By BILL PETERSON
Editor at Large
By the time supporters of a $207 million countywide road bond converged on several election parties early Tuesday evening, they already knew they had won.
The early vote showed the road bonds won approval from 21,728 voters, a whopping 64.87 percent of the votes cast in advance of Election Day. The margin only increased among Tuesday voters. In the end, the road bonds won 65.4 percent of 50,472 votes cast across Hays County.
Now, the county can move forward with 17 road projects, including improvements to four major highways for which the state has agreed to reimburse $133.2 million over 20 years if the county pays for them up front.
The county already has launched engineering work for FM 1626, the state highway west of Buda that takes many residents towards Austin for work every morning. The other roads on the state’s pass-through financing plan include U.S. 290 in and near Dripping Springs, Interstate-35 as it runs through Kyle and Buda, and the southeast San Marcos Loop (FM 110).
“I think this election was a referendum on the future,” said Hays County Precinct 3 Commissioner Will Conley (R-San Marcos), an ardent supporter of the bond program who also won re-election to his seat Tuesday. “It was a great day for Hays County, and I think it gives us a chance to take Hays County into the future.”
The bond program, a smaller version of which failed in a May 2007 election, this time won broad support from across the county. The only voting precinct to go against the project was 333, which takes in Wimberley. That box went against the program, 627-609.
Two other Wimberley-area boxes, 335 and 337, went narrowly for the bond, which passed by 1,048 to 1,016 in 335 and 1,438 to 1,324 in 337. Dripping Springs-area precinct 443, which lies just south of U.S. 290 on the county’s west side, also squeaked out a 1,640-1.639 vote for the bond.
But even those results represented a wild swing from the May 2007 election for $172 million in road bonds. In that election, the Wimberley area turned out heavily in opposition to the projects, which involved a state pass-through agreement for FM 1626, FM 110, U.S. 290 and RR 12, as well as a side agreement for SH 21 on the Caldwell County line. While Wimberley citizens rallied against a perception that RR 12 would become a super highway into their town, light turnouts in Kyle and San Marcos couldn’t overcome the will of western voters.
Tuesday’s election overturned the May 2007 vote in two key ways. First, Wimberley -based Precinct 3, instead of going heavily against the bonds, this time went 57.9 percent in favor of the new proposal, which scaled back upgrades to RR 12. Second, the Precinct 2 vote, centered by Buda and Kyle, actually outnumbered the Precinct 3 vote this time, if barely, 14,216 to 13,887.
As expected, Precinct 2 gave the bonds by far the loudest support, with 76.3 percent in favor of the new program that includes upgrades on the Interstate-35 access roads to ease nightmare traffic jams in Kyle. And Precinct 1, based in San Marcos, went for the bonds with 69.8 percent of its 7,959 votes approving of the bonds.
The new package also differs from the rejected May 2007 program by adding improvements to FM 2001, FM 2325, Old Bastrop Highway, Dacy Lane, Lime Kiln Road, Post Road and FM 967, among other projects.
It falls now to the Hays County Commissioners Court to administrate the projects smoothly.
“The county has a tremendous job managing the road bond, and that is going to depend on us being very efficient in how we build these roads,” Conley said. “That’s something we’re going to have to start working on before the start of the year.”Email | Print