Added flyovers on the way for Texas 130, U.S. 290 interchange

4:21 p.m Wednesday, July 27, 2016 Local

The Texas 130 tollway, as it nears its 10th birthday, is ripe for its first expansion.

The Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority board on Wednesday decided to spend $8.1 million designing three additional flyovers at the U.S. 290 interchange with Texas 130, augmenting the eastbound U.S. 290 to northbound Texas 130 bridge that has been in place since 2006.

The board also authorized its chief financial officer, Bill Chapman, to sell $70 million in bonds for the flyover project.

Building all three flyovers, including the design and other costs, will run an estimated $130 million, said Justin Word, the mobility authority’s engineering director. The $70 million in bonds, which Chapman said could be marketed as soon as negotiations wrap up with the Texas Department of Transportation about dividing project expenses, would cover the cost of the design contract and at least the first new flyover from southbound Texas 130 to westbound U.S. 290.

The other two flyovers would connect northbound Texas 130 to westbound U.S. 290, and eastbound U.S. 290 to southbound Texas 130. As it is now, drivers have to exit one highway and use frontage roads — clearing traffic signals in one case — to reach the other highway.

Word said the flyover design could take about a year, and that a construction contract should be awarded late in 2017. Construction would take one to two years, officials said, which means the flyovers might not be open to traffic until 2019 or 2020.

The new flyovers likely would carry a toll comparable to what the agency charges on flyovers at the other end of the U.S. 290 tollway, at U.S. 183, Word said. Using one of those flyovers currently costs 55 cents for those with an electronic toll tag, or 73 cents for motorists who pay by mail.

The existing flyover from U.S. 290 to Texas 130 doesn’t include a toll, although it connects two roads that each have tolls. State law prohibits highway agencies from imposing tolls on pavement that is already free to drive.

Rapidly increasing traffic on four-lane Texas 130 and U.S. 290 in that area, fed by development in Pflugerville, Hutto and eastern Round Rock, has spurred the expansion plan, officials said. Texas 130 north of U.S. 290 now sees more than 60,000 vehicles a day, according to TxDOT, and the connection to U.S. 290 from southbound Texas 130 has caused traffic backups during morning commutes. The mobility authority is about two-thirds done with a $2.3 million “interim” project there intended to ease that congestion.

The traffic load on U.S. 290 is harder to pinpoint. The latest TxDOT traffic count of just under 36,000 cars and trucks a day is 2 years old, and was measured several miles to the west near Springdale Road. But the U.S. 290 tollway has seen steady increases in use since it opened more than a year ago, Chapman said, including a 15 percent gain in June versus the same month in 2015.