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

Officials say adding a center turn lane and straightening harrowing, hilly curves in FM 1626 in northern Hays County will make the road safer. No one was killed in this accident in November 2010 near Elm Grove Elementary school when a cement truck rear-ended a Chevrolet Malibu waiting to make a left turn. HAYS FREE PRESS FILE PHOTO by SEAN KIMMONS

STAFF REPORT

The first phase of widening FM 1626 in northern Hays and southern Travis counties will be underway within six weeks and cost 25 percent less than initial estimates, Hays County Pct. 2 Commissioner Mark Jones said today.

FM 1626 improvements CLICK TO ENLARGE

On Tuesday, the Hays County Commissioners court awarded a $17.2 million construction contract to Centennial, Colo.-based SEMA Construction Inc. will widening and straighten the major commuter artery between FM 967 in Buda and Brodie Lane in Austin. The work will add a traffic lane in each direction and a center turn lane.

When voters approved a $133 million bond package in 2008, the North FM 1626 improvements wee figured to cost about $23.4 million. Even more recent engineers’ estimates put the price tag at $20.2 million.

“The improvements will help mobility and safety for the many vehicles using that road traveling to schools, neighborhoods and businesses along the northern part of FM 1626. The county recognized more than 10 years ago the impact that growth in Hays County was having on roads and began the improvement plan even before we had money to build it,” Jones said.

The widening will make an easier commute for the tens of thousands of Buda and other Hays County residents who take FM 1626 to and from work in Austin everyday. But it won’t resolve the bottleneck where traffic turns onto Brodie Lane and heads to MoPac, Jones said.

“Constructing State Highway 45 SW to directly connect FM 1626 to Loop 1 is the only realistic resolution to that issue,” Jones said.

FM 1626 improvements will be a built with what TxDOT calls “Context Sensitive Design,” which, in this case, includes sidewalks along urbanized sections and on bridges, which will be stained earth-toned colors; water quality features near Little Bear creek; and wildflower seeding.

Elsewhere on the Internet

» For information, visit the county’s FM 1626 website here.

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One thought on “Hays County awards contract for FM 1626 widening

  1. Great news! Hopefully this expansion project will proceed smoothly and with minimal impacts to commuters, nearby residents, and the sensitive natural areas through which it traverses. I mention this because counties (and other government entities) often pick the lowest bid when choosing a contractor, and those who have witnessed this process over the years know that you get what you pay for. The irony of course is that the low bid often balloons to far beyond the middle or higher bids when cost overruns and repairs to shoddy work are factored in. Indeed, the best contractors often do not bother submitting bids for government work because they know that they can’t compete. I mention all of this after noting how much lower SEMA’s bid is compared to the recent cost estimate and then reviewing SEMA’s compliance history on EPA and OSHA databases. It’s unfortunate that the contract wasn’t awarded to a Texas company (if any bothered to bid), and a bit surprising that a company from 1000 miles away could underbid anyone.

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