By Mason W. Canales
Killeen Daily Herald
COPPERAS COVE - As the U.S. Highway 190 bypass project draws close to being 40 percent complete, the city is getting close to receiving 30 percent of the construction cost back.
The Texas Department of Transportation is expected to pay Copperas Cove about $12.7 million, out of $42.3 million, in September this year as part of an advance funding agreement between the two entities.
The remaining portion will be paid back by September 2014. Like this year's reimbursement, it will be based on the actual construction cost of the project, which is scheduled to be completed in the fall of 2013.
According to the agreement, Cove fronted the construction cost of the bypass, about $46.6 million, to start the project last year.
"It became very obvious that with the funding shortfalls in the transportation department that there was going to have to be local funding," said City Manager Andrea Gardner, giving one of the reasons the city issued a large amount of bonds in 2011 to ensure the project was funded. "(The state agency) knew they would have the funds, but they wouldn't be coming in all at once."
In February 2011, the city issued a Contract Revenue and Limited Tax Bond in the amount of $39 million, set to mature in 2017, and a General Obligation Bonds Series 2011 in the amount of $5.49 million maturing in 2028.
The two bonds were divided because residents in 2008 approved bond packages for the bypass projects, to include the State Highway 9 project, said Gardner. The smaller bond is the remainder of that bond package, while the larger bond is an amount the city plans to pay as it gets money back from the state.
Richard Skopik, a Waco-based engineer for the transportation agency, said that when the agreement was made in December 2010, the city had been trying for years to find ways for the state to fund the project.
Before the agreement was approved, the area was awarded several years of transportation funding all at once for use in 2013, to include the September repayment and the next two years refunding of about $16.9 million and $12.7 million.
Not wanting to delay the project any longer because area authorities could reprioritize the bypass project behind smaller projects that could be completed with less funding, Cove sought to fund the project if it could be repaid by the transportation agency, said Gardner.
"If we couldn't fund the project ... it may have been many, many years away," said Gardner, noting the city had waited for 20 or more years for a reliever route.
To add to securing the project, the Copperas Cove Economic Development Corporation funded $1.1 million, and another $1 million was obtained from the federal government, stated city documents.
While the city didn't provide details about the interest on the $39 million bond, Gardner said payments were scheduled to accrue the least amount of interest because the city knew it would be making large repayments after the transportation agency funds are redirected to the city.
The U.S. 190 bypass project is a 5.1-mile stretch of roadway that will become the highway after it is completed.
Presently, the contractor, Louisiana-based James Construction, is working on building a 1,200-foot-long bridge, the approaches for getting on the highway and several cuts into hills surrounding the city, said Skopik.
"They will do everything they can outside of traffic first," he said. "They won't get to the heart of moving traffic - not this summer, but next summer."
Skopik said he applauded everyone for working on funding the project in Cove because it is a much-needed project to improve the flow and safety of traffic.
Contact Mason W. Canales at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7474. Follow him on Twitter at KDHCoveEditor.