Cities look to keep traffic flowing as development continues

Vehicles wait at the light on westbound Hwy. 71 at Bee Cave Parkway during rush hour traffic April 27. (Grace Dickens/Community Impact Newspaper)
Vehicles wait at the light on westbound Hwy. 71 at Bee Cave Parkway during rush hour traffic April 27. (Grace Dickens/Community Impact Newspaper)

Vehicles wait at the light on westbound Hwy. 71 at Bee Cave Parkway during rush hour traffic April 27. (Grace Dickens/Community Impact Newspaper)

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Driving west along Hwy. 71 in western Travis County, acres of land for sale or lease still sit undeveloped.

A few smaller businesses can be seen, but once past the Hill Country Galleria, there are few stopping points. Within the next few years, however, the landscape of Hwy. 71 will almost certainly be changed with several new developments under construction or in the pipeline along Hwy. 71 near RM 620 that will bring more businesses and residents to the area.

Some of these projects include new roadways aimed at improving traffic flow, and other road projects are in the works to alleviate congestion.

“I think the growth corridor that traces the Colorado River to the west is obvious, right?” said Jack Creveling, the vice president of development for CCNG Inc., developer of the Village at Spanish Oaks. “It’s beautiful, there are great schools. There’s just barely any stopping it.”

With the continuing growth, developers and cities are looking to each other to ensure minimal growing pains.

“The city was very sophisticated in the handling of [our project],” said Tim Bolinger, co-developer of the Village at Spanish Oaks. “It is complex, and they were understanding. If the city doesn’t give the framework, this stuff starts fighting and clogging.”

Under construction

The largest of the upcoming developments is The Village at Spanish Oaks. The 80-acre mixed-use development is currently in its site and infrastructure phase preparation, according to its developer. The first phase will include 24 freestanding residences.

Also planned is a Main Street district that will be a pedestrian-oriented area with restaurants and shops on the bottom floors with residences above. The Main Street area also is being eyed as a site for a future Bee Cave City Hall.

Bee Cave City Manager Clint Garza said a site has been reserved for a city hall. He said provided everything goes through with the sale of the facility at the Hill Country Galleria, a new city hall is needed and will be built.

He said the location fits important criteria for the growing staff, such as it being in the center of town.

“We want easy access, and there is plenty of connectivity going into Spanish Oaks,” Garza said.

Retail shops, a luxury hotel and spa, restaurants and public parking are some amenities people can expect to see at The Village at Spanish Oaks, according to Creveling and Bolinger.

The final plat for The Village at Spanish Oaks was approved by Bee Cave City Council on March 22.

Another project that has already broken ground is The Backyard, just across Hwy. 71 from The Village at Spanish Oaks.

The Backyard, also a multiuse development, sits on 35 acres and includes a 3,700 seat amphitheater, a dance hall, a hotel and shopping, according to documents the developer submitted to Bee Cave.

The development is expected to offer 12 food, beverage, music and cultural offerings across its property.

Garza said he foresees The Backyard being a draw for families coming to town for the weekend and shopping local businesses.

“A vast majority of the local economy is based on protecting our sales tax,” he said. “Things like this are a benefit. There is a quality of life perspective here; we ideally would just have you stay in town and take an Uber or walk and get your entertainment in your own town,” Garza said.

Farther west down Hwy. 71, the initial phase of the Covert car dealership is expected to be completed by late 2022, Covert Austin Principal Partner Philip Robinson said.

The Covert family plans for the dealership to contain storefronts for Buick, Cadillac, Chrysler, Dodge, GMC and Jeep, Robinson said.

He said the company is hoping to open the new location late this year or in early 2023.

In the pipeline

Another piece of property that is planned to be developed yet has no immediate timeframe is the H-E-B land on 21 acres at the northwest corner of Hwy. 71 and Serene Hills Drive.

The final plat was approved by Lakeway City Council on Sept. 20.

As for the International School of Texas, it is set to break ground this spring on a 40,000-square-foot main campus at 15506 W. Hwy. 71, Bee Cave.

The campus will be built on the same site as the existing middle school, which school officials acquired land for in 2020.

Elementary students are still at the school’s original campus at 4402 Hudson Bend, Austin.

The new development will house both middle and elementary students at one campus.

Development for the performing arts and athletics center is scheduled to be complete by the end of this year, followed by the academic building and main campus in 2023.

Just down the road from the school, a few smaller projects in the Bella Colinas Commercial Subdivision are underway in Bee Cave’s extraterritorial jurisdiction.

These are for Riley’s Ranch Pet Resort, a drive-thru Summer Moon Coffee shop, Rapid Express Car Wash and a Kwik Chek gas station and convenience store.

The Kwik Chek and Rapid Express Car Wash are under construction.

Riley’s Ranch Kennel is pending site approval, and the Summer Moon are under building plan review.

Maintaining traffic flow

The two larger developments, The Backyard and the Village at Spanish Oaks have performed a traffic impact analysis and have a list of improvements they must make as part of their agreements with the city of Bee Cave.

The traffic analyses revealed that The Backyard would generate about 13,381 daily trips upon completion with most of the traffic distributed east along Hwy. 71, north along RM 620 and north along RM 2244 with each route accounting for 20% of traffic generated by The Backyard.

The remaining 40% of traffic would be distributed among smaller thoroughfares, such as Hamilton Pool road, West Hwy. 71, Willie Way and West Falcon Head Boulevard.

To deal with expected traffic around The Backyard and The Village at Spanish Oaks sites, the developers must account for improvements to area roadways that were already planned for or that they will need to provide as part of the build-out as part of requirements by local governments.

For instance, plans are already in the works for the Texas Department of Transportation to optimize signal timing at several locations along Hwy. 71 and to widen RM 620 to a six-lane divided roadway, construct turn lanes and eliminate other turn lanes.

At The Backyard, a concept plan submitted to Bee Cave shows three access points with one leading across Bee Cave Parkway onto Willie Way, a road that will be constructed to connect from The Backyard to Ladera Boulevard. The second driveway will lead directly onto Bee Cave Parkway and the third will be off Hwy. 71.

The traffic impact analysis recommends a traffic signal at the intersection of Bee Cave Parkway and Willie Way, where there also will be two lanes leading in and two lanes leading out of the site.

Christie Van Rite, co-manager of JPD Backyard Finance LLC, said this connectivity between The Backyard and The Village at Spanish Oaks will be a game changer, allowing for residents in Spanish Oaks to cross Hwy. 71 and drive as far as to the Home Depot or Target on RM 620 without getting on a major thoroughfare.

Van Rite said other considerations the developers have made when designing The Backyard include being heavy proponents of rideshare.

At a recent transportation town hall, Lakeway Assistant City Manager Joseph Molis fielded questions about the traffic plan surrounding the proposed H-E-B at Serene Hills Drive.

The city’s plan is to widen the road from one lane in each direction to two lanes from Hwy. 71 to Flint Rock Road and add sidewalks to the entire route on the west side of the road.

”It may actually help with traffic, because all the people in Spicewood aren’t going to cut through Lakeway to go to the Lakeway H-E-B,” Molis said. “Whether we do something or not people are using [these roads], so we need to be aggressive in planning. I want to drive the train on development; I don’t want the train to run us over. Right now the train is running us over, and so that is why we have to look at the potential for widening this road.”
By Jennifer Schaefer

Editor, Lake Travis-Westlake and Northwest Austin

Jennifer joined Community Impact Newspaper in January 2022. She spent the past 16 years working in newspapers as a reporter, copy editor and page designer. She is from Florida but has spent the past six years in the Austin area. She lives in Northwest Austin with her family and two dachshunds.