The Public Utility Commission of Texas voted in favor of a route for proposed transmission lines running from Round Rock to Cedar Park and Leander during a meeting Thursday morning.
The two sitting commissioners on the PUCT were evaluating routes for a 138-kilovolt line that the Lower Colorado River Authority is looking to build. The transmission lines would connect two existing power substations—one in Round Rock and one in Leander—to two proposed substations—one in Cedar Park and one in Leander. LCRA officials have stated the line is needed to address the growing demand for electricity in the area.
The PUCT commissioners voted unanimously to approve the LCRA’s LHO-1 transmission line route, which would travel down Hero Way and run along Ronald Reagan Blvd. before hitting RM 1431, during Thursday’s meeting.
The decision differs from the recommendation of an administrative law judge, who in March recommended route COL-1 to the PUCT, which would have traveled down Hero Way and turned to run along CR 175 before hitting RM 1431.
During the May 4 PUCT meeting, around 50 members of the public spoke before commissioners, and several criticized COL-1 for being planned down CR 175, which many said has residential housing. Commissioners also said they wanted to consider a second route, LHO-1.
“Of all the transmission lines I’ve worked on, this is absolutely among the most difficult, so this was not an easy decision to come to,” PUCT Commissioner Brandy Marty Marquez said.
Marquez said that she was leaning towards LHO-1 because it avoids the Southwest Williamson County Regional Park, which sits along CR 175 almost to RM 1431, and encounters fewer habitable structures.
PUCT Commissioner Kenneth W. Anderson, Jr. said that the Electric Reliability Council of Texas studied additional northern routes that appeared viable, but he said there was no time to consider further options because the service line is needed by 2020.
The PUCT’s Hearing Room was at full capacity during the meeting Thursday morning. Many citizens in attendance had to stay in overflow rooms while the discussion was taking place.
“The Public Utility Commission exhibited great integrity and common sense,” said Leander homeowner Phyllis Hanvey after the decision was made. “[They] listened to the concerns of the residents of Leander and Cedar Park to do the right thing to protect the health, the safety, the properties values of the majority of landowners in the subject area.”
Her subdivision, Pecan Creek, neighbors CR 175, and Hanvey said she was a proponent of LHO-1. Pecan Creek, along with numerous other subdivisions along CR 175, were represented by administrative attorney Brad Bayliff.
“The process is always difficult when pitting neighbor against neighbor,” Bayliff said. “There are reasons to go either way in this case. Somebody’s going to be disappointed in the end.”
Karl Smith, a homeowner in Caballo Ranch on Ronald Reagan Blvd. in Leander, said he was “obviously deeply disappointed.” One of his concerns is a potential decrease in property value due to the transmission lines.
The commissioners approved the LHO-1 route without amendments, and PUCT staff will issue an official order within the next few weeks, according to Terry Hadley, the commission’s spokesperson.