AUSTIN -- Drivers are rejoicing as the interchange connecting U.S. 290 and MoPac opens for the first time.
An estimated 29,000 drivers will use the flyover connecting westbound U.S. 290 to southbound MoPac in South Austin every day.
Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell and Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) officials were all on hand for the grand opening of the flyover Wednesday morning.
Before the intersection was open, drivers had to exit and go through several traffic lights in order to get onto MoPac from 290. Now they will be able to go straight through.
Completing the project was no easy feat. Construction actually started back in the 1990s when the state built the bases for ramps in both directions, but didn't have money to pay for the rest of the flyovers.
Construction on the so-called "ramps to nowhere" picked back up in 2010 when the City of Austin decided to finance the project. The estimated cost at the time was $13 million, but TxDOT says the final cost was actually $9 million. TxDOT will pay the city 80 percent of the money back over the next 10 to 15 years.
Then a construction flaw delayed the project for a few months, and once that was fixed, the company working on the flyover went bankrupt and pulled out. After several months a new company took over the project. Now that it is complete it is expected to save drivers both time and money on gas.
"Starting today drivers will save, on the average, about eight minutes a day in their commute times," said Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell. "That's eight minutes that they would otherwise never get back. We're happy to hand those eight minutes back to them."
"They'll have a safer route, a more environmentally friendly route, and at the end of the day, a more pleasant living experience," added Deputy Director of TxDOT John Barton.
The opening completes the interchange project. The other flyover, connecting northbound MoPac to eastbound 290 opened this past August.
City leaders say this project is just one of several in the works that will connect east and west Austin. TxDOT is working on construction at the Y at Oak Hill and projects near the airport. The goal is to help Austinites get from one side of the city to the other without having to stop at so many lights.