The State Highway 45 Southwest project moved forward after the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority board approved seeking bids for construction of the four-lane toll road.
The agency advertised for construction bids on June 30 and will accept bids by July 30. CTRMA board members could award the construction contract at their August 3 meeting.
Justin Word, CTRMA’s director of engineering, said he anticipates giving the chosen contractor notice to proceed with construction on October 1.
The four-lane, limited-access toll road will be 3.6 miles long, connecting MoPac South in Travis County to FM 1626 in Hays County.
Mark Jones, Hays County Precinct 2 Commissioner, said the regional connector between Hays County and Travis County has been needed for a long time.
“The roadway is too congested,” Jones said. “Eighty to 90 percent of Buda residents commute to Austin daily.”
Construction of the project will cost $76 million, and the project’s total cost is $108 million.
About $3 million will be used for bicycle and pedestrian improvements, including a 4.5 mile shared-use path. CTRMA is working with Travis County officials to build a small trailhead near Bliss Spillar Road.
Travis County will contribute $15 million for funding the project and Hays County $5 million. The Texas Department of Transportation will provide $28.9 million in a toll equity grant and $60 million in a toll equity loan.
The goal of building SH 45 SW is to provide increased mobility for southern Travis County and northern Hays County residents.
Word said according to traffic modeling studies, South Austin area roadways from SH 45 to Ben White Boulevard could see increased mobility and reduced travel times.
Jones said not building the connector is adding at least 15 to 20 minutes onto people’s commute.
“If we move to construction of SH 45 SW we believe that the local routes will see as much as a 25 percent reduction in their travel times just from the traffic being drawn on this facility,” Word said. “Not only does it help the area but it also helps other local facilities.”
Construction is expected to be phased. The decision was a priority for local stakeholders, according to technical work group meetings.
Word said phasing construction will help manage water quality in the area as the project is located in the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone and Water Quality Protection Lands.
CTRMA will be able to remove 98 percent of solid particles in stormwater runoff in the recharge areas, Word said.
Critics of the project have said protecting the area’s environment outweighs the need to relieve traffic congestion.
In February, a coalition of neighborhood, environmental and civic groups filed a lawsuit in federal district court against CTRMA and TxDOT to prevent the MoPac South, MoPac intersections and SH 45 SW projects from moving forward.
CTRMA filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit April 26, said Dee Anne Heath, CTRMA director of external affairs.
There is no injunction or order restraining CTRMA from continuing action on the project, so the agency will continue moving toward construction, Heath said.
“If everything goes right, they’re expecting to begin construction in October of 2016,” Jones said.