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Few bids submitted to build US 290 toll road

Thursday, February 23, 2006 by

CTRMA will choose firm from among three partnerships Only three partnerships submitted bids to oversee the US 290 East toll project, a drop from the five that bid on the US 183A project and a point of concern for the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority’s (CTRMA) board of directors at yesterday’s meeting.

The CTRMA will sign a comprehensive development agreement (CDA) with a partnership that will lead the design-build project on US 290E, possibly as early as August. The choice of a partner started with a request for development partners. Yesterday the CTRMA staff short-listed the three partnerships who had bid.

The three partnerships and their equity partners are Walnut Creek Constructors ( Gilbert Texas Construction and J.D. Abrams), Granite-Austin Bridge & Road ( Granite Construction and Austin Bridge & Road) and Lone Star Infrastructure 290E ( Fluor Enterprises, Balfour Beatty Construction and TJ Lambrecht Construction). The three firms will provide more comprehensive plans for consideration. Board members at the CTRMA meeting yesterday questioned why the project had yielded only three interested teams. Executive Director Mike Heiligenstein noted that it was his sense, from the most recent Team Texas meeting, that it was a busy and competitive time for projects across the state. Some contractors are even seeing competitors come to work sites to steal away key staff members.

Director of Engineering Everett Owens called the smaller number part of the “shaking out” process. More teams bid on the first project as simply a way to “test the waters.” Now some of those firms have decided the CDA is not for them or would prefer to bid on projects in the concession process. Under a concession agreement, the team would offer an up front lump sum, plus some amount of subsequent revenue, to build and run the toll road operations. The Trans-Texas Corridor, for instance, is a concession project.

The work the CTRMA is doing on US 290E can be divided into two tracks: work towards a CDA agreement, and work that can be done before a CDA agreement is complete. While the CDA is being negotiated, the mobility authority would complete its feasibility study on the project, which will eventually be measured against a traffic and revenue estimate that should be completed by early fall. It would be the CTRMA’s preference to push the US 290E expansion past Manor all the way out to FM 973. The results of the two studies will be instrumental in determining the scope of the project, Owens said.

The CTRMA, by regulation, cannot start construction until the environmental clearance is completed but the mobility authority can begin the process of right-of-way acquisition. Since the US 290E project is a joint project of the Texas Department of Transportation and the CTRMA, either side could begin the right-of-way acquisition process. Owens said the CTRMA would prefer to take the lead in the process to expedite the timeline, a point that is still being negotiated with TxDOT.

The US 290E project, adding lanes in the median between US 183 and FM 973, could cost up to $355 million, according to early estimates. Heiligenstein said the project will be funded by a mix of local, state and federal sources, including the possible use of federal emergency management funds, since US 290E serves as an evacuation route out of Houston in the case of a hurricane.

©2006 In Fact News, Inc. All rights reserved.

Fewer signatures needed . . . When the SOS Alliance turned in 20,717 signatures calling for an amendment to the city charter to the City Clerk’s Office last week, they seemed to have not many more than the bare minimum. But City Clerk Shirley Gentry said Wednesday that the true minimum turned out to be only 18,908—5 percent of the city’s registered voters. That’s because the law specifies that those wishing to amend the charter must provide either 5 percent or 20,000 signatures, whichever is less. It turns out that the City of Austin has fewer registered voters than previously thought. However, Gentry has not yet finished the verification procedure. A representative of the Committee for Austin’s Future, which opposes the amendments, has requested a copy of the petitions . . . Vote early at City Hall . . . Those who frequent City Hall can take advantage of early voting for the joint primary election from 9am to 5pm next Monday and Tuesday . . . Early voting . . . The pace picked up a bit in early voting in Travis County on Wednesday. A total of 1842 votes have been cast so far, with Democrats outnumbering Republicans 965 to 877. A large number of voters, 152, cast ballots with the county’s mobile voting booths Wednesday, while the Randall’s on South MoPac had the largest vote totals for both parties. Early voting continues through March 3 . . . Howard swearing-in planned . . . Newly-elected District 48 State Rep. Donna Howard will be officially sworn in to office at 11:30am on March 2, Texas Independence Day, in the House Chambers at the State Capitol. Howard has asked superintendents and other officials of the six public school districts in House District 48 to attend a work session that afternoon in the Capitol Extension. Those districts include Austin ISD, Eanes ISD, Lago Vista ISD, Leander ISD, Marble Falls ISD, and Pflugerville ISD. Howard has invited former State Comptroller John Sharp to give a brief update of his work with the Texas Tax Reform Commission . . . Development regulations meetings . . . Development consultant Larry Paul Manley, one of the stakeholders concerned about the McMansion moratorium, has called a stakeholder meeting at City Hall from 1–4pm today in the Boards and Commissions room. The Council-appointed task force on the regulations is scheduled to meet every Friday in the Council Chambers. This week’s meeting is from 1-3pm. For more information, go to You will find various useful links there . . . AMD lauds new campus . . . AMD plans to send out nearly 100,000 brochures to Austinites in the next few weeks, touting its commitment to economic and charitable support for the community. The brochure, called Growing Together, includes details about the new Southwest Austin campus—the plan that sparked SOS’s decision to file suit against the city and set the group on the path to try to amend the city charter. The brochure outlines AMD’s sustainable design strategies, including a one million gallon rainwater collection system, Green Building techniques and a $5 million contribution, along with Stratus Properties, to acquire land over the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone. When SOS got a copy of the brochure, they did a parody, a copy of which is included in the group’s latest email message. For starters, SOS renamed the brochure Paving Together and pointed out that the first rule of green building is location. For more, visit . . . Ski masks optional . . . The Austin Police Department Robbery Unit is teaming with financial institutions to coordinate efforts to investigate bank robberies. The Austin Police Department 2006 Bank Robbery Symposium will be held 8am to 5pm on Thursday at the Radisson Hotel located at 111 East Cesar Chavez St. Chief Stan Knee will open the symposium and Austin Mayor Will Wynn will be the guest speaker at the luncheon. Robbery detectives solved 10 of the 14 bank robberies in 2005. In 2004, there were 35 bank robberies and detectives solved 29 of those cases with arrests. . . . Biden to speak . . . The LBJ School of Public Affairs will sponsor a forum with Sen. Joe Biden (D-Delaware) at 4pm today in the LBJ Auditorium. Biden, in his sixth term in the Senate, is a member of both the Senate Foreign Relations and Judiciary committees. Biden ran for the Democratic nomination in 1988 and is considering another run in 2008.

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