By BILL PETERSON
Editor at Large
The Hays County Commissioners Court agreed to progress towards right of way acquisition along Interstate-35 Tuesday, putting a batch of torturously discussed road projects back into the spotlight.
While officials set up a series of bond advisory committee hearings around the county in preparation for a November bond election to fund road projects, Precinct 2 Commissioner Jeff Barton (D-Kyle) argued that the county needs to start picking up parcels.
The court voted unanimously to talk with two consulting firms, HRM of Wimberley and Spitzer and Associates of Austin, about negotiating for right of way in Kyle. Barton said the expenditure will come from $19.5 million in preliminary road funds the commissioners approved last winter.
Barton, Precinct 1 Commissioner Debbie Ingalsbe (D-San Marcos), county engineer Jerry Borcherding and a representative from Kyle (probably City Manager Tom Mattis) will negotiate with the firms for a proposal to acquire right of way from landowners in Kyle.
A revised pass-through financing agreement with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) provides for improvements along I-35 going through Kyle, including the conversion of the access roads for one-way traffic. It remains for Hays County voters to approve the debt issue for an undetermined sum in a November election to support road improvements, including those named in the $133 million pass-through agreement.
Precinct 4 Commissioner Karen Ford (D-Dripping Springs) raised the only objection Tuesday, asking why it was necessary to go forward on right of way acquisition when the commissioners haven’t even assembled a bond proposal, let alone put it to a vote.
Barton responded that the agreement with TxDOT requires that the county make progress on the I-35 projects in advance of the election. Furthermore, Barton said, he wants to act quickly because many landowners in question are of a mind to donate property for right of way.
“I would hope that we could get a good deal of I-35 and most or all of (the land for a re-routing of SH 150) donated,” Barton said.
The commissioners already have the engineering firm Lockwood, Andrews and Newman (LAN) at work on right-of-way acquisition for a proposed widening of FM 1626 north of Jack C. Hays Trail.