AUSTIN TX:US-183A - Texas Turnpike Wants Bids for Concession
By Peter Samuel
The 183A project is a bypass of the main business and shopping street (US-183) of Cedar Park and Leander, centers of the developing northern area of greater Austin. Local authorities have had the route in their plans since the mid-80s and have protected it in permitting decisions, and acquired some the right of way. However there is also some disagreement over the route. The TTA RFP will provide for two alternative alignments.
The concession corridor will start at Lakeline Blvd in Cedar Park, about 25km (16mi) north of the center of Austin, and go north 5km (3mi) past the center of Leander to rejoin US-183 just short of the southern fork of the San Gabriel River. The alternatives are 19km (11.7mi) and 21km (13.2mi) long.
It will initially be built as a 2x2-lane motorway with discontinuous frontage roads. But there will be provision for widening progressively to a 3/3/2/3/3 lane configuration with outer 3-lane frontage roads, 3-lane mainline each direction and a 2-lane central managed or HOV roadway. A 122m (400') right of way is being acquired.
Construction cost is estimated at $125m and land $31m, which the TTA will acquire for the concessionaire.
Vollmer has done a traffic and revenue study for TTA.
TTA says it may issue tax-exempt revenue bonds for the project but that neither it nor the state of Texas can place their full faith and credit behind the project. An option, therefore, would be for the concessionaire to provide their own funds.
The project has to go through the whole NEPA environmental permitting process, though it may qualify for a Sec 404 grandfathered grant of a wetlands permit.
TTA proposes to police the road at its own expense but other maintenance and operating costs will be carried by the concessionaire. The concessionaire is being required to conform with minority set-aside provisions of state law, presumably only to the extent these survive Supreme Court scrutiny for compliance with equal treatment provisions of the US constitution.
TTA is also moving to seek investor interest in other toll projects. The largest in the area, TX-130, is a staged project to build a new north-south route east of I-35, from north of Georgetown eventually south to I-10 near Seguin. Another is a T-plan link roadway, the stem of which is an extension of the Loop-One motorway and the crossbar is TX-45, an east-west route from the end of US-183 in the west over I-35 to the proposed TX-130 in the east.
There are also possible concession projects in San Antonio and El Paso.
GUIDE FOR NON-TEXANS: TTA is a division of the Texas Dept of Transp, established 1st Sept 97. It bears no relation to the TTA that existed pre-9/1/97 which owned and operated the Dallas North Tollway and which was headquartered in Dallas TX. The pre-9/1/97 TTAs assets and responsibilities were transferred to a North Texas Tollway Authority (NTTA) which is under local government control. The new TTA, headquartered in the capital Austin in the offices of the Texas DOT, is formally both an authority in its own right and a division of the department and answerable to the secretary of transp, an ambiguity of control obviously set up to provoke litigation! TTA, better known as TTAD/TXDOT, is understood to be intended not to build or operate toll roads in its own right but to act as one but not the exclusive initiator of new toll roads. Its other function is to be the state supervisor of toll road concessions. The term Exclusive Development Agreement (EDA) is Texan for concession. (Contact Crystal Hansen TTA 512 936 0965 www.dot.state.tx.us)