By LANCE DUNCAN
KYLE — A major road improvement extending downtown Kyle eastward could be completed by next fall after the city council passed a resolution last week to cooperate with Hays County on improvements for FM 150.
However, befitting a city where roughly 25 percent of the upcoming budget is dedicated to funding road improvements, FM 150 wasn’t the only transportation topic before the council.
Hays County Precinct 2 Commissioner Jeff Barton (D-Kyle) and Mike Weaver, the county’s consultant with Prime Strategies, spoke with the council also about Kyle Parkway, Interstate-35, one-way frontage roads and resynchronized traffic lights. Barton told councilmembers that a good share of more than $200 million in county road projects are concentrated in Kyle, where growth has been the fastest. Voters approved $207 in bonding capacity for road work in November 2008.
Weaver said the schedule for realigning FM 150 isn’t reliant on the other road schedules, meaning construction can begin a year before improvements to IH-35 begin. Barton said that FM 150 construction could begin as soon as November, to which Weaver added that the construction process stands to take eight or nine months because there are no traffic issues.
The current plan is to turn eastern FM 150 into a four-way divided road with a median, allowing downtown development on the east side of IH-35. The realigned road would continue the present FM 150 (Center Street) east from the Interstate and curve to the south to meet the existing FM 150. Presently, drivers wishing to stay on FM 150 going east from downtown have to turn south on the east-side frontage of IH-35, then turn east on FM 150 a mile later. That option will be gone once the IH-35 frontages are converted to one-way going through Kyle.
Weaver revealed that a second possible design had been recommended by a Kyle property owner who wished for the realignment to run closer to his land on the east side of IH-35. The design involved an additional intersection and a less continuous flow of traffic. Barton said that the county would support whatever choice the city wants, but that the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) wants a continuous flow of traffic.
Gonzalez added that it was safe to say that TxDOT is “not excited” about the alternative plan. City Manager Tom Mattis said that the staff recommendation was to stick with the initial plan.
Weaver said the project is moving smoothly at a cost of around $7 million, with the city’s contribution capped at $3 million.
On the topic of the IH-35 improvements, Barton said $28 million is being spent in Kyle. Of that, $20 million is for the IH-35/Kyle Crossing overpass, with $11 million of the cost coming from the city and $9 million from the county. Barton said that the county would help with aesthetic upgrades on this project.
Mattis appealed for TxDOT to take Kyle’s projects seriously, showing a pie chart indicating that the city’s total proposed tax rate for Fiscal Year 2010 is almost one-fourth consumed by TxDOT project debt, an amount that is just slightly less than what is used to provide all other services in Kyle. Mattis also displayed another chart showing an even larger share of the potential FY 2011 budget — 33 percent — going to TxDOT projects.
“I want to make sure that TxDOT understands the commitment we are making,” Mattis said. “It is important to understand that $11 million, even in Texas, is a lot of money, and it is important for them to understand what that impact is.”
Gonzalez told Barton that “we really appreciate having this partnership,” to which Barton replied that “truthfully, no one is doing as much as Kyle to partner with the state and county on transportation.” Barton added that “the state of Texas may be keeping its budget low, but it is forcing these improvements back on the taxpayers at the city and county level.”
Mattis said the tri-party agreement between the city, county and TxDOT relating to improvements to the overpass and IH-35 through Kyle still needs revision and that an $11 million loan agreement to fund the project still needed to be approved by the council beforehand.
“TxDOT has tended to forget that they’re not funding this project,” Mattis said, indicating that TxDOT’s standard boilerplate agreement doesn’t work on some of the particulars.
Barton added that “it takes a little work to have (TxDOT) understand the sense of urgency,” and that “they’ve always done it this way, but this is a bit different because the city and the county are footing the bill.”
However, Barton remained optimistic, pointing out that Weaver has been leading negotiations on behalf of the county.
“Mike’s gonna get us there,” he said.Email | Print