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

AUSTIN — The Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization on Wednesday night approved a nearly $1 billion laundry list of transportation projects that are set to break ground over the next four years.

The 2017-2020 Transportation Improvement Program contains a total of 69 highway projects spread out across CAMPO’s six-county domain. Also folded into the program are 37 transit-related projects, including investments in Capital Metro’s MetroRail service and an implementation plan to bring public transit to Round Rock.

The total cost of all the projects together is just over $902.6 million. CAMPO’s Transportation Policy Board approved the program in a 13-0-1 vote, with Travis County Commissioner Brigid Shea abstaining.

Each of the projects on the short-term planning document were submitted to CAMPO from among its member jurisdictions. CAMPO staff then scored and scrubbed each project to ensure that it met the standards for receiving federal funds.

In August, the Texas Department of Transportation will vet TIPs from across the state for inclusion into its own statewide transportation improvement program. The state transportation improvement program will be scrutinized by the Federal Highway Administration in October. If approved, hundreds of millions of dollars will soon start gushing through the federal pipeline and into CAMPO’s watering bucket.

The organization is taking pains to point out that it won’t be using those funds to simply grow road projects. In a press release issued after Wednesday night’s vote, CAMPO spokeswoman Doise Miers said that 22 of the 69 highway projects are actually geared toward bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.

At slightly under $38.5 million, the cost of those projects comprises just over 4 percent of the total amount of the program. Included in that list is a city of Austin item that would use approximately $2.5 million to purchase and install 15 pedestrian hybrid beacons and 18 accessible pedestrian signals across the city.

The program also includes $247 million for investments along Interstate 35, from Williamson County down to Hays County. An approximately $72.2 million chunk of that will cover the costs of ramp projects in Austin between U.S. 183 and U.S. 290.

Other items listed in the program appear to overlap with some projects identified in Mayor Steve Adler’s proposed $720 mobility bond. That includes increasing the number of lanes on a stretch of FM 969 between Decker Lane and Hunters Bend Road east of Texas 130. The cost of that project is estimated to be just over $29 million. Even though that stretch of FM 969 is in the city’s Extraterritorial Jurisdiction, it is part of one of the several key corridors targeted for investment in the mayor’s proposal.

Another notable sum included in the program is the $108.9 million to pay for the controversial State Highway 45 SW. Critics have long opposed that project, claiming that it is part of a clandestine effort to divert freeway traffic from Interstate 35 south of Austin to MoPac Boulevard.

One of SH 45 SW’s most vocal opponents has long been Travis County’s Shea, but on Wednesday night, she reserved her most outspoken complaints for another road that is only marked on the TIP for environmental assessment.

“We’ve ignored funding for Manchaca Road when that road has been ready to go,” Shea said. “I don’t understand why we wouldn’t address an obvious bottleneck. It meets the criteria on congestion; it meets the criteria on acquired right of way. Why is that not a priority?”

Shea said that Texas Department of Transportation officials had previously said that design plans for expansion on Manchaca Road were 90 percent complete, a fact that would mean all environmental assessments had already been completed.

“I think we’re to a point where it needs to be re-evaluated from an environmental perspective,” explained her fellow board member Terry McCoy, a TxDOT regional engineer. McCoy said that re-evaluations are necessary when design plans have sat on the shelf for two to three years.

After the vote, CAMPO Chairman Will Conley said that the approval of the TIP was one step in a larger cycle of regional planning.

“This is just a conclusion of a very long public process,” Conley said. “Now it will go through the state’s process and be adopted into their plan, and we’ll start with the next here shortly.”

What’s in it for us?

Roadway projects in Hays and Caldwell counties scheduled for funding between 2017 and 2020 under a four-year transportation improvement program adopted this month by the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization:

• Analyze alternatives for a relief route in Luling. $225,000.
• Mill and overlay (resurface) Interstate 35 between River Ridge Parkway in northern San Marcos and FM 150 (Center Street) in Kyle. $1,181,880.
• Reconstruct entrance and exit ramps on Interstate 35 on Interstate 35 between River Ridge Parkway and Aquarena Springs Drive in San Marcos. $3,867,868.
• Replace overpasses on Interstate 35 between Posey Road and the Comal County line in San Marcos. $18,549,824.
• Reconstruct entrance and exit ramps on Interstate 35 between Texas 80 and Aquarena Springs Drive in San Marcos. $486,333.
• Add a left turn lane and shoulders on RM 967 at Robert S. Light Boulevard in Buda. $565,464.
• Add turn lanes and pedestrian crossings on Ranch Road 12 at RM 3237 in Wimberley. Approved $200,000 of $246,167 estimated cost.
• Add left turn lane on Texas 80 at County Road 266 in San Marcos. Approved $750,000 of $932,226 estimated cost.
• Repair, regrade, widen and resurface Texas 21 between FM 2001 and the Caldwell County line. Approved $4,647,150 of $5,608,966 estimated project cost.
• Intersection and bike and pedestrian improvements on Sessom Drive between Aquarena Springs Drive and Comanche Street in San Marcos. Approved $767,500 of $2,603,345 estimated project cost.
• Construct new segment of Robert S. Light Boulevard between RM 967 and FM 1626 in Buda. $8,637,863.
• Construct pedestrian and bicycle path between the San Marcos Visitors Center and Aquarena Springs Drive. $2,793,746.
• Add two traffic lanes and shoulders to FM 2011 between Interstate 35 in Texas 21 in northeastern Hays County. $16,000,000.
• Redesign and reconstruct Interstate 35 access roads at Texas 123 in San Marcos. Approved $89,438,000 of $97,110,969 estimated project cost.
• Add sidewalks to Texas 123 between Interstate 35 and DeZavala Drive in San Marcos. Approved $700,000 of $815,000 estimated project cost.
• Add two passing lanes to Texas 21 in Uhland and Niederwald. Approved $7,100,000 of $8,893,039 estimated project cost.
• Add two passing lanes to Texas 21 in Caldwell County. Approved $4,200,000 of $5,260,671 estimated project cost.
• Reconstruct Hopkins Street, between Moore and Bishop streets, including sidewalks. $3,000,000.
• Add pedestrian and bicycle path to Hopkins Street, between CM Allen Parkway and Thorpe Lane, in San Marcos. $2,500,000.
• Engineer new four-lane road between Texas 142 and Clear Fork Street in Lockhart. $200,000.

Download

CAMPO 2017-20 Transportation Improvement Plan [pdf]

CAMPO 2017-20 Transportation Improvement Plan appendices [pdf]

CALEB PRITCHARD reports for the Austin Monitor where this story was originally published. It is made available here through a news partnership between the Austin Monitor and the San Marcos Mercury.

COVER PHOTO by MATTHEW RUTLEDGE. MERCURY ILLUSTRATION by BRAD ROLLINS.

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