOT has agreed to match a $7.5 million contribution from the city as part of the bond money and then fund the balance of the project.”

Thompto said that TxDOT has identified the RM 2222/RM 620 improvement project as the furthest along in construction readiness.

“It is also one of the most urgently needed improvements in the city – so we expect that will take top priority,” Thompto said. “Loop 360 and Parmer Lane will follow by some number of years partly because they will take longer to get construction ready.”

Reyna said that TxDOT and its transportation partners are committed to delivering area transportation projects as quickly as feasible; however, the agency still has to go through all the necessary steps to get a project cleared, including a thorough environmental analysis, right-of-way acquisition negotiations, and other coordination activities.

“We understand that communities are ready for improvements and we are committed to accomplishing our goal of providing reliable transportation solutions for all,” Reyna said. “We appreciate the public’s patience as we work through these items in order to improve the transportation system in Austin and surrounding communities.”