Progress needed to solve regional traffic woes; Top project corridors to watch in 2021

Aerial photograph of Lakeway town center
Lakeway's undeveloped center is an area of focus in 2021. Extending Main Street to Lohmans Crossing is a top priority as traffic congestion grows. (Courtesy Falcon Sky Photography/Community Impact Newspaper)

Lakeway's undeveloped center is an area of focus in 2021. Extending Main Street to Lohmans Crossing is a top priority as traffic congestion grows. (Courtesy Falcon Sky Photography/Community Impact Newspaper)

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Texas Department of Transportation traffic counts in the Lakeway and Bee Cave area show daily usage of regional highways is steadily growing. (Texas Department of Transportation/Community Impact Newspaper)
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Project corridors to keep an eye on in 2021 include Lakeway's Main Street and Bee Cave's Willie Way. Longer-term study is under way to determine how the Village of Spanish Oaks might connect to the Shops at the Galleria. (cities of Lakeway and Bee Cave/Community Impact Newspaper)

When civic and community leaders of western Travis County look to 2021, what blocks the view are the lines of vehicles of all types that slowly snake across Lakeway, Bee Cave and the surrounding area, and the queue of automobiles is growing longer.

Complex solutions to the mounting traffic will take years to fully realize, but key real estate developments with new roadways should progress in 2021, given sufficient partnership between government and private developers.

Nowhere is the need for cooperation more apparent than Lakeway’s current challenge in central Lakeway to extend Main Street from RM 620 to Lohmans Crossing and add a second connection to Lohmans Spur.

The idea of Main Street is to connect RM 620 and Lohmans Crossing to take pressure off an increasingly crowded RM 620.

Lakeway Mayor Sandy Cox said traffic ties knots in the city because RM 620, built as a rural roadway, is now an urban thoroughfare. Main Street would provide connectivity off RM 620, she said.

“We have a problem today, and that’s why it’s the top road right now,” Cox said. “If we could have our citizens do the majority of what they need to do without getting on 620, it’s going to take that load off, and it’s also going to help make it a safer trip.”The problem is underscored in measurements from the Texas Department of Transportation. TxDOT uses annual average daily traffic to measure usage over a year at a given point in a roadway.

From 2015-19, TxDOT measured a 24% increase in daily trips at Kollmeyer Drive and RM 620. In that same time period, RM 620 picked up another 10% increase in average daily trips just south of Lohmans Crossing.

Combating this growth would be Main Street running past Medical Drive through low-density housing and commercial units yet to be built on nearly 100 acres behind H-E-B and the existing retail at The Oaks at Lakeway.

The unused acreage will develop under two entities, governed by separate agreements made with Lakeway. First is Legend Communities and its development referred to as The Square on Lohmans.

Legend Communities intends to break ground in 2021, said Bill Hayes, Legend Communities chief operating officer.

“Our plans are to start development on the first phase of that overall project this summer, and including in that first phase is Main Street from Lohmans Crossing to our project property line."

Here, Main Street would connect to Lohmans Crossing at Wingreen Loop. The first phase also will connect Lohmans Spur into Legends’ section of Main Street. In each case, the exact configuration of lanes are to be determined, Hayes said.

Next is Stratus Lakeway Center LLC—tasked with about 30 acres. The Stratus development would pick up construction to link Legends property to where Main Street ends today.

The city has a March deadline for work to begin on this part of the extension. That deadline is likely to be opposed by Stratus, but Lakeway must prepare for the widening of RM 620 by TxDOT, Cox said.

“When the 620 widening project happens, we all know how much fun construction is; we are going to have lanes narrowed down,” she said. “So we also from a safety standpoint during that project want to make sure that [Main Street] is already completed so that we will have a way to get around.”

Relief coming for Ladera

Neighboring Bee Cave finds it must wrestle with traffic on state highways running through its city.

In early 2021, residents of Bee Cave will see the first segment of Willie Way. The segment signals a longer future roadway that will run through the center of the 35-acre multiuse development known as The Backyard.

For now, the focus is on Willie Way’s initial connection—Bee Cave Parkway to Ladera Boulevard. This connection, running behind the existing Target store, will help commuters bypass the nearby Ladera neighborhood.

Bee Cave Mayor Kara King said the project addresses a top issue—traffic.

“Our main roads in Bee Cave are owned by TxDOT, and that limits the authority Bee Cave has to find solutions,” King said in a statement to Community Impact Newspaper.

Today, many northbound commuters from Hwy. 71 use Bee Cave Parkway and Tordera Drive to cut through Ladera to reach the commercial areas at RM 620.

“The Willie Way extension will help alleviate traffic through Ladera, and it has been on the [Bee Cave] thoroughfare plan since at least 2009,” King said.

Eventually, Willie Way would tie into Hwy. 71, according to planning documents. Here, it would intersect with the state highway and a future roadway from the Village at Spanish Oaks.

Plans at the Town Center

The 80-acre Village of Spanish Oaks is coming just south of Hwy. 71 and to the west of the Shops at the Galleria. Construction of shops and an upscale inn will take place over much of the next decade.

But the roadways and utilities will begin in 2021. The city of Bee Cave sees long-term potential at the Village of Spanish Oaks. The city’s comprehensive plan envisions a connecting roadway yet to be engineered between the Village of Spanish Oaks and the Shops at the Galleria.

The idea is similar to Main Street in Lakeway—avoid relying on a main state highway experiencing heavy traffic growth. And like neighboring Lakeway, Bee Cave’s solution will come through continued partnership in the coming year with local developers.

By Greg Perliski

Editor, Lake Travis/Westlake & Northwest Austin

Greg joined Community Impact as an editor in November 2020. In the communities he covers, Greg reports on local government, transportation, real estate development and business. He has written for newspapers, online publications and corporate communications teams. Greg earned a journalism degree from the University of Texas at Austin.