Dozens of people filtered in and out of the Lakeway Activity Center Wednesday for an open house designed to inform residents about one of the largest and most expensive thoroughfare overhauls the area has ever seen.
Bruce Byron, Texas Department of Transportation public information officer, attended the open house with a group of TxDOT representatives on hand to answer questions about the widening of RM 620 from Hwy. 71 to Hudson Bend Road. It’s a project that has been in the works for more than a year and carries a construction cost estimate of about $80 million plus an undetermined right of way cost.
Several foldout tables inside the Lakeway Activity Center supported an expansive map of RM 620, and tripods containing information on the project’s history and next steps created a perimeter around the tables. Byron said the open house was designed to help residents understand the various components of the project and not feel surprised by all of the construction when it begins.
The plan, he said, is to take RM 620 from its existing five lanes to a six-lane divided roadway with a raised, concrete median and turn lanes, and the main purpose of this change is to increase safety.
“There are a lot of crashes of people using the center lane for various purposes, and they’re tempted to cross perhaps where they shouldn’t cross,” Byron said. “And by putting in turn lanes, we can help control and direct traffic in a safer fashion.”
Also, by increasing the width of the road, more traffic can move through light cycles quicker and help reduce congestion, he said.
The project is in the schematic environmental phase, during which TxDOT workers are examining the alignment of the roadway and what kind of rights of way are needed to expand the roadway, Byron said.
Lakeway resident Bill Gunn said he came to the open house because he wanted to get a feel for the big picture of the project. Gunn said he remains concerned about the effects of traffic diverting through Lakeway as a shortcut to Hwy. 71 as well as the increase in traffic through surrounding neighborhoods.
Information given out at the event by TxDOT representatives echoed Gunn’s concerns. A supplemental handout provided at the open house states that RM 620 functions as both a local thoroughfare and a commuter highway. In most cases, it is the sole access to subdivisions, businesses and schools.
“We have old people, dogs, deer, kids on bicycles and skateboards; somebody’s going to die on Lakeway Boulevard, or in Falconhead, or one of these other neighborhoods,” Gunn said, adding that he hopes measures to discourage high-speed driving, such as speed bumps, will be included in the project.
Steve Hearn said he owns property directly across from the H-E-B grocery store in Lakeway and is concerned about how the widening will affect his property. He said he is also excited about certain aspects of the project, including the addition of a bicycle lane.
Lakeway City Manager Steve Jones said one of the most prolific concerns he tallied at the open house was among attendees wanting to know how the project would affect their businesses.
“They’re interested in what the right of way is going to be and where the median cuts, and unfortunately I don’t think [TxDOT] has nailed down either one of those yet,” Jones said.
Guy Oberg said he owns Oberg Properties along RM 620, and he is hoping the project does not impede his customer traffic too much.
“The way it’s going right now, it looks a bit sketchy going in and out of my parking lot, but that’s why they’re having this and we’ll have to see what they come up with,” Oberg said “We have to have access to our businesses.”
Timeline for the RM 620 widening:
• Oct. 10, 2018: First open house
• Early 2019: Second open house
• Late 2019: Public Hearing on environmental study (location undetermined)
• Mid 2020: Anticipated environmental finding
• Fiscal year 2022: Construction start
RM 620 widening project improvements proposed:
• Widening the existing four-lane divided rural roadway to a six-lane divided urban roadway by adding a third travel lane in each direction
• Adding raised medians
• Adding a continuous bike/pedestrian shared-use path along the corridor