Officials in Leander and Cedar Park share views on transmission lines

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Officials in Leander and Cedar Park share views on transmission linesOn March 10, Round Rock City Council passed a resolution favoring a route in eastern Cedar Park and Leander for a new Lower Colorado River Authority power transmission line.

The council’s favored route follows Whitestone Boulevard and Sam Bass Road/CR 175. Leander City Council approved a resolution Feb. 6 stating the city could support that route as one of two possible route choices.

Cedar Park City Council approved a resolution Jan. 28 that also favors the Whitestone route. Members of both city councils said they also recommend an alternate route north of Whitestone—known as Arterial H—that runs west from I-35 to Sam Bass/CR 175.

Either of the routes would connect a Round Rock substation, which is located on Sam Bass Road near I-35, to a Leander substation located at Toll 183A and Hero Way.

The councils passed the resolutions because the LCRA is looking at various power line routes in the area to connect two proposed substations, one in Leander and one in Round Rock, to existing substations in Leander and Round Rock. The LCRA has identified dozens of potential routes, including some that run through highly populated areas and one that runs along Brushy Creek’s trail.

Ultimately the Public Utility Commission of Texas will decide where the transmission lines go. According to LCRA documents, the LCRA could submit its primary routes to the PUC in April. The proceedings may take about a year for PUC for come to a final decision, during which time residents can intervene in the process.

The city of Leander’s resolution recommends LCRA avoid routes that include roads such as Toll 183A, Parmer Lane and Ronald Reagan Boulevard. However, Kent Cagle, Leander’s city manager, said he believes city leaders’ feedback will have limited influence on the LCRA and the PUC.

“They get these issues all the time,” Cagle said. “Nobody wants the power lines. Everybody wants the power. And so they’re used to hearing these type of arguments. … We know something has to happen [with new power lines], and you try to make the least-worst choice.”

Daron Butler, Cedar Park business services director, said the city recognizes the need for improved electrical services to growing communities. He said Cedar Park leaders want the lines and substations to be located in areas that will not disrupt future economic development in the city.

“Cedar Park most supports routes that follow Sam Bass Road and [FM] 1431 rather than Whitestone/Parmer/Reagan because those routes would not locate power lines and substations along our major economic development corridors,” Butler said. “Although the routes we suggested would impact some residences, they would have less impact on homeowners than the Brushy Creek Park and [Brushy Creek] Trail alignment.”

Joe Brehm, Round Rock community engagement administrator, said the city’s recommended route, which starts south of RM 3406 at the existing Round Rock substation and heads north to FM 1431, was selected using the criteria identified by the PUC for siting the lines.

Brehm said the LCRA has existing infrastructure along the route that can be modified to accommodate the lines the LCRA wants to build. He said that route would be cheaper for the LCRA, which the PUC takes into consideration, and would impact fewer homes than many of the other possible routes.

Possible alternatives


Residents in subdivisions near the FM 1431 route, including Vista Oaks, said the route would severely impact property values. Round Rock Mayor Alan McGraw and council members said the resolution was a recommendation, and the council was trying to choose the “least-worse” route.

“Do I want it? No, but if you look at the least-worse decision, that’s where [the transmission line]should go,” McGraw said.

McGraw said when compared to other routes—such as one that runs along Arterial H, which cuts through the Mayfield Ranch neighborhood—the FM 1431 route affects fewer homes. Brehm said the FM 1431 route would be adjacent to about 10 homes within Round Rock city limits as well as a convenience store and a church. He said the Arterial H route would directly impact about 150 homes as well as run through the Southwest Williamson County Regional Park.

Residents who spoke against the route along FM 1431 said the Round Rock council should have recommended a route identified in LCRA documents that would extend northward toward Georgetown, then run west along RM 2243. The route would then connect to the proposed substation by running southward down Ronald Reagan.

Brehm said Round Rock city staff originally favored the route that went north to FM 2243 but amended their recommendation because the route could cost the LCRA up to $28 million more than the FM 1431 route, and the PUC considers cost when deciding where to the place the lines.

He said the city of Leander also opposed the route because it would loop twice around Ronald Reagan, and staff was working with their regional partners when selecting the recommended route.

Leander resident Tim Thornton said he and other homeowners have been opposing LCRA’s proposed routes for power lines near their homes since fall 2015. Thornton lives in Pecan Creek, a neighborhood located between Sam Bass and Ronald Reagan near the proposed line route.

Transmission lines tend to lessen the value of homes, Thornton said.

“[The cities are] not afraid to put that in my backyard and affect a thousand homeowners that have already invested and bought,” Thornton said. “And yet they’re afraid that other businesses and developers may not want it in the future, and therefore they want to protect the future of those developers. … What [Pecan Creek residents have] recommended is that [LCRA] take a route that has the least contact, interaction or exposure to any existing homes and community as humanly possible.”

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COMMENT
  1. The communities and residents around Brushy Creek Park, FM1431 and CR175 have are all in agreement, that the PUC have alternatives that are not being voiced by our public officials in the local city governments. The best route for these power lines is not in support of what a hand full of local elected officials have recommended. This is a slight of hand and if these city governments were truly attempting to represent the best interests of the tax payers in our cities, they would have all agreed that the PUC should look to the greater good of the residents who live in these dozen communities that could be and would be affected by high power lines running down the sides of our communities– not looking at the future potential commercial interests of a few wealthy developers. Homeowners in this area along 1431, CR175 and Brushy Creek would be devastated by power lines running down our roads, through our parks and behind of our homes. What is potentially detrimental to the future commercial interests of Ronald Reagan, is definitely detrimental to the current financial interest of home owners in the area. You can’t have it both ways. And as for the costs, tax payers are paying the bill, not our local city governments (which are also funded by tax dollars). So, I think it is time for our city officials to make an about-face, turn around and recant their recommendations to the PUC/LCRA. There are always other ways to get power to these growing areas, without doing great financial damage to the home owners and investors who have worked so hard to put down roots in these communities and are now having their dreams dashed on the rocks–round rocks and other wise.

    Go to SAVE1431.com for more information and let your voice be heard today, before it is too late.

  2. Martha Walker

    It is unbelievable to me that consideration is being made to bring those power lines down CR175 right by Williamson Country Regional Park where hundreds (maybe thousands) of children and adults play every weekend. I also live directly across from the park and have a son with Down’s Syndrome. I shudder to think of the possibilities of how this might particularly impact his safety with these lines going right down the side of our 5-acre plot–not to mention what it will do to the property values of the people with residences, (many new developments with more to come) along CR 175. Surely there is a better route that will impact fewer people in less dramatic ways than this route.

Stephen Burnett has been a community journalist since 2005. He joined Community Impact Newspaper as a reporter in November 2013. For the cities of Cedar Park, Leander and northwest Austin, he covers city and county government, business, development, events, transportation, utilities and more.
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