The options for widening Hunter Road, as presented at Tuesday’s San Marcos City Council meeting. Photo by Sean Batura.
By SEAN BATURA
San Marcos City Councilmembers opted Tuesday to spend $532,000 more than they budgeted to widen a 0.79-mile stretch of Hunter Road between Wonder World Drive and Bishop Street, though city officials say anticipated savings on the Wonder World Drive extension will cover the difference.
City staffers said they expect the road widening project to begin in mid-January and take from 26 to 28 months. The $6.932 million project entails a transition from five lanes at the Wonder World intersection to three lanes at the Bishop Street intersection and a bridge over the main channel of Purgatory Creek. Bicycle and pedestrian access to parkland would be provided beneath.
The project is intended to relieve street flooding problems, provide a center turning lane, open up more land for development, and provide turning access for businesses.
Only incoming Councilmember Ryan Thomason favored the cheapest of three widening options, a $5.16 million project — Option A — that would have included a culvert instead of a bridge, no need for the city to buy land, and no hike and bike trails on both sides of Hunter between Bishop and San Antonio Street.
“I think Option A is far superior to what’s in existence now, and it’s a whole lot cheaper,” said Thomason at Tuesday’s city council meeting.
All the other councilmembers favored the most expensive option now being pursued.
“Because we’ve invested a lot of money and citizens waiting, and we call this a first major gateway, I think we should do it all, and do it well, and not have to go back and redo things,” said Mayor Susan Narvaiz at Tuesday’s city council meeting. “And although this is a lot of money, it will save money in the long-term.”
The next-most costly option would have included a bridge over Purgatory Creek and an expenditure of $5.805 million, including $165,000 for land purchases on either side of what is now Hunter Road.
City staff said the current $6.932 million estimated project cost includes $548,000 for land purchases on either side of the street. If property owners along the stretch of Hunter Road to be widened refuse to reach an agreement with the city regarding the sale of their properties, the city probably would resort to condemnation proceedings to acquire the right of way.
City Manager Rick Menchaca said money saved on the Wonder World extension project will be enough to cover the extra $532,000 for the Hunter Road widening project.
The Wonder World Extension will be a 3.2 mile four lane limited access divided parkway linking Hunter Road with Ranch Road 12 and is intended to improve traffic flow to and from western Hays County. The project is also intended to ease heavy truck and through traffic in San Marcos’ downtown area and many of its residential neighborhoods. As of Jan. 5, the Wonder World Drive Extension project was 412 days into a 617-day schedule.
The City Council awarded a $26,385,648 contract on Oct. 21, 2008 to J.C. Evans Construction of Leander for the Wonder World Extension project. Congress appropriated $10 million for the project in 2005, and the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) agreed to pay from $3 million to $6 million in annual reimbursements to the city for a 10-20 year period based on traffic volumes.
The San Marcos’ pass-through financing agreement with TxDOT for the extension calls for the city to gain ownership of Hopkins Street and Hunter Road, though Assistant City Manager Laurie Moyer said the widening of Hunter Road will likely delay the right-of-way transfer. The property must remain a TxDOT roadway until the widening project is completed, because the bonds available for the project are those that the city agreed to use for the improvement of TxDOT infrastructure only.
Narvaiz asked staff to pursue the acquisition of Hunter/Hopkins, minus the portion to be widened, and no councilmembers expressed agreement or disagreement with this during the meeting.
“I think it would be easier on us if we were able to take control of any part of the road so we can get control of the speed limits and weight limits and things of that nature as soon as possible,” Narvaiz said. “I think that would be the approach we would probably want to take.”Email | Print