State agrees to chip in on $23 million roadwork
The City of Cedar Park is preparing for its largest road improvement project in history, with construction set to commence in December 2013. The five-lane, 2-mile stretch of FM 1431 between Parmer Lane and Sam Bass Road will become a six-lane roadway divided by medians. The Texas Department of Transportation will reimburse the city up to $13.6 million for the $23 million project.
According to traffic studies, the area between Sam Bass Road and Parmer Lane is the most-traveled segment of FM 1431.
Cedar Park Engineering Director Darwin Marchell said the city anticipates traffic along the corridor to increase, especially with the impending development of a Schlitterbahn Waterpark.
"There were a couple things that led up to the project—the first one being the fact that Schlitterbahn will be in that general vicinity," Marchell said. "Then, we looked at the numbers that TxDOT has for the number of vehicles traveling on different sections of [FM] 1431. If you look at the whole road, this segment had the highest traffic count of any segment of [FM] 1431."
State chips in
In June 2010, TxDOT approved the city's application for money to improve FM 1431 through the Pass–Through Financing program. While the city foots the bill for research and design, TxDOT will reimburse up to 80 percent of the $17 million cost of construction over the next 10 years.
"This type of pass-through financing allows an entity like a city or a county to pick projects they want to have done right away," TxDOT spokesman John Hurt said. "And it works out for us because TxDOT pays that back over time."
Before road construction can begin, the city must prove the increased road capacity will not negatively impact the surrounding environment. The city's environmental assessment includes the length of FM 1431 from Sam Bass Road to Toll 183A, a longer segment than what will be widened.
"The reason we did that was so we could have that entire section environmentally clear," Marchell said. "So if any money becomes available for us in the future from TxDOT for a joint project, or from any other entity, the environmental clearance is there. You automatically have a 16 to 18 month head start by having that environmental clearance."
Garret Bonn, Cedar Park project manager, said the city is reviewing the environmental assessment and will send it in late July or August to TxDOT, where it awaits approval. If TxDOT finds no significant environmental impact, the project will enter its final design phases during which time the city will be able to hire a road construction company.
Traffic impact minimal
The city and TxDOT have jointly hosted two open houses regarding the FM 1431 project, one on February 21 and another July 17. Marchell said there will be a public hearing, including a formal presentation, in November or December.
The city tweaked the road's preliminary design to address concerns from residents, Marchell said. Crews will likely modify the road in the same way FM 1431 was constructed in front of 1890 Ranch.
"They'll essentially build one side of the road while traffic stays where it's at, and then they move traffic over to the new section they just built and construct the other side of the median," Marchell said.
Impacts to traffic should be minimal, Hurt said.
"The bulk of the project length from Parmer Lane to Sam Bass Road remains largely rural undeveloped with only pockets of development," Hurt said. "The only intense traffic control will be at the intersection of [Parmer Lane] and [FM] 1431, as this area will require numerous phases to construct and maintain traffic flows."
Once construction begins, the improvements will take 18–24 months to complete, Marchell said.