Hays County expects to save millions on road projects

October 10, 2012

“We’ve accomplished what would take 25 years in six,” Conley said. “We’re very proud.”

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Commissioners are scheduled to have a workshop with Phil Wilson, the executive director for the Texas Department of Transportation at 1 p.m. Friday in Room 1001 at the Hays County Government Center, 712 S. Stagecoach Trail.

Examples of estimated Hays County road project savings

Project…Original cost estimate…New cost estimate

FM 1626 A (North)…$35.4 million…$31.6 million

I-35 (Kyle Frontage Road)…$29.6 million…$17.9 million

I-35 (CR 210)…$28.7 million…$17 million

Hays County is anticipating an extra $34 million to spend on roads because a slew of projects approved by voters in 2008 is projected to come in under budget. The new estimates are so much less than anticipated that the county also stands to receive an $8 million boon from the state, consultants told the commissioners court Tuesday.

When commissioners meet Friday with Phil Wilson, executive director of the Texas Department of Transportation, they’re expected to discuss how they could use those funds for future projects.

The county issued $207 million in road bonds in 2008. About $59 million of that was set aside for a variety of local projects that are expected to come in about $9.4 million under budget.

The remaining $148 million in bond money was for road projects done in conjunction with the state, including improvements to Interstate 35 and U.S. 290. Under the agreement, the county pays for the work and the state then gradually reimburses the county $133 million. Those projects are also coming in under budget, leaving the county with a bill of only $124.7 million.

But because the county was responsible for unexpected costs if projects went over budget, it still gets to collect $133 million from the state, Commissioner Will Conley said. That means the state will pay the county about $8.3 million more for the projects than the county actually spent on them.

Conley said the county was one of the first local entities to partner with the state in this fashion. As the financing program has evolved, Conley said the state and local entities now share a portion of any additional costs as well as any savings.

County Auditor Bill Herzog credited the markets for the saved expense, saying the county got better than anticipated interest rates and most of the project bids were less than originally budgeted.

“Because of the economy they’re out there hungry for work, so they gave us better prices,” he said.

Herzog said the money will enable the county to repay its debt faster and save on interest costs.

What those costs will be depends on how quickly the state reimburses the county, Herzog said. TxDOT is supposed to repay the county at a rate of 14 cents per vehicle mile traveled on the improved roads, but so far only two of those roads are open to traffic.

Conley said the commissioners want to show Wilson Friday that the state’s partnership with the county has worked and discuss how they can continue to work together in the future.

TxDOT officials have touted the program as a way to help communities finance and complete transportation projects more quickly.

“We’ve accomplished what would take 25 years in six,” Conley said. “We’re very proud.”

Conley said he wants to focus on the county’s main corridors such as Interstate 35 in future projects and bring safety improvements to the county’s farm-to-market roadways, predominantly in the western part of the county.

Pd Pol. Adv by the Will Conley Campaign