Saxon Loomis Consulting Group took an extensive look at rainfall and drainage in the watershed of Little Barton Creek and came back with a set of options for improving the safety of the crossing that were significantly less imposing than what was brought forward by Travis County four years ago.
In 2017, Travis County presented a $4.2 million bridge design that council members said would have funded a 500-foot bridge. This proposal greatly concerned nearby residents living in The Homestead neighborhood. By contrast, Saxon Loomis came forward with a set of initial options and cost estimates that ranged from about $1.5 million-$2.7 million. In no case did the report recommend a bridge longer than 300 feet.
Bee Cave Council Member Andrea Willott said the report was well worth the wait given the extensive analysis of Central Texas weather on the watershed and the potential for water to overflow the current low-water crossing.
“I am absolutely astounded at the difference of what you found and what Travis County found,” she said.
While no action was taken by council on the report at its most recent meeting, the report will serve as the basis for formulating options for council action. Possibilities include a crossing similar, but safer, than the existing crossing, a bridge constructed of wood to better match the surrounding terrain and bridge options that include pedestrian access, according to a council presentation given by Tom Loomis, project manager with Austin-based Saxon Loomis.
“I believe that there was some significant concern among The Homestead residents that this would have to be some kind of hideous, massive concrete structure, and clearly that is not the case,” he said.
Despite the news, a public hearing at the council meeting revealed that residents of The Homestead still have many questions of how a specific proposal will be implemented and asked for a future public open house to discuss specific options. Residents of the neighborhood use the Great Divide crossing at Little Barton Creek to enter and exit their neighborhood.
Bee Cave Mayor Kara King asked city staff to return to the council with more specific proposals at the end of February.
The city of Bee Cave’s direct involvement with the low-water crossing began in June 2019 with the entering of an interlocal agreement between the city and Travis County.
Saxon Loomis has been working with the city on the project since December 2019. The engineering firm created several different models, in one case using nearly 80 years of rainfall data, and found that Little Barton Creek rarely overtops Great Divide, and when the roadway does flood, the duration of the event can be measured in hours. The watershed has natural features that capture and slow a significant portion of stormwater runoff, Loomis said.
Once council accepts a formal recommendation, city officials have six months to procure an engineering firm to get started with the project.
The city of Bee Cave has responsibility for the project because the city in 2019 annexed the area of land that makes up the low-water crossing.