by BRAD ROLLINS
Editor and Publisher
The city of San Marcos will widen a stretch of Hunter Road between Bishop Street and Wonder World Drive, replacing a low-water crossing over Purgatory Creek where flooding frequently closes the major thoroughfare.
San Marcos City Council members on Monday settled on a preliminary engineering plan that would widen the road to three-, four- and five-lanes and span the creekbed with a bridge designed to remain passable during a 100-year flood. The current crossing closes the road even during two-year floods.
Engineering firm KBR estimates the work to cost about $6.9 million which City Manager Rick Menchaca said will be covered by savings from the Wonder World Drive extension to which the Hunter Road widening would connect. The work is project to take about two years from its start, with the vast majority of that, about 15 months, spent seeking environmental clearance from the Texas Department of Transportation.
Between Bishop and San Antonio streets, the project would add a center turn lane to the two existing through lanes within the 50-foot right-of-way already owned by the state. Between San Antonio Street and the creek, the road will expand to four lanes and to five between the creek and Wonder World Drive.
Council members chose from two other options, the least expensive of which would have cost $5.1 million and replaced the Purgatory Creek crossing with one engineered for a 25-year flood.
“I think we should do it all, do it well and not have to go back and redo things. Even if it costs more money, I think it saves money in the long run,” Mayor Susan Narvaiz said.
Only council member Ryan Thomason, in his first regular meeting since taking office last month, supported a less expensive package, saying “I think Option A is far superior to what is in existence right now and it’s a whole lot cheaper.”
The project will require the city to buy 20 additional feet of right-of-way on both sides of the widening in addition to two tracts totaling about 2.5 acres where the bridge and approaches will cut off access in and out. Those properties would need to be purchased eventually anyway for a stabilization of the creek channel included in the city’s Flood Protection Plan, Assistant City Manager Laurie Moyer said.
The larger bridge included in the package will allow for a pedestrian and bicycle path underneath the roadway, which council member John Thomaides said could be an important connection for a future hike and bike system connecting the Purgatory Creek greenspace with the chain of city parks along the San Marcos River.
When it opens this spring, the 3.2-mile divided Wonder World Drive extension parkway will connect Hunter Road to Ranch Road 12. In 2006, the Texas Transportation Commission approved a pass-through financing agreement with the city of San Marcos through which the city fronts the cost of the extension and will be reimbursed up to $60 million over the course of two decades.
Under the agreement, the city of San Marcos was to assume control of Hopkins Street and Hunter Road, which are actually state highways, upon completion of the Wonder World Drive extension. Since state money has to be spent on the a state highway, however, the planned Hunter Road widening will likely delay that transfer until after that project is complete, Moyer said.
The Hunter Road widening also clears a hurdle for Austin developer Larry Peel who wants to build high-end Purgatory Creek Apartments on 22.5 near Hunter Road’s intersection with Wonder World Drive.
In March, the city agreed to rezone the land contingent, among other things, on Peel securing permission from the Texas Department of Transportation for a curb-cut to accommodate a second entrance and exit for his complex and completing plans for a turn lane and deceleration lane he is paying for. The Hunter Road widening would satisfy those conditions.Email | Print