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

STAFF REPORT

Hays County has committed $1 million from federal transportation funds to help pay for a railroad overpass on Aquarena Springs Drive if the money is used within three years.

Rather than asking for the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization to dedicate federal funds to individual projects in the county, the Hays County Commissioner Court sought and received a lump sum of $3,870,782. The projects still must be ratified by the CAMPO board where Hays County is represented by Pct. 3 Commissioner Will Conley and San Marcos Mayor Daniel Guerrero.

The San Marcos City Council has already budgeted $7.4 million over the next two fiscal years toward the $39 million project. The Texas Transportation Commissioner has committed $20 million from its State Railroad Grade Separation Fund; in addition, the city previously won a $600,000 federal earmark for the overpass, which would serve traffic traveling between Interstate 35 and Texas State University.

That leaves a funding gap of $9.9 million, said Linda Huff, the city’s Capital Improvements director. That number includes the cost of right-of-way, most of which is owned by Texas State University. The city has not yet formally asked the university to donate right-of-way for the overpass but expects to do so, Huff said.

The city hopes to start construction on the overpass by September or October 2013, said James Massaro, the city’s senior engineer.

Under the commissioners court’s funding allocation, the Aquarena Springs Drive money must be allocated and spent within three years or it will instead go to planned modifications to Ranch-to-Market Rd. 967 in northern Hays County.

The overpass would be only the third overpass at San Marcos’ 70 or so at-grade railroad crossings. Three quarters of the city’s population is on the west side of the tracks while much commercial development, including the only hospital, is on the eastside.

The city’s transportation masterplan estimated that, in 2004, drivers collectively spent 51.7 hours at railroad crossings waiting for passing trains. Since then, the city’s population continues to grow but officials, in 2006, also opened the long awaited Wonder World Drive overpass. In recent years, officials also opened an overpass on Yarrington road connecting the Blanco Vista subdivision to the interstate.

Other projects the commissioners court is funding include:

  • $770,400 for sidewalk and bicycle lane construction along FM 2770 and FM 150 in Kyle;
  • $419,696 for pedestrian walkway improvements along Mercer Street in Dripping Springs;
  • $984,000 for intersection improvements on SH 21 at FM 150 in Hays County Precinct 1;
  • $696,686 to add shoulders and safety improvements to RM 12 between Oakwood Loop and CR 346 in Hays County Precinct 3.

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14 thoughts on “Hays County gets $1 million for Aquarena overpass

  1. I see that Warden would have MUCH more limited access to Aquarena pushing ALL the traffice from the proposed 5 story apartment complex onto Thorpe. The city needs to anticipate a reconstruction of the Thorpe/Aquarena intersection. And sidewalks on both sides of Aquarena.

  2. Wait times, with hundreds of vehicles running their engines and AC to survive the TX heat, must produce a significant amount of air pollution. Does that not figure into the environmental equation?

  3. I went to the presentation. Sounds like the overpass redevelopment will route all the water, much of which is currently going into Spring Lake unfiltered, into an active (maintained) filtration pond behind the Armory/Library. Could be a net improvement for stormwater runoff. If Diane isn’t screaming about it I’m sure not paying attention to LMC.

  4. Also, I would hate to claim undue credit (no I wouldn’t), but the Warden/Aquarena intersection is much more usable in this latest design.

  5. Are there any environmental studies? Its a question, not a rant. The Hays Commissioners cut funding to clean air force of texas. Pollution while waiting at a train can’t be that big of a deal …right…..

    Usually, when timelines are placed, this means that impact studies are not being performed. “Under the commissioners court’s funding allocation, the Aquarena Springs Drive money must be allocated and spent within three years or it will instead go to planned modifications to Ranch-to-Market Rd. 967 in northern Hays County.”

  6. Beyond wait times for people to get around, we should also look at railroad crossings from a public safety standpoint. I’ve said since I moved to San Marcos that the trains are going to kill someone. How often does a fire truck, ambulance, or police car have to wait at a blocked crossing on their way to someone in need of emergency services? The 2 or 3 extra minutes for an ambulance to get to your house because of a train could be an eternity when you’re having a heart attack and have an impact for the rest of your life.

  7. They are just now figuring this out after approving development after development…whoah!! Is that not why we build well equipped substations stations in selected locations? Im not understanding why they can not afford initiatives for school children to become proactively involved to cut down on these sorts of issues but want to make such an expenditure over the argument of air quality. Where are the stellar environmental reports to ease our concerns regarding the river and underground pollution that can hit the river? Why is a project timeline being attached? A generic discussion on air quality as justification when we have a RIVER unique to San Marcos. We have endangered species in 78666 and treat development like we are in Dallas. Please think outside of the box and in your community. We are unique and Blessed to be entrusted to be stewards of this sacred river.

  8. A $30 million overpass project that receives federal, State, and local funding has to have significant environmental impact studies done. Did you even ask the city to produce these?

  9. At the meeting I attended this past Thursday one could not have swung a dead cat without hitting a TxDot official or HDR rep poised to answer questions about the environmental impact study or any other aspect of the overpass project.

  10. SMsince95, I had the same experience when I attended a meeting regarding the overpass many months ago at the University.

    I am ignorant of the ways of railroads, but as I have watched San Marcos grow the past 26 year I have often wondered by they don’t just move the rails out of the center of town b/c I too have concerns about the hospital and it’s ambulances being on the other side of the tracks from the heart of SM.

    It would have to be cheaper to do that, and it wouldn’t cause damage to the river, and the whole city wouldn’t be “derailed” by the construction for THREE years. The folks that live on the Rock are going to have it the worst trying to get into town for work etc. I’m positive there is a reason that this isn’t being done, I’d just like to know what that reason is.

  11. Melissa, if you had a 500 acre ranch that had been in your family for 100 years how much would you charge Union Pacific to run a train through it? Imagine how much private property will have to be acquired for railroad right of way if they move the tracks. For the record, there are plenty of people working on it and everyone agrees it will be a great thing but make no mistake, it will be EXTREMELY expensive – into the billions of dollars. Union Pacific has a track that is working pretty well. If they move it trains will be able to go faster so they have SOME incentive but not enough to foot the bill themselves.

    The railroads have enormous powers granted in the very early days of their development. Have you ever heard the phrase “I’ve been railroaded”?

  12. I’d charge them out the wazoo ~ billions though, I wasn’t aware it would take that kind of money. I have been hearing a buzz about moving the rails for years now, though I never hear much more than “they” are considering it.

    I’m aware of the enormous power they have, I just had no idea what it would take to get them to move it instead of us having to deal w/ the burden ourselves. We certainly don’t even have one billion let alone a few to kick in for that project.

    Thanks for the insight!

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