MoPac delay means agency using its savings on debt payments


Highlights

The mobility authority must pay the first of 22 annual payments to CAMPO for a $130 million MoPac grant.

The agency used $1.7 million in savings for a MoPac bank loan, and owes $2 million to CAMPO by September.

Agency officials say the cash crunch will disappear once all of the 11-mile toll lanes open in a few months.

With toll revenue still minimal on the section of the MoPac Boulevard express lane project that opened in October, and the opening date for the rest still uncertain, the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority is digging into its savings to make the initial $2 million payment on $230 million it owes.

The authority in January also used $1.7 million of its general fund to pay back part of a $5.3 million loan from a bank, money it borrowed to do initial design work on the 11-mile toll lane project from Lady Bird Lake to Parmer Lane.

Mobility authority officials say these early cash flow problems on the project will dissipate after the opening of the southbound toll lane and the rest of the northbound toll lane, from West Cesar Chavez Street to Far West Boulevard. It appears that June 15, the latest in a series of target end dates for a project that is now 18 months overdue, likewise will pass with construction still going.

“We still think we’re in the summertime ballpark,” mobility authority Executive Director Mike Heiligenstein told his governing board Wednesday. “We don’t think there’s any slippage past that point.”

HOW WE GOT HERE: See key points on this interactive timeline

As officials said earlier this year, the remainder of the northbound lane likely will open first, followed about two weeks later by the entire southbound toll lane. Both will have toll rates that fluctuate as often as every five minutes, based on the level of traffic on the road, with no maximum amount.

Those tolls should bring in $6.9 million in the first year, according to a 2011 traffic and revenue study of the MoPac toll lanes done by Wilbur Smith Associates, and almost $48 million over the first five years. The authority expects that as that money rolls in, it can reimburse its $60 million reserve account for money it is using to make loan payments now.

The money coming in so far from the northbound toll lane, which opened from Far West to near Parmer five months ago, is minimal, about $20,000 a month, Chief Financial Officer Bill Chapman said Wednesday. The traffic in the free lanes of that section of MoPac flows freely much of the time, even at rush hour, giving drivers scant incentive to take the toll lane there. That in turn has kept the toll rate close to its 25 cent minimum, at most about 50 cents, Chapman said.

RELATED: How will variable tolls work?

The $2 million payment to the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization due in September is the first of 22 escalating payments that the authority will provide under a 2012 agreement. The CAMPO board allocated $130 million, promised to it by Texas Department of Transportation for Central Texas projects, to the MoPac toll project. The mobility authority will use toll revenue to pay that back, with an additional $100 million, by 2041.

The yearly payment will rise to $5 million by 2021, $10 million by 2024 and top out at $16 million in the deal’s final year. The CAMPO board will be able to allocate that money to any local transportation project it wants to, including mobility authority projects.

Mobility authority officials said Wednesday that in the next few weeks the fourth, “auxiliary” lane northbound will reopen between West 35th and West 45th streets, along with a second lane on the northbound exit to RM 2222 and Northland Drive.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Teen accused of racing, causing death of 2 children in Cedar Park
Teen accused of racing, causing death of 2 children in Cedar Park

Police have arrested an 18-year-old man in connection with the deaths of two stepbrothers in a car crash on Jan. 10 in Cedar Park. Hayden Michael Hammer was charged with two counts of racing on highway causing death, a second degree felony, according to a police press release. It is punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Hammer, who was driving a...
Calendar’s ‘Warrior Women’ pose to depict opportunity at Austin police
Calendar’s ‘Warrior Women’ pose to depict opportunity at Austin police

Austin police hope a new calendar featuring the “Warrior Women of the Austin Police Department” can help tell the story of female law enforcement professionals and bolster the ranks of women behind the badge. The calendars, which display photographs of female officers in a work environment, were first made available to police employees...
Dawnna Dukes campaign racks up $730,000 in debt as challengers rise
Dawnna Dukes campaign racks up $730,000 in debt as challengers rise

State Rep. Dawnna Dukes’ re-election campaign is off to a rocky start, as the veteran Democrat has accrued more than $730,000 in outstanding loans, raised just $2,250 in recent months and has lost two dozen past supporters who have flipped their allegiance to former Austin City Council Member Sheryl Cole, one of Dukes’ six primary challengers...
Dawnna Dukes campaign racks up $730,000 in debt as challengers rise
Dawnna Dukes campaign racks up $730,000 in debt as challengers rise

State Rep. Dawnna Dukes’ re-election campaign is off to a rocky start, as the veteran Democrat has accrued more than $730,000 in outstanding loans, raised just $2,250 in recent months and has lost two dozen past supporters who have flipped their allegiance to former Austin City Council Member Sheryl Cole, one of Dukes’ five primary challengers...
How a government shutdown would affect Austin
How a government shutdown would affect Austin

If the federal government shuts down this weekend, most local services won’t be affected immediately, multiple state and federal officials told the American-Statesman. In Austin, “core city services” wouldn’t be affected by a shutdown, but officials haven’t conducted a thorough review, spokesman David Green said. Officials...
More Stories