San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

October 28th, 2008
Letter: We need good turnout in county road bond election

Editor:

I’ve written about the Road Bonds for almost two years. During that time I may have swayed a few folks here and there, but now we voters are voting. If I could offer a simple synopsis of this letter, it is simply to encourage you to Vote FOR the Road Bonds.

Through volunteer work with area schools I see first hand the impact of growth on our area. Not just in terms of student populations, but more so in auto and truck traffic. And although public school administrators may be in favor of improving the transportation infrastructure in and around our area, legal counsel advises that neither school districts nor their Boards of Trustees should propose a resolution for or against political hot potatoes, such as our now infamous Hays County Road Bond proposition.

So here we are, all familiar with sometimes painful growth, and we’re down to the wire. Good Turn-outs at the polling places in and around Hays County should help create Good turn-outs on the highways and by-ways in and around Hays County. Recommendation: Vote FOR the Road Bonds.

Hays County roads are not simply local issues. Some of our roads go north and south, some go east and west, but all carry people within and through Hays County. Some of us may have narrow views of our respective communities, and don’t believe we’d benefit from wider or better roads between various areas and other residents of Hays County. But we do have obligations to each other, and our roads represent county-wide safety issues that are impacting the 3rd fastest growing county in Texas.

Looking at the bigger picture, official reports suggest we live in the 11th fastest growing county in the entire United States. But, the nation’s county growth data is based on population growth from the previous calendar year. Last year two Parishes (translation: Louisiana counties) surrounding New Orleans saw record population increases… It’s expected that those two Parishes were growing from people returning home after Hurricane Katrina drove them from their homes. So, Hays County is more likely in the top 10 fastest growing counties in the nation.

This Road Bond is not just about improving US290 in Drippin’ or East McCarty Lane in San Marcos. It’s not just about creating a safer RR12 Parkway out past Cawley’s Junction or providing turn lanes on SH21 out towards Niederwald. Everyone in Hays County that votes will decide on whether we will have these (and more) road projects, or have none that will use the immediately available state money. It’s a “Winners take all…” situation. If we can understand and accept that, and want to be viewed by future generations as winners then Vote FOR the Road Bonds.

Ranch Road 12 is just fine? No, I’ve not heard any such thing. All should know that such a statement about an increasingly important road just isn’t true. More importantly, based on the volume of traffic and how people drive, RR12 isn’t safe. But to make it safe and preserve the character of such a gateway to the Texas Hill Country requires a couple of key components: a lot of money, and for people to slow down.

But that’s what most of us want: more money and to enjoy life in the slow lane. To sit back and enjoy country living. Yet we race in between those opportunities to slow down and get “laid back”. But we have to get the kids to and from school, we have to get ourselves to and from work, and/or whatever else it is that requires we be physically involved with the rest of the world…and we prefer to do it quickly.

The thoughtful design of a RR12 parkway would move existing traffic more safely and faster (not measured in speed, but rather time. Remember that the best managed traffic has half of it stopped half the time.) RR12 could become akin to the parkway on SH21 northeast of Bastrop. That’s a lovely drive through the pines that has reduced speed limits, almost forcing a peaceful moment in time for the passing road warriors oblivious of the natural beauty surrounding them. But is exposure to such serenity with increased safety what we want for RR12? Suggestion: Vote FOR the Road Bonds.

What about FM1626? Isn’t it already backwards? Travelers might notice how FM1626 goes from 2 lanes with no shoulder, to 2 lanes with shoulders, then adds a turn lane, and then it becomes a divided highway with median all the way to IH35. But that’s the scenario as you drive away from Austin. FM1626 is already handling more traffic with less road than travelers think is possible.
So how was it allowed to get bigger the further away from Austin one travels? Doesn’t this seem unsafe if you’re going towards Austin? Quite simply, it is unsafe. It’s just that the south end of FM1626 was better planned. But despite Kyle’s dramatic growth, it continues to grow.
But forget about the growth for a moment. What about FM1626 going north, up to and beyond the Travis County line? With no additional growth it needs significant attention to handle the today’s traffic. So what can be done? Recommendation: Vote in Favor of the Road Bonds.

But can we afford it? No one can deny that $207 million is a LOT of money. Though the improvements (along with a few new roads) that $207 million can buy may be less significant than it was in years past, the value of the work it can do this time can be amplified. There is a contract, a commitment, a written guaranty, that this great state of Texas will pay Hays County back as much as $133 million on the costs of these needed projects.

The projected average tax increase on a $200,000 home is less than $7 per month, and this cannot to be overlooked. Soon East McCarty Lane in San Marcos will close for construction from the new Embassy Suites Hotel and Conference Center to the still new San Marcos High School. But even with the falling price of gasoline I’ll probably spend $7 a week for gas to go around East McCarty Lane to the next nearest route to and from the new San Marcos High School (SMHS).

It’s not a bad drive, and I’d like to save that money. But it still doesn’t answer the question: Can we afford the new roads? Without over simplification, for every $3 Hays County invests in these projects, the State of Texas will pay back $2. So perhaps the better question would be: can we afford not to take advantage of the state’s money right now? Recommendation: Vote FOR the Road Bonds.
Ironically the frequent “Vote NO” signs along East McCarty Lane are about to be relocated by the city of

San Marcos and/or the County of Hays as they prepare to widen East McCarty Lane. But what’s now planned is mostly at City and County taxpayer expense. If we act now those improvements could be bigger and better (with a Loop 110 “thrown in”) and the costs to local tax payers could be lower… if we Vote FOR the Road Bonds.

But why is the new SMHS way out East McCarty Lane, anyway? Didn’t anyone at SMCISD think about the transportation issues when the new high school site was selected? The 2-to-1 pass-through financial commitment from the state of Texas was planned over two years ago. At that time, the projects wouldn’t require any additional action as it had been placed in the hands of our trusted leadership to move forward.

But the issue was taken out of the Commissioners Court and a single politically active community garnered sufficient votes to derail the projects, as well as the opportunity for cost sharing with the rest of the state of Texas. After that event most of the registered voters in the County (many of whom didn’t vote) woke up and wondered aloud: What Happened?! Here’s hoping for a good turn-out so no one will wonder about it again.

None of this should be or is about any single city or community within Hays County. And this is not about the opinions of this group or that group, or me or him or her or them. This is about “What’s Right” and not “Who’s Right”. Recommendation: Vote FOR the Road Bonds.

The worst thing we could have done two years ago was to succumb to “paralysis by analysis”, but we did it. There might still be a better plan out there than what’s before us now, but whatever it is will likely be too little and it will cost much, much more…

Soon we’ll all know the will of the voters. We already know that that the voter turn out will be significantly better than what was seen 18 months ago. Here’s hoping the turn-outs to and from the many roads in need within Hays County will also be better.

But just in case there are any doubts about my personal preferences on this issue, please
Vote FOR the Road Bonds.

Peter Baen
San Marcos

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