by BRAD ROLLINS
The city of San Marcos began work on the largest transportation project in its history with a groundbreaking ceremony for the $26.2 million construction phase of the Wonder World Drive extension.
The four-lane divided parkway will connect Ranch Road 12 to Interstate 35 by extending Wonder World Drive beyond its current terminus at Hunter Road. Work on the 3.2-mile road is expected to take up to two years to complete but a contractor said during the ceremony that construction will be finished in 18 months, six months ahead of schedule.
The road has been a transportation priority since 1998 when voters approved the first $1.5 million to start the project; the road was originally proposed by a 1987 citizens bond committee.
The state transportation department and the city reached an agreement in 2006 under a pass-through financing arrangement in which the city fronts the road’s cost and is reimbursed based on how many cars use the road. In addition, the a federal earmark secured through the city’s lobbying firm, Winstead Consulting Group, will cover $10 million of construction.
The extension “shows your leaders are trying to take the bull by horns and get these projects moving,” said TxDOT Executive Director Armadeo Saenz, whose agency’s funding shortfalls have frustrated road projects statewide. “If you build it, they will come and how fast they come will determine how fast you are repaid.”
Officials say the road will improve traffic flow to and from western Hays County and relieve truck traffic downtown and in historical residential neighborhoods traversed by Hopkins Street.
The city council in August awarded the $26.2 million construction contract to Rodman LLC. The city has spent $5.7 million for engineering, $4.6 million for land acquisition, $610,819 for environmental assessments, $463,969 for archaeological studies and $4.6 million for mitigation. Other costs may be added preserving trees in the road’s right-of-way and adding aesthetic improvements to bridges and other structures.
The parkway is designed by Kellogg, Brown and Root and is coordinated by Assistant City Manager Laurie Anderson and Interim Engineering Director Sabas Avila.
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