By LYNETTE HAALAND, Four Points News
The $39.4 million roadwork projects in Four Points are expected to be complete by next year. The RM 2222 widening project is expected to be finished in mid-2021 and the new bypass road, connecting RM 620 to RM 2222, is expected to be complete by late 2021.
The combined projects are expected to increase road capacity which will improve mobility and cut down on congestion.
About 50,000 vehicles pass through the Four Points intersection per day. Just six years ago that number was about 38,000, said Brad Wheelis, TxDOT public information officer.
In the last five or six years, more than 12,000 vehicle trips have been added each day through the RM 620/RM 2222 intersection, he added.
Widening RM 2222
The $23.6 million project 1 is adding a third lane on RM 2222 between Bonaventure Drive and McNeil Drive. The project broke ground in January 2019 and the improvements are expected to be complete by May 2021, or nearly two and a half years later.
The first section of project 1, from River Place to Austin Baptist Church, should be done around December.
“We are in the final phase of construction on RM 2222 from River Place Boulevard to McNeil Drive and expect to finish in (about) two months,” said Tyler Brudnick, Texas Department of Transportation project manager.
A portion of the entrance of River Place will be changed and the median will be reduced but TxDOT officials say the pond and fountain will remain. (This is clarification from information Four Points News reported in early September.)
The River Place Boulevard intersection will include an additional left-turn lane from northbound River Place Boulevard to westbound RM 2222 and an additional left-turn lane from southbound River Place Boulevard to eastbound RM 2222.
After completing the work between River Place Boulevard and McNeil Drive, TxDOT will begin widening RM 2222 to accommodate a third lane between River Place Boulevard and the new connector road.
“This work includes storm drain installation, construction of the roadway and installing the median,” Brudnick said.
All utilities have finished relocating between Bonaventure Drive and Ribelin Ranch Drive.
These companies or networks have been attaching to the poles: Greater Austin Area Telecommunications Network (GAATN), Grande, Spectrum, CenturyLink and AT&T.
The COVID-19 pandemic affected the storm drainage installation, which was done earlier than expected.
“Reduced traffic volumes allowed for extended closures so crews could expedite the installation of storm drainage along RM 2222,” Brudnick said.
New connector road
The $15.8 million project 2, will add a new bypass road through open land beginning near 6715 RM 620 near BBQ Outfitters and connecting to RM 2222.
The connector bypass broke ground in December 2019 and is expected to be complete in late 2021.
After the trees were cleared on the bypass project in early 2020, crews suspended major work for some six months. This was done prior to the nesting season of migratory birds.
Although it seems like little has been done since the clearing on the bypass road, utility crews have been at work.
The contractor continues to work on widening where the bypass road will meet RM 2222 “and we have a couple more utility poles that need to be moved before work progresses on the bypass,” Brudnick said.
Utility crews will be relocating their lines to new poles along the bypass right of way.
“We expect full utility relocation by the end of the year. These are independent utility companies so the schedule could change,” Brudnick said.
By early 2021, road construction is to begin on the new bypass.
“Once utilities are relocated, crews can begin construction of the road,” he added.
Utility poles caused major delays
Texas Department of Transportation says the RM 2222 widening project and the RM 2222/RM 620 bypass project were both delayed by up to a year from original projections due to the slow pace of getting utility poles.
Waiting on steel poles to move the utilities caused months worth of slowdown on the two projects.
The city of Austin teamed with TxDOT to pay for utility relocation and right-of-way acquisition.
The two roadwork projects are also using a combination of funding including federal dollars. With those federal funds, the Buy American Act comes into play “requiring the United States government to prefer U.S.-made products in its purchases.”
With the Buy American Act, federal dollars must be used on U.S. steel and that has created delays because the steel poles took a long time to manufacture and deliver, TxDOT confirmed.
Although TxDOT does not keep track of the utility poles, they estimate there are more than 50 poles within the footprint of the two projects and about half are steel and half wood.