LONG-TIME MOBILITY AUTHORITY CHAIRMAN RESIGNS HIS POST
Last month, the Mobility Authority’s Board Chairman, Ray A. Wilkerson, announced his resignation after more than 10 years of dedicated service to the Central Texas region in this capacity. This action also marks the end of a total of 31 years of consecutive gubernatorial public service appointments for the native Texan.
During his tenure as chairman, Wilkerson was instrumental in growing the Mobility Authority from its early stages as a small startup to the thriving, multi-billion-dollar entity serving Central Texas and beyond. Under Wilkerson’s leadership, the Mobility Authority has helped to spur the development of billions of dollars’ worth of economic development throughout the Central Texas region, with the creation of new jobs and a substantial new tax base for local government.
The economic development resulting from projects like 183A and 290 Toll has made Austin a mecca for new industry and has resulted in our area being one of the most robust and fastest-growing in the country. We anticipate seeing those same benefits on the agency’s later projects, including 45SW and 183 Toll Roads.
“After almost 11 years as chairman of the Mobility Authority and very thoughtful deliberation, I have decided it is time for me to move on and seek a new challenge. With the 86th
legislative session having come to a close at the end of May, I believe now is a good time for me to resign my position.” said Wilkerson.
Mr. Wilkerson has worked tirelessly with elected officials, business entities, non-profits and other community stakeholders during his tenure with the Mobility Authority.
“I sincerely thank both Governor Perry and Governor Abbott for the confidence they have shown in me over these past 10 years as Chair of the Mobility Authority.”
The gubernatorial appointee took the oath of office in 2008 upon his initial appointment by former Texas Governor Rick Perry. He was subsequently reappointed by Governor Abbott to continue leading the agency.
Texas Transportation Commission Chairman J. Bruce Bugg, Jr. said, “Congratulations to Ray on his next chapter. I’ve enjoyed working together with him to solve our Central Texas transportation needs.”
State Senator Kirk Watson said, “Ray has served our community and our state with distinction and humility for decades. As Chair of the Mobility Authority, Ray has been instrumental in transforming mobility in Central Texas. I can’t praise him or thank him enough for his commitment and service.”
The Mobility Authority staff members wish Chairman Wilkerson the best in all his future endeavors. We thank him for the many benefits his time and talent has brought, and for the impactful mark he has left on this agency, the Central Texas region, and beyond.
Governor Abbott has appointed Robert “Bobby” Jenkins, Jr. as the new Chairman of the Board. Mr. Jenkins will be sworn in later in the month of July.
45SW TOLL IS OPEN FOR BUSINESS
Drivers and residents alike are applauding the recent opening of the new 45SW Toll Road, a 3.6-mile expressway connecting MoPac eastward to FM 1626 in Hays County.
Completed ahead of schedule, the new alternate route is already bringing much-needed traffic congestion relief to South Austin by offering drivers an alternative to overused neighborhood streets like Manchaca Road, Slaughter Lane and Brodie Lane. Drivers who choose to use the 45SW Toll Road save as much as 9 to 17 minutes on their commute to reach Central Austin. As more drivers use the toll road, others who continue to utilize local roads should save as much as 7 minutes on their commutes.
On May 25, more than 400 community members and local officials celebrated the toll road’s completion at a “Grand Opening Jubilee” and ribbon-cutting ceremony. The event was held on the 45SW Toll Road at the Bear Creek Bridge and featured live music, vendors, food, drinks, family fun activities and shuttle service at the event site provided by CapMetro. Mobility Authority staff were joined by local leaders and elected officials for the ceremonial ribbon-cutting. Speakers included Mobility Authority Executive Director Mike Heiligenstein, Mobility Authority Chairman* Ray Wilkerson, Austin TxDOT District Engineer* Terry McCoy, Travis County Commissioner Gerald Daugherty, Hays County Commissioner Mark Jones and State Representative Vikki Goodwin.
*Ray Wilkerson and Terry McCoy have since retired from their respective positions.
Mobility Authority Executive Director Mike Heiligenstein thanks the community for supporting the 45SW Toll Road. Shown seated left to right are Mobility Authority Board Chairman Ray Wilkerson, Travis County Commissioner Gerald Daugherty, State Representative Vikki Goodwin, Austin TxDOT District Engineer Terry McCoy, and Hays County Commissioner Mark Jones.
“The project was designed and constructed with Best Management Practices meant to protect the environmentally-sensitive Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone,” said Mike Heiligenstein, Executive Director for the Mobility Authority. “Through our mindful construction practices and 24/7 on-site environmental compliance monitoring, we have exceeded industry standards for water quality and created a model which future projects will follow.”
The innovative and environmentally-sensitive roadway features two lanes in each direction and a 4.5-mile shared use path for bicyclists and pedestrians that will open soon and will connect with the future Violet Crown Trail. The shared use path features trailheads at MoPac and Bliss Spillar Road, and an area known as the “Hill Country Classroom” - a shaded section of the trail where bicyclists and pedestrians can rest while taking in information about the area.
Display boards captured the public’s ideas for use of extra time created by traveling faster on the 45SW Toll Road.
During public engagement sessions before the project was designed, the community expressed support for keeping the facility and the surrounding area as natural as possible. The approach limits typical man-made features used in landscape architecture in favor of vegetation. This community sentiment allowed the project team to keep other elements simple and in harmony with the nature of the area. Areas of innovation on the 45SW Toll Road include:
- The Mobility Authority and TxDOT initiated the Green Mobility Challenge, a sustainable design competition that challenged Texas’ most creative landscape architects, planners and engineers to propose better ways of constructing, operating, and maintaining future transportation projects. Many ideas were incorporated into the project, resulting in a minimized environmental footprint.
- The project uses permeable friction course pavement (PFC), which is the porous roadway surface with filtration, glare reduction and other benefits that have proven effective on MoPac.
- The road is the first in the region to utilize Wrong-Way Driving detection technology for safety. The intelligent warning system actively monitors and detects wrong-way entrants at four locations, deploys countermeasures, and sends alerts to drivers, first responders, and the Mobility Authority’s Traffic & Incident Management (TIM) Center in the event of a wrong-way driver.
- Roadway designers created wildlife movement corridors for an added layer of environmental protection and safe mammal crossing. The bridge at Bear Creek utilizes a wide-span structure that allows for safe and dry wildlife movement and preservation of native vegetation under the bridge.
There are three access points on 45SW Toll: MoPac Boulevard, Bliss Spillar Road and FM 1626. The road utilizes all electronic tolling, meaning drivers do not have to stop or even slow down to pay a toll. The cost to travel the full length of the road is $1 for electronic tag holders, and $1.50 for Pay By Mail customers.
Electronic tags remain the simplest, most cost-effective way to pay tolls. The Mobility Authority encourages drivers to sign up for any of the six electronic tag options and save 33% on tolls across Texas. The Mobility Authority accepts any of the following electronic tags on its toll roads: the Texas Department of Transportation’s TxTag, the Harris County Toll Road Authority’s EZTag, the North Texas Tollway Authority’s TollTag, the Kansas Turnpike Authority’s KTAG, the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority’s PikePass, as well as Bancpass. The Mobility Authority is also working to achieve interoperability with tolling authorities in Colorado, California, Florida, Georgia, as well as the Carolinas in the near future.
More info on electronic tags and toll payment can be found: https://www.mobilityauthority.com/pay-your-toll/options
MOBILITY AUTHORITY IMPLEMENTS HABITUAL VIOLATOR ENFORCEMENT PROGRAM
The Mobility Authority Board of Directors has approved implementation of an enforcement program to address habitual non-payment of tolls by chronic violators. Remedies under the policy, initially adopted in September 2018, includes posting the names of chronic violators on the Mobility Authority website, blocking vehicle registration renewal, prohibiting habitual violators’ vehicles on Mobility Authority roadways, and on-road enforcement of the vehicle ban.
The policy was adopted in an effort to encourage equitable payment by toll road users while also promoting electronic tag usage.
“We are cracking down on habitual violators,” says Mike Heiligenstein, Executive Director for the Mobility Authority. “It’s important that everyone who chooses to drive the toll roads pay their fair share, so we’re ramping up enforcement measures against the most egregious violators. We’re talking about those with 100 or more unpaid tolls in a one-year period, not drivers who may have missed a toll bill or happen to be a little behind in their payments.”
Texas law defines a habitual violator as a registered owner of a vehicle who has been issued two notices of non-payment for an aggregate of 100 or more unpaid toll charges with a 12-month period. The first notice, or the pre-determination letter, alerts the violator that they have 30 days to contact the Mobility Authority to resolve their outstanding charges. Those who fail to do so will receive a second notice, or determination letter, alerting them of their habitual violator status and warning them that remedies will be pursued against them. They will then have 30 days to request an appeal before being added to the public list of violators on the Mobility Authority website, having their vehicle registration renewal blocked, and being subject to the vehicle ban on Mobility Authority roadways. Criminal trespassing penalties associated with violating the vehicle prohibition could cost a driver more than $500, including court fees.
The Mobility Authority is encouraging customers to reach out early and make arrangements for a payment plan if they need help resolving outstanding charges. Customers may do so by calling 833-762-8655.
The Mobility Authority will soon be installing on-road technology to detect prohibited vehicles on Mobility Authority roadways. The automated license plate recognition (ALPR) cameras will be installed at the toll gantries and mobile ALPR cameras will be mounted in law enforcement vehicles. The technology works by taking photos of license plates, capturing date, time, and GPS coordinates. The data is sent to the cloud and compared against the agency’s list of prohibited vehicles. If a match is found, an alert is sent to contracted law enforcement for driver apprehension.
The Mobility Authority’s Habitual Violator Enforcement Program was adopted in conjunction with the agency’s transition to a new Pay By Mail program last fall. The program has evolved to be more user-friendly, offer payment options that better suit customer needs, and offer an enhanced customer experience overall.
“Our goal with this effort is to improve customer service for the law-abiding customers that use our roads and pay their bills,” said Heiligenstein. “Encouraging prompt payment ensures fairness for all patrons and prevents non-payment offenders from driving up administrative fees for others.”
TRAVIS COUNTY CALLS ON MOBILITY AUTHORITY TO DELIVER SAFETY PROJECTS
Travis County has enlisted the services of the Mobility Authority to expedite the delivery of two projects that are part of the County’s Capital Improvement Program: The Elroy Road and Ross Road safety projects.
These roads serve as key routes to the Del Valle schools, and Elroy Road is especially prone to flooding from Dry Creek, making emergency evacuation and emergency services difficult.
At the June Board of Directors meeting, the Mobility Authority awarded a construction contract for Elroy Road to James Construction Group, LLC. The two-lane road stretches 1.12 miles from McAngus Road to Kellam Road and will be reconstructed into a five-lane urban arterial with a continuous center turn lane, bike lanes, and sidewalks.
Total project cost is estimated at 26 million and construction is anticipated to be complete in late 2021.
For more information on the Mobility Authority’s Travis County Program, visit our website.