Several upcoming road projects are critical to major developments coming into the Cedar Park area, especially as the city sits as one of the fastest-growing cities in the country.
However, some projects in the Cedar Park area have seen mixed outcomes. While some projects are moving forward with city-county agreements, others are delayed with deferred funding from the Capital Area Metropolitan Transportation Organization.
"At the end of the day, we couldn't do all of them. So some of them just got deferred,” Williamson County Precinct 2 Commissioner Cynthia Long said.
A city-county effort
Recently, Cedar Park signed onto four interlocal cost-share agreements with the county to move along high-priority road projects. Though one project is technically a park project, all four agreements allow the city and county to build more since two entities bring resources to the table, according to Long.
The partnership between Williamson County and its cities has been successful, Long said, and partnerships with regional and statewide transportation agencies have added to the success.
“We play well in the sandbox together,” Long said.
In 2019, Williamson County voters approved $412 million in road projects and $35 million for park projects across the county. Part of the four recent interlocal agreements were funded by this bond election through which cities can request project funding from Williamson County for local projects.
On May 14, Cedar Park City Council approved $34 million of transportation and park improvements through interlocal cost-share agreements.
The four projects include 183A Toll frontage roads, the widening of Whitestone Boulevard, the extension of Toro Grande Boulevard, and a trail connection and pedestrian bridge over Bell Boulevard.
The Whitestone Boulevard project is the final RM 1431 widening project, according to the city. The estimated $8.135 million project does not include construction funding, which the city is seeking from the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization or other funding sources.
The $14.3 million Toro Grande Boulevard project will extend Toro Grande Boulevard from RM 1431 to Parmer Lane. By extending the road, the city will open inaccessible land to future development.
The parks project agreement will connect Twin Lakes Park to the future Lakeline Park with a trail connection. The project includes a $2.5 million pedestrian bridge over Bell Boulevard, according to the city. The city and county will each pay for half of the project.
Filling in frontage roads
Possibly the most anticipated project is the 183A Toll frontage roads from Avery Ranch Boulevard to Whitestone Boulevard.
Long said this is the only section of 183A Toll that does not have toll roads, which makes for a confusing drive for people unfamiliar with 183A Toll. The nontoll capacity will stretch the current roadway further, especially as developments are planned nearby.
“The frontage roads are going to be really critical, particularly for the [planned] Dell Children’s [Hospital],” Long said.
The project is not only key for the children’s hospital development, but it is estimated to reduce travel time between Avery Ranch Boulevard and Whitestone Boulevard by 10 minutes during peak times, according to the city of Cedar Park.
The estimated $75 million project includes $7.5 million from the city-county cost-share agreement. The 2015 bond election authorization funds the city's portion, and the Texas Department of Transportation will cover 20% of the project.
Cedar Park Mayor Corbin Van Arsdale said the city has worked on the frontage roads for years. He said it has been a difficult, expensive project, and it was only approved by the Mobility Authority in the last year.
“It took so long to get the permissions to do that, and if we didn’t get that done—who knows if it would ever get done honestly,” Van Arsdale said.
Cedar Park resident Joey Montez said he uses the toll roads to commute to work. His commute could take up to an hour in traffic, and he exclusively uses toll roads, including 183A Toll and SH 45, to get in, out and around Cedar Park.
More toll roads and access roads, such as the planned frontage roads, would be a help in easing traffic congestion, Montez said.
“I think it would have a huge impact for the community overall in accessibility to north Cedar Park, to south Cedar Park to Lakeline Mall and those areas,” he said.
Montez said more transit options would be helpful for other Austin commuters. As the city grows, more rail options and maybe busing would accommodate increasing numbers of commuters.
On June 8, CAMPO’s Transportation Policy Board deferred $633 million from the organization’s current budget to afford the $4.3 billion I-35 project in Central Austin.
Deferred projects are not permanently defunded by CAMPO, but the projects must wait for the next round of funding.
A timeline for future funding is unknown and dependent on federal and state funding, Long said.
Van Arsdale said the 183A Toll frontage road project was the most expensive project on the list of projects under consideration for deferral. Van Arsdale, who is a CAMPO board member, said the $75 million project could have funded 20 or 30 smaller projects, so Austin and Travis County members were targeting the Cedar Park frontage road project.
Since the project was of high priority with legislative support, it passed through. The project will next face the Texas Transportation Commission in August, Van Arsdale said.
Though the frontage roads survived the cut, nearby projects did not.
The New Hope Drive extension project was one of the deferred projects. Van Arsdale said this is a key project because it runs along the northern border of the planned Indigo Ridge development. City staff is now looking at finding money to fund the project since other projects have flexibility, he said.
CAMPO deferred two other nearby projects on Lakeline Boulevard and RM 620.
The Lakeline Boulevard widening project would add lanes and upgrade bicycle facilities and sidewalks. The project is sponsored by the city of Austin and is in Williamson County.
The RM 620 project at Anderson Mill Road in Austin would reconstruct the intersection and add an overpass. The $25 million project is sponsored by TxDOT and split into a Williamson County and Travis County portions.
Long, who also serves as the CAMPO board chair, said 99% of the feedback about the RM 620 project came from commuters who travel from Travis County to 183A Toll. She said the project is a “choke point” and an important, needed project.
“There was not a project on the list that wasn't a very important project to work on," Long said. "The reality was we had to come up with $633 million."