Engineering and professional services consultancy, WSP USA, has highlighted its leading role the completion of the 45 Southwest Toll Road (45SW) that has recently opened in the Austin metropolitan region of Texas.
Officially opened to the traveling public on June 1, the 45SW Toll Road is an innovative environmentally-sensitive 3.6 miles (5.8km) long route between State Loop 1 (MoPac) and FM 1626 that includes extensive water quality protection measures and bicycle and pedestrian facilities. Commissioned and operated by the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority, the improved toll road aims to alleviate heavy commuter congestion in South Austin. WSP estimates that commuters will save an estimated average of 9-17 minutes in total travel time by driving on the new 45SW Toll Road, while those who continue to commute on local roads will also experience a time savings of about 6-7 minutes. Between 1990 and 2010, the Austin population increased by 241%, and without the new roadway, WSP estimates that motorists would eventually experience 89-97% longer commutes in the morning.
Starting in November 2016, WSP USA provided construction management and oversight services for the Mobility Authority. In addition to compliance and contract management, WSP provided technical support, utility and engineering coordination, and public involvement services. The route’s proximity to the Edward’s Aquifer Recharge Zone, a sensitive resource that is home to diverse fauna and provides drinking water for surrounding Central Texas communities, necessitated design and construction of the roadway with the utmost environmental mitigation. WSP recommended a combination of structural and non-structural best management practices, including permeable Friction Course pavement, water quality ponds, vegetated controls and vegetated filter strips, which removes 92% of total suspended solids from the stormwater that flows off the project into adjoining waterways.
The project also includes a 4.5-mile long, 10ft (3m) wide shared use path, connecting two segments of the planned Violet Crown trail; the first regional urban trail system in Central Texas. When completed, the trail will be 30 miles (48km) in length and will include trailheads and an area known as the ‘Hill Country Classroom’, a section where cyclists and pedestrians can view educational signage. The 45SW Toll Road will also be the first route in the region to feature wrong-way driving detection equipment. The Mobility Authority prioritized integration of this technology into the project as way to reduce the likelihood of serious accidents caused by motorists entering the wrong lane.
“The 45SW is a modern, environmentally-conscious solution for residents seeking a fast and safe connection to Austin,” said Gregory A Kelly, president and CEO of WSP USA. “We are honored to have been given this opportunity to improve transportation for local commuters, while supporting the efforts of the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority. With the 45SW Toll Road now in place, Central Texas can better accommodate the tremendous growth anticipated in the decades to come.”
Ray Wilkerson, Mobility Authority board chairman, commented, “Residents have long demanded a faster, more reliable connection into Austin. This new road delivers, bringing improvements to travel times, safety, and quality of life for drivers, neighbors and pedestrians alike.”