Austin bypass proceeding as toll road

| 11/29/2006

A federal judge has thrown out an environmental lawsuit that was blocking a Central Texas toll road from being built.

The Federal Highway Administration made revisions to an environmental study that was being challenged in court by the Save Our Springs Alliance, and those revisions satisfied a judge enough to toss out the case.

That means construction will soon begin on Texas 45 Southeast - a four-lane, 7.4-mile toll road to connect Interstate 35 to Texas Route 130 as a possible bypass for metro Austin.

The original $454.3-million contract was signed in August 2004 between the state and Zachry Construction, but that contract has been scrapped in the process. A new contract and settlement costs are in the works, according to the Austin American-Statesman.

New costs are estimated at $170 million, the newspaper reported, with property acquisition to cost an additional $40 million.

Save Our Springs had filed the lawsuit citing environmental concerns for springs, trees and property, but opposing parties reached a compromise with the revised environmental study.

Toll rates have not yet been determined, but an earlier report by the state estimated the rate at about 12 cents per mile for cars. Estimated truck tolls were not reported.