One hour and 50 minutes—that is the estimated time it takes to drive from the community of Briarcliff to Lago Vista in the Lake Travis area.
According to Ashby Johnson, executive director from the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, that time could be whittled down to 15 minutes with the inclusion of a ferry on Lake Travis. That was one option to a major transportation hurdle in western Travis County that Johnson discussed during a special City Council session Dec. 17.
“We do want to help find alternatives that could help continue the economic development of Lakeway,” Johnson said. “One of the things that we came up with was either having ferries run through the lake, or bridges.”
Johnson led a presentation on behalf of CAMPO to Lakeway City Council as part of a special session dedicated to transportation in the area. Following the presentation he said that right now ferries or bridges on Lake Travis are just concepts.
“Hopefully somebody, whether it’s one of the local governments or someone from Central Texas [Regional Mobility Authority] or Texas Department of Transportation, or somebody will pick up some of those concepts and start trying to develop them a little bit further. And once we get into that stage then we’ll start to see some cost estimates,” Johnson said. “Then we would get some sense of what’s possible. Right now, it’s just ideas.”
While there is no set plan for a ferry on Lake Travis, Johnson said that based on some of the lines he’s seen drawn on Lake Travis maps, travel times would be cut considerably. Another benefit, he said, would be boosts to smaller local governments’ tax bases.
Lakeway City Manager Steve Jones said that city officials have not really discussed the addition of a ferry beyond a few brainstorms, but agreed that with the fast-rising growth in the Lake Travis area it could be beneficial.
“The challenge is going to be finding two points on either side where you’ve got major roads that people can get to,” Jones said. “On the Lakeway side, we don’t have a major road that goes down through the shoreline, so that’s going to be difficult.”
Lakeway’s transportation future
Also discussed during the presentation was CAMPO’s 2045 Transportation Plan, the scope of population growth to expect in the Central Texas region and why the Lake Travis area is a challenging region for transportation planning.
Johnson said he expects the current population in Central Texas to go from 1.7 million to about 4 million in 2045, which would amount to an annual growth rate of about 2.6 percent. One strategy CAMPO is eyeing involves improving existing thoroughfare networks that include RM 620 and SH 71, Johnson said, adding that pending studies should yield glimpses at what traffic will look like in the years to come.
“Having said that, you all are lucky enough to be in one of the areas of the region where it’s the toughest to do anything, both from a topography standpoint and an environmental standpoint,” Johnson said.
CAMPO staff is aware of the mounting transportation demands in the Lake Travis area, he said, adding he does not believe freeways or an overpass would be a good solution for the Lakeway area.
Jones said he was pleased with CAMPO’s presentation to City Council, and one of the most important aspects of the discussion for western Travis County involved the entity’s arterial study.
“The interim arterial plan that they’re doing is very important for our area because, if we can’t have freeways, then we need all the other roads to be as connected as we can get them,” Jones said.
Jones said that with the topographical, environmental and financial constraints to building in the Lake Travis area, more creative solutions are needed, and he applauded Johnson and CAMPO for their continuing efforts to help solve traffic issues throughout the region.
“Everybody wants transportation, but nobody wants to pay for it,” Jones said.
Short-term plans for Central Texas include the launch of a regional transit plan in January, Johnson said, adding CAMPO is at the point of its regional arterials plan that it has collected its data and is moving on to analysis. Following that, CAMPO plans to do another round of public outreach in the spring.
Johnson also said CAMPO would like for all of its current studies to be ready for a transportation improvement plan call for projects for 2021-24 that carries a potential $250 million-$300 million budget to allocate for local governments.