Though the public comment period has not yet ended for a regional road study conducted by the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, one option for an adjustment to RM 2244, better known as Bee Caves Road, has local community leaders and officials already speaking out against it—or at least seeking clarification.
As defined by CAMPO, the Regional Arterials Study is a collection of ideas that incorporate transportation plans and needs identified by the public and local governments, and stresses that all ideas so far are unfunded and cannot move forward without project sponsorship.
One of the options for Bee Caves that has caught the attention of several Westlake-area community leaders is a potential reversible center lane on that road starting at MoPac and extending west to the city of Bee Cave.
“This is just an examination of the arterials as they exist today and what improvements and connections are going to be needed in the next 25-year time period,” CAMPO Community Outreach Manager Doice Miers said. “So, the different ideas that came to be as part of the regional arterial study include potentially having reversible lanes on a few different roadways.”
The Westlake Chamber of Commerce issued a release earlier this week imploring area businesses to send their comments to CAMPO regarding the reversible lane option on Bee Caves prior to the July 15 deadline.
“The Westlake Chamber of Commerce thinks this is a bad idea for our Westlake businesses and residents,” the release states. “After all these years, our community finally has a center lane which helps to reduce traffic, increase safety and allows for a safe left-hand turn into our neighborhoods, schools and businesses.”
Beyond Bee Caves, which is right now under construction as part of a major widening project, other roadways that have been identified as possibilities to house reversible lanes are RM 2222 and FM 969, which are owned by the Texas Department of Transportation, Miers said, adding it would be up to TxDOT to decide if it wants to further evaluate the implementation of reversible lanes on those roads.
Marisabel Ramthun, director of transportation planning and development for the TxDOT Austin District, said in an emailed statement the ideas within CAMPO’s Regional Arterials Study represent future potential projects that are being presented for illustrative and modeling purposes, and if a sponsor decides to develop any of the projects, those projects would have to be vetted by the public moving forward.
“Also, as part of the study, a more detailed traffic analysis will be needed in order to determine if the project would help with congestion,” Ramthun said.
To determine whether Bee Caves, RM 2222 and FM 969 met criteria for a possible reversible lane, CAMPO staff are looking at certain data, Miers said, including the amount of one-directional traffic that exists on those roads and at what time periods.
If an arterial such as Bee Caves tends to have heightened traffic moving into Austin during peak morning hours and heightened traffic moving out of Austin during peak afternoon hours, which is the case for several arterials in the region, then a reversible lane can become a possibility for that road moving forward, Miers said.
Just west of MoPac, Rollingwood is one of the cities that would potentially be affected by a reversible turn lane on Bee Caves.
“I would say at this point there is just not enough information for us to support studying that option—about why we would need to change the center turn lane on Bee Caves Road to a reversible lane,” Rollingwood Council Member Amy Pattillo said.
Pattillo said Rollingwood officials have also discussed concerns about a reversible lane on Bee Caves effectively dividing the business community along that thoroughfare, depending on which direction the traffic is going.
Rollingwood City Council is in the process of working with TxDOT to finish the center turning lane on Bee Caves within city limits, Pattillo said, adding she discussed the option with representatives from the Westlake Chamber of Commerce in June.
“There are just too many businesses, churches, schools and neighborhoods that people have to be able to access all throughout Bee Caves Road, so putting a reversible lane would cause a lot of confusion,” said Cathy Hoover, Westlake Chamber of Commerce executive director.
Pattillo said she wants the public to stay informed on the Regional Arterials Study as it continues to develop, especially since the results could inform a larger transportation plan from CAMPO in development right now called the 2045 plan.