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

March 17th, 2009
Interstate overpass in Buda designated county’s top stimulus priority

by BRAD ROLLINS
Managing Editor

The addition of an overpass where the Buda truck bypass connects with Interstate 35 is Hays County’s top priority for funding from the federal economic stimulus package.

At Pct. 2 Commissioner Jeff Barton’s urging, the county commissioners court voted today to request about $7.3 million for the project from about $30 million in uncommitted stimulus dollars being dispensed by the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization.

Also called the Cement Road overpass, the bridge would connect the bypass, Robert S. Light Street, on the west to Hillside Terrace and residential neighborhoods on the east. The request also includes redirecting interstate access roads in the area to one-way traffic.

“We talk alot about how we want to preserve the rural heritage in parts of Hays County, how we want to invest wisely in infrastructure, how we want to use infrastructure to direct development in the right direction. This project does all that,” Barton said. The court adopted his project 4-0 with Pct. 4 Commissioner Karen Ford absent.

The court also voted to submit the addition of turn lanes to Texas 21 and Ranch Road 12 as secondary priorities although one qualification for projects to receive stimulus funding is that they not have been previously funded. In the case of both those roads, the planned improvements most “shovel-ready” were included in the road bond package approved by Hays County voters in November.

When the city of Buda assumed much of the cost of constructing the truck bypass, TxDOT agreed to build the new overpass, said Buda city council member Ron Fletcher, who chaired the city’s planning and zoning commission at the time.

“They left us holding the bag. We should have had the ribbon cutting for this project in July 2007 and the city completed our end of the bargain. This would fulfill that unfulfilled promise from TxDOT,” Fletcher said.

The truck bypass overpass drew strong support from Buda and Kyle leaders, including Robert Kidnew, president of nearby Texas Lehigh Cement, the county’s largest taxpayer and biggest industrial employer. He told commissioners that as many as 390 trucks a day go to and from Lehigh and Centex Materials and not having the overpass and corresponding access road improvements adds four miles to each of those trips.

The developers of the planned Meadows at Buda residential subdivision reminded county leaders that their company realigned a thoroughfare through the project and contributed more than $1.2 million cash and $1.4 million in right-of-way to accommodate the truck bypass. Yet the project can’t be built without the overpass to accomodate increased traffic.

“The economic development of the area has been stiffled by the incomplete interchange,” Grant E. Gist wrote commissioners.

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