By SEAN BATURA
Local taxpayers will not have to entirely foot the bill for more than $200,000 in traffic light infrastructure at an intersection on Wonder World Drive in San Marcos.
The state has agreed to fund the project in time for the opening of Hays County’s 232,209-square-foot government center in January 2012.
The state agreed to bump the traffic light project to the top of its priority list after commissioners acted to fund the project’s design phase, and after discussions between Hays County Precinct 1 Commissioner Debbie Ingalsbe (D-San Marcos) and Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) Austin District Engineer Carlos Lopez.
Last month, some outgoing county commissioners expressed anger at TxDOT when the agency indicated it would be up to three years before it could fund traffic lights proposed for the intersection of Wonder World Drive and Stagecoach Trail. TxDOT had said there were 40 other traffic light projects around the state of a higher priority.
TxDOT’s delay had commissioners worried they would have to pay for the project with county funds — plus whatever dollars they could solicit from the city and nearby businesses — or face a traffic nightmare while waiting for state funding.
The Wonder World Drive/Stagecoach Trail intersection is within the city limits of San Marcos, though Wonder World Drive is a state road, hence TxDOT’s involvement.
Operation of county’s government center is expected to cause a massive increase in vehicular traffic through the aforementioned intersection, hence the county’s involvement in the matter.
Commissioners authorized $28,000 for the design phase of the traffic light project. Engineering HDR, which designed the government center, will design the traffic lights. TxDOT indicated it would not reimburse the county for design costs. The county is paying for the design work with money from its March 2010 sale of certificates of obligation (CO) for the government center.
The county is scheduled to pay $120 million — $67 million in principle and $53 million in interest — for the government center by Sept. 30, 2035. The county received $71 in its bond sale for the facility. It’s the most money the county has ever borrowed at once without voter approval.
The county determined it can legally use government center debt for the traffic lights because the intersection improvements are related to the government center project.
The government center is scheduled for completion in December and is expected to be open for business in January 2012.
Last month, Hays County Engineer Jerry Borcherding said TxDOT probably will approve designs for the traffic lights in three to four months. Borcherding said construction of the signal lights could take a month and a half.