FAQ

How much will the project cost and how will it be funded?

Cost

The total project cost including design, project oversight, legal and construction is $108 million. In July 2016, McCarthy Building Companies was selected to build the project after submitting a construction bid of $75 million.

Funding 

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. In 2016, the Texas Department of Transportation agreed to provide a grant of $28 million. In addition, the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority borrowed $60 million from the State Highway Fund to complete the project funding. 

 

How will SH 45SW affect travel times on Loop 1 (MoPac)?

Traffic studies show traffic will increase on the southern end of Loop 1 (MoPac) between William Cannon Drive and SH 45 once SH 45SW is open. This will occur as drivers opt to use SH 45SW to reach Loop 1 instead of Brodie Lane and Manchaca Road. North of  William Cannon Drive, no increase in volumes or travel times is anticipated.

The Texas Department of Transportation is building underpasses at Slaughter Lane and La Cross Avenue that will allow Loop 1 traffic to bypass those intersections. Those improvements should reduce traffic congestion at those cross streets and improve overall mobility on Loop 1 south of William Cannon Drive. 

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?

When 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 take 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 take 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 the opening year.

When will SH 45SW open?

The new expressway should be ready to open to traffic in 2019.

Will SH 45SW eventually connect to I-35?

A possible connection from FM 1626 to I-35 is included in the Capital Area Metrolpolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) 2040 Plan for study. If such a connection is pursued in the future, it would need to undergo an environmental study to determine if the project is feasibe.

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 toll booths. Drivers will be able to pay their tolls without stoping using TxTag, TollTag or EZ-Tag. By the time SH 45SW opens a number of other tags from other states may also be accepted. 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, located just west of Bliss Spillar Road.

What transit features are being implemented?

Public transit buses and registered vanpools are allowed to use toll roads operated by the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority 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, Loop 1 (MoPac), or SH 45 west of MoPac. There are no entrance or exit points between Bliss Spillar Road 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.

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 have not increased since the early 1990's.

Meanwhile, the demand for new and expanded roads has skyrocketted and the cost to construct and maintain roads has continued to increase.

At the same time, vehicles have become more fuel efficient, reducing the amount of fuel tax collected per mile driven.

In a fast growing state like Texas where demand for new roads is significant, the lack of adequate revenue from fuel taxes has led to increased use of tolling as a way to build and maintain highways.

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.

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

An independent environmental compliance manager has been hired to monitor construction and ensure that, during and upon completion of construction, all Best Management Practices for environmental protection are implemented and function as designed.