TxDOT to kick in more than $200 million for U.S. 183 tollway project


A proposed tollway on U.S. 183 in East Austin got a $200 million shot in the arm Thursday when the Texas Transportation Commission gave preliminary approval to a package of cash and loans for the roughly $875 million project.

Assuming that state cash infusion gets final approval next month, as expected, the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority would still have to borrow another $650 million from the federal government and on the bond market from private investors. But officials with the local toll agency, deputized by the Texas Department of Transportation to build the 8-mile, six-lane tollway, said the expected revenue from the toll road makes it highly likely that they will be able to secure the rest of the money by year’s end.

Construction is expected to begin early next year. The road, which will be built on top of the existing four-lane U.S. 183 and include six free-to-drive frontage road lanes, should open in stages in 2018 and 2020, mobility authority executive director Mike Heiligenstein told the transportation commission, which governs TxDOT. The northern section, from near Springdale Road to north of the Colorado River, would be completed first; the southerly stretch to Texas 71 would take an extra two years or so to open.

The commission approved a $143.4 million cash grant to the mobility authority, as well as a $30 million loan from TxDOT’s state infrastructure bank and another $30 million loan from TxDOT’s general revenue. Both of those loans likely will be 30-year notes and carry interest rates of about 4 percent, officials said. TxDOT previously had given the mobility authority another $4.4 million grant as it worked through the early planning and design phases of the tollway project.

The commission will be asked to give final approval of the grant and loans after TxDOT and the mobility authority finish hammering out the terms. Officials from both agencies were scheduled to meet Friday.

Bill Chapman, the mobility authority’s finance chief, said the agency likely will seek a loan for a third of the project cost, or nearly $290 million, from the U.S. Department of Transportation. Chapman said that loan likely will have an interest rate similar to the TxDOT debt.

Not so for the remainder of the project borrowing — about $360 million — from a bond sale expected to occur in October. Chapman said the agency can expect to pay at least 1 percent more on the private market, or above 5 percent interest.

The authority in May awarded a final design and construction contract for $581.5 million to a consortium led by Fluor Corp. But the agency also expects to pay about $133 million on debt financing costs, much of it for so-called “capitalized interest” and a debt-service reserve fund. The capitalized interest, an estimated $93 million, is used to make early debt payments during the four-year construction phase, when there is no toll revenue coming in, and during the early months or years after the road opens as traffic builds on the toll lanes.

The agency also expects to spend about $63 million on construction management and oversight by consultants, and $13 million on toll system software and hardware. The project cost estimate also includes a $40 million contingency.


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Community news: CodeNext public hearings set for Saturday, Tuesday

TRAVIS COUNTY AUSTIN CodeNext public hearings set CodeNext will host two hearings with members of the joint use land commission for the public to provide feedback. Meetings will be at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Dove Springs Recreation Center, 5801 Ainez Drive, and at 4 p.m. Tuesday at the Palmer Events Center, 900 Barton Springs Road. The public hearings...
UPDATE: Crews clamp broken gas line in downtown Austin, fire officials say
UPDATE: Crews clamp broken gas line in downtown Austin, fire officials say

11:15 a.m. update: A broken gas line that prompted the evacuation of at least one downtown Austin building Wednesday morning has been clamped shut, Austin fire officials said. Crews were checking gas levels in nearby buildings on West 11th Street between San Antonio and Guadalupe streets before allowing more than 250 people to return to the evacuated...
INSIGHT: What to know about the 2020 census in Texas
INSIGHT: What to know about the 2020 census in Texas

The Census Bureau in 2020 will conduct its once-a-decade population count. It’s expected to reveal significant growth for Texas, which would mean the state could see its representation in Congress increase by as many as three seats. But some fear those gains could be imperiled with the reinstatement of a citizenship question, which is expected...
10 things this Aggie didn't know about Texas A&M
10 things this Aggie didn't know about Texas A&M

San Jacinto Day, one of the holy days on the Texas Aggie calendar, has come and gone, but it’s not too late for a little extra Aggie news in this Longhorn town. While writing a blog last December about the anniversary of the death of Rockdale native George Sessions Perry, I decided to buy his most acclaimed novel — “Hold Autumn in...
Is Texas among the most gambling-addicted states? Place your bets, then click here
Is Texas among the most gambling-addicted states? Place your bets, then click here

I bet you can’t name the most gambling-addicted state. Actually, hold on, that’s a terrible bet. The most obvious guess — Nevada! — would be absolutely right. Wallethub, the credit and financial advice website, released their study of 2018’s Most Gambling-Addicted States and Texas fares pretty well, coming in at No...
More Stories