FAQ

How much will construction cost and how will it be funded?

Preliminary estimates indicate construction will cost approximately $76 million. The SH 45SW entire project, including design, oversight, tolling, contingencies and construction is expected to total more than $100 million.

In November 1997, Travis County voters approved a bond measure to purchase SH 45SW right-of-way. Hays and Travis counties completed right-of-way purchases for the project and later transferred ownership to TxDOT. In 2014, Hays and Travis counties contributed $20 million for design and construction of the project. The remaining construction costs will be funded by TxDOT and the Mobility Authority.

The project will not utilize any federal funding. A more detailed funding plan will be established during the next several phases of project development.

How will SH 45SW affect travel times on MoPac?

The shift in local traffic to MoPac may cause travel times on MoPac to increase slightly between SH 45 and William Cannon Drive due to northbound drivers opting to use SH 45SW to MoPac instead of Brodie Lane and Manchaca Road. North of  William Cannon Drive, no increase in volumes or travel times is anticipated. If the shift in local traffic patterns through the intersections in this area of MoPac create backups at signals, the city may elect to make adjustments to signal timing. Intersection improvements currently being evaluated at Slaughter Lane and La Crosse Avenue, if implemented, could also improve travel times.

What ideas from the Green Mobility Challenge are being included in the design of SH 45SW?

The Green Mobility Challenge provided many ideas that have been or will be incorporated including:

Roadway:

  • Align roadway to avoid impacts to Edwards Aquifer recharge features
  • Use a “Form Fitting Profile” that follows the existing terrain in order to minimize the amount of earthwork required for the project and avoid unnecessary impacts to Edwards Aquifer recharge features
  • Construct a bridge at Bear Creek that minimizes impacts to the creek
  • Use innovative intersection designs at MoPac and at FM 1626 to minimize the amount of impervious cover and ensure efficient operation of the intersection
  • Include a Shared Use Path along the project length and provide for connections to adjacent roadways and trail networks
  • Use all electronic tolling

Construction Materials:

  • Use recycled materials where feasible, including recycled asphalt pavement
  • Include Water Quality Best Management Practices to minimize impacts including:
    • Porous Friction Course Asphalt
    • Vegetative Swales
    • Water Quality Ponds
  • Utilize all native plantings to minimize maintenance needs, enhance wildlife habitat and enhance aesthetics of the roadside
  • Incorporate Context Sensitive Solutions Elements, with input from the public
  • Minimize impacts to water quality by:
    • Phasing construction
    • Constructing water quality ponds where feasible
What bicycle and pedestrian accommodations are being included in the design of SH 45SW?

Bicycle and Pedestrian Improvements:

There will be a 4.5-mile long, 10’ wide, paved shared use path that extends from FM 1626 to Escarpment. A Shared Use Path (SUP) is an ADA accessible paved path that provides for two-way bike and pedestrian movements on the same surface. The path will be located in the space between the proposed toll lanes and the edge of right of way. The alignment will avoid existing trees where possible.

Also proposed as part of the project:

  • A trailhead with parking at the MoPac and SH 45SW interchange near Archeleta Blvd.
  • Provisions to tie to Violet Crown Trail near MoPac and near Bear Creek
  • Bicycle and pedestrian bridges over Bear Creek and Danz Creek
What water quality protection measures are being included in the design of SH 45SW?

The Mobility Authority will ensure SH 45 SW will be designed to achieve a highway runoff total suspended solids (TSS) removal rate of at least 90 percent using a combination of structural and non-structural Best Management Practices (BMPs).

The following BMPs, at a minimum, will be used to avoid or minimize the amount of pollutants in the runoff from the roadway:

  • Permeable friction course (PFC) pavement (on majority of road surfaces)
  • Water quality ponds
  • Vegetated controls such as grassy swales
  • Vegetated filter strips (in areas where curbs and other stormwater conveyance infrastructure is not used)
  • Multiple hazardous materials traps (located at all creeks, waterways, and culverted drainage ways, and each adequately sized to contain a 10,000 gallon spill)

Additional actions to protect against pollutants in the runoff from the project will include:

  • No herbicide use within the right-of-way
  • Vacuum truck utilization, as determined by the independent environmental compliance manager
    • Utilization of vacuum trucks may be needed in the case of a soil contamination or a liquid spill. The powerful equipment on a vacuum truck can pump unwanted wet or dry materials from a construction site. Use of vacuum trucks and other environmental measures will be determined in cooperation with an independent environmental compliance manager, who monitors activities and assists the contractor in maintaining environmental compliance.
  • Periodic inspections of hazardous materials traps and other permanent BMPs as required by TCEQ’s Edwards Aquifer Rules (30 T.A.C. Chapter 213)
  • Any equipment fuel or hazardous material storage, even if short-term, will be performed within a containment area to prevent the possibility of accidental discharge to groundwater
  • Any equipment fueling will be performed at least 200 feet away from the nearest sensitive karst feature and water crossing
  • Phased construction practices, where feasible, to limit the area and duration of construction disturbance
What travel time savings will SH 45SW provide?

MoPacWhen SH 45SW construction is complete, it will offer immediate relief to drivers in Hays and southern Travis counties and continue to provide benefit even as the population grows by redirecting commuting traffic off local roads such as Manchaca Road, Slaughter Lane and Brodie Lane, which will better equip these arterials to serve the surrounding neighborhoods. The following figures show the 2015 average peak travel time savings for four of the most commonly used routes in the study area.

Route #1: FM 1626 to Manchaca Road to Slaughter Lane to MoPac

  • Drivers who use SH 45SW to access MoPac will save 17 minutes
  • Drivers who continue to take Manchaca Road to Slaughter Lane to access MoPac will save 6 minutes

Route #2: FM 1626 to Manchaca Road to Lamar Boulevard

  • Drivers who use SH 45SW to MoPac to US 290 to access Lamar Boulevard will save 9 minutes
  • Drivers who continue to take Manchaca Road to Lamar Boulevard will save 7 minutes

Route #3: FM 1626 to Manchaca Road to William Cannon to MoPac

  • Drivers who use SH 45SW to access MoPac will save 9 minutes
  • Drivers who continue to take Manchaca Road to William Cannon to get to MoPac will save 6 minutes

Route #4: FM 1626 to Brodie Lane to Slaughter Lane to MoPac

  • Drivers who use SH 45SW to access MoPac will save 12 minutes
  • Drivers who continue to take Brodie Lane to Slaughter Lane to access MoPac will save 6 minutes

These travel time savings equate to an 18% reduction in total vehicle hours traveled in the region, resulting in an annual cost savings to area drivers of $12.4 million in opening year.

When will construction begin? How long will it take?

We are currently in the final design phase of the project. Construction could begin as early as spring 2016 and is anticipated to take approximately two years to complete.

Will SH 45SW eventually connect to I-35?

A possible connection from FM 1626 to I-35 is included in CAMPO’s 2040 Plan for study. If such a connection is pursued in the future, it would be evaluated through a separate environmental study. In July 2014, the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) Technical Advisory Committee recommended inclusion of a connection to I-35 in their priority project list.

What will the speed on SH 45SW be?

The regulatory speed limit will be set by a process called 85 Percentile Speed Determination. After a roadway is constructed, the speed limit is determined by measuring the prevailing speeds. The speed limit will be set based on the speed at or below which 85 percent of people drive at any given location under good weather and visibility conditions. Based on the current design it is probable that the speed limit will be between 65 mph and 75 mph.

How many toll booths are planned for SH 45SW? At what locations?

SH 45SW will feature all-electronic tolling therefore drivers will see no booths. Drivers will be able to pay their tolls without stoping using TxTag, TollTag or EZ-Tag. Drivers will also be able to use the Pay by Mail program where a toll bill is mailed to them.

There will be one tolling location in each direction, likely located between Bear Creek and Bliss Spillar.

What transit features are being implemented?

Busses and vanpools are allowed to use the toll road without paying tolls.

Where will I be able to access SH 45SW?

You will be able to access SH 45SW from FM 1626, Bliss Spillar Rd, MoPac, or SH 45 west of MoPac. There are no entrance or exit points between Bliss Spillar and MoPac; once you are on the toll road, you will not be able to exit.

Are there any plans to prevent animals from crossing the roadway?

Yes, there have been discussions with the city of Austin to provide wildlife fencing along the project. If fencing is constructed, wildlife would still be able to cross the corridor under the Bear Creek Bridge and at several culvert crossings.

Will the bicycle and pedestrian Shared Use Path be designed to avoid tree removal where possible?

Yes. The Shared Use Path shown on the current schematic will be adjusted during the final design phase to avoid trees where possible.

What Context Sensitive Solutions features are being included in the design of SH 45SW?

Context Sensitive Solutions (CSS) is the process through which the public is engaged to develop a transportation facility that fits within its surroundings. CSS is an approach that leads to preserving and enhancing scenic, aesthetic, historic, community and environmental resources, while improving or maintaining safety, mobility and infrastructure conditions.

In the case of SH 45SW, the community expressed support for efforts that would keep the facility and the area that surrounds it as natural as possible. This approach limits hardscaping and landscaping and allows the project team to keep other CSS elements simple and in harmony with the underdeveloped nature of the area.

Why is SH 45SW a toll road?

State and federal fuel taxes are the primary funding source for roads and bridges in Texas. However, this funding source has remained static since 1991 even though fuel costs have tripled. Because this is an incremental revenue source, decreases in consumer demand due to people driving less and/or driving more fuel efficient vehicles, will also affect revenue generation through the fuel tax. When you factor in the state’s significant population growth and demand on the roadway infrastructure, funding has not kept up with demand, and mobility is likely to continue to get worse. Because of this, innovative financing options are considered viable solutions to funding new projects.

Why can’t Prop 1 Funding be used to fund the final design, construction, and operation of this project?

In November 2014, Texas voters approved a constitutional amendment to provide billions more in reliable transportation funding, known as Prop 1. The amendment authorizes annual disbursements from the state’s oil and gas production tax collections to the State Highway Fund. These funds must be used and allocated throughout the state in accordance with existing formulas adopted by the Texas Transportation Commission. The funds can only be used for the construction, maintenance, rehabilitation, and acquiring right-of-way for public roads, but may not be used for toll roads.

For fiscal year 2015, Prop 1 will provide an estimated $1.7 billion for TxDOT’s use. Of that amount, the TxDOT Austin District, which is comprised of 11 counties including Bastrop, Blanco, Burnet, Caldwell, Gillespie, Hays, Lee, Llano, Mason, Travis and Williamson, expects to receive approximately $120 million in funds. The rest of the money is going elsewhere in the state. The list of 14 projects potentially funded by Prop 1 in our region is available online.

Learn more about Prop 1.

What will the SH 45SW toll rate be?

The Mobility Authority will set the toll rate when the project is closer to opening. Currently it is anticipated to be around a $1.00.

What is the Consent Decree?

A Consent Decree was issued as part of a 1990 settlement to a lawsuit filed by Save Barton Creek Association, et al., as Plaintiffs and Barton Springs-Edwards Aquifer Conservation District, as Intervener, versus the Federal Highway Administration et al., as Defendants and MoPac South Corporation. The Consent Decree is a settlement and compromise of disputed claims between plaintiffs and defendants.

A Single Point Urban Intersection (SPUI) is shown at FM 1626. How will that intersection work?

A SPUI has the advantage of allowing opposing left turns to proceed simultaneously by compressing the two intersections of a diamond into one single intersection over or under a free-flowing road. The term “single point” refers to the fact that all through-traffic on the arterial street, as well as the traffic turning left onto or off the interchange, can be controlled from a single set of traffic signals. It is an extremely space-efficient intersection design.

How will SH 45SW impact other proposed improvements in the area?

Under federal requirements, the impacts of traffic and improvements of all projects in the CAMPO Plan are evaluated and taken into consideration as part of this project’s analysis in the Environmental Study and when determining how the regional transportation system works.

How will compliance to environmental commitments be monitored during construction and post-construction?

An independent environmental compliance manager will be retained to be present during construction and ensure that, upon completion of construction, all Best Management Practices are implemented and function as designed.

What is the current role of the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District (BSEACD)?

During final design, but during the time when the design is still subject to change, representatives of BSEACD will have 20 business days to review and comment on any plans or changes to plans for handling storm water runoff. If BSEACD raises any concerns with the plans, TxDOT and the BSEACD will convene to resolve the concern within 30 calendar days. The BSEACD will also have an opportunity to review and comment on the water pollution abatement plan for SH 45SW. Additionally, representatives of BSEACD will be able to observe construction of the project and accompany TxDOT personnel on periodic inspections of Best Management Practices.

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