by BRAD ROLLINS
A long-awaited railroad overpass on Aquarena Springs Drive is being designed as a maroon-accented complement to Bobcat Stadium, which has just undergone its own striking transformation.
The $39 million project will build a bridge over the Union Pacific tracks for through-traffic traveling on what is officially designated as state Loop 82. Access roads will allow traffic to enter and exit at Post Road and the stadium. Pedestrian and bicycle traffic will be accommodated on 8-foot-wide sidewalks and street lanes made wide enough for bicycles to traverse safely.
San Marcos City Council members this week saw architectural renderings that engineering firm HDR has negotiated between officials at the city, the Texas Department of Transportation and Texas State, the last of which has to sign off because it controls most of the right-of-way needed to expand the thoroughfare. Aquarena carries about 32,000 vehicle trips a day between Interstate 35 and the central campus area.
The design plays homage to Texas State with star iconography on buttress end caps and recessed arches and portholes that match the exterior of Bobcat Stadium. The university has invested $33 million in it the North Side Complex expansion of the stadium, an addition that will roughly double its seating capacity to 30,000. The Bobcats are playing in NCAA’s Football Bowl Subdivision, formerly Division I-A, for the first time this season.
The largest single source of funding for the overpass is $20 million allocated by the Texas Transportation Commission from a fund dedicated to build over- and underpasses. City budget planners say San Marcos can’t afford any more than $4 million a year for the next five years in big-ticket infrastructure and other capital improvement projects. But the city already has $7.4 million set aside for the Aquarena projects from its CIP spending in 2011 and 2012. Last year, Hays County chipped in $1 million in funding it received through the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization.
Mayor Daniel Guerrero said he likes design elements that reference Texas State and the San Marcos River but that he doesn’t want city taxpayers on the hook for additional costs for superficial bells and whistles. City engineer Linda Huff said the architectural enhancements fit within TxDOT’s normal menu of design options for road improvements and don’t add to the project’s bottom line cost.
“I just want it to function. The aesthetics are nice but if it’s an issue of aesthetics versus additional cost, my thing is just functionality,” Guerrero said. “I believe what you’ve brought forward looks good, especially since it’s going to be complementary to the largest structure on that end of Aquarena Springs Drive.”
Council member Jude Prather said the bridge should be built to remain attractive decades in the future. He said, “I’m glad we put a little emphasis on those architectural details. Hopefully, 50 years, 100 years from now, we’ll still look at it and say ‘That’s a beautiful bridge.'”