The decision to suspend the project saves Travis County nearly $7 million.
The project—which was approved by voters in 2017—would have added 6-foot bike lanes on either side of the 1.5-mile road and widened vehicle lanes from 10 to 12 feet. Additionally, construction would have adjusted the road’s center line to improve sight distance, incorporated drainage improvements, enhanced storm water quality, repaved Thomas Springs Road and improved the turn lane design at Hwy. 71.
Though the project was pitched as an effort to increase safety for drivers, bicyclists and nearby property owners, over a dozen residents who live on Thomas Springs Road showed up to the Commissioners Court meeting Sept. 20 opposing the project.
“In fact, it will likely make the road less safe,” Thomas Springs Road resident Susan Webster said, adding wider roads might encourage speeding.
Traffic-related safety aside, residents voiced concerns that widening the lane would significantly reduce their parking options and lawn space and harm native species—such as the golden-cheeked warbler—and natural springs that flow below the road's surface.
“Something that was put to the voters as simply adding bike lanes turned into a project that was driven by these design decisions that [changed what the outcome would be],” said Lauren Ice, an attorney who is working for the Thomas Springs Neighborhood Alliance.
Residents mentioned the widened roads would seep into their front doors and living rooms.
The project received criticism from residents in April, when commissioners held an open house to hear concerns from community members.
Construction for the approximately $9 million project—funded by the 2017 bond—was expected to begin in 2024. The project design was 90% complete, and the project status was marked as 45% complete on Travis County’s website.
“I think we need to revisit our design standards and how we handle these projects,” Commissioner Brigid Shea said.