AUSTIN - On average, Central Texans spend about 2,500 hours a day sitting in traffic and red lights along State Highway 71 near Austin Bergstrom International Airport (ABIA). Today, the Texas Transportation Commission, the Texas Department of Transportation and Sen. Kirk Watson jointly announced a plan that will alleviate congestion and improve safety along this high-traffic highway. The new project, funded in large part through the SH 130 concession agreement, will consist of an additional lane in both directions and managed lanes to bypass traffic lights. (Video, photos and graphics from today's announcement are available here.)
"Using private dollars to fund a large portion of the construction gives us the opportunity to dramatically advance this project from a long-term unfunded vision to a reality," said Chairman Ted Houghton, Texas Transportation Commission. "Partnering with Central Texas transportation authorities and Senator Watson will mean a commute to and from the Austin airport without the headaches that drivers currently experience."
"I'm thrilled that the state has chosen to prioritize this portion of SH 71, providing uninterrupted access between the airport and the eastern portion of our region," said Sen. Kirk Watson. "The funding we've secured means there will be no stoplights on SH 71 from Mopac to SH 130. By speeding this project up, we'll also improve mobility for everyone who uses FM 973 daily."
Specifically, the SH 71 project will provide additional tolled express lanes from Spirit of Texas and Presidential Boulevard to just east of SH 130. The project also will include the reconstruction and realignment of the FM 973 intersections at SH 71. These improvements will reduce congestion and delay for all motorists and give drivers the choice of using tolled express lanes to bypass signals at FM 973 and SH 130.
"This latest plan for improving SH 71 provides the final link, enabling drivers to travel from South Mopac to ABIA and SH 130 without being forced to stop at an intersection," said Phil Wilson, TxDOT executive director. "Think of the time drivers will save every day having a much more efficient way to travel through this critical area. We appreciate CAMPO and Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority's partnership and for their help in making this project possible."
"The Mobility Authority is pleased that we are able to be a regional partner and help to make this important project a reality," said Chairman Ray Wilkerson, Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority. "As a result of this project, the Mobility Authority will have future surplus revenues for use in the region to help address other areas of congestion."
The project announced today is estimated to cost $141 million, of which $60 million will be paid using dedicated SH 130 concession funds. Construction is expected to begin in late 2014.
For media inquiries, contact TxDOT Media Relations at MediaRelations@txdot.gov or
About other construction on SH 71
Prior to this newest plan announced today, TxDOT's contractors have already begun construction on the following other projects along SH 71:
- Major grade separation - This project will make SH 71 pass under Riverside so that drivers can bypass the light (to be complete in 2014)
- Removing signal at Thornberry and SH 71 (late March) and create Superstreet at FM 973 (opened last week) - This project eliminates an intersection with a signal and reduces delay times at FM 973 intersections as interim improvements
Additional construction plans on SH 71 (By CTRMA)
- Lane additions that will provide at least three lanes in each direction- This project helps with improving congestionfrom eastern limits of Riverside to east side of 183 (scheduled to begin in 2015)