Forum brings to light traffic issues, road projects in west Travis County


Forum brings to light traffic issues, road projects in west Travis CountyThe Oct. 13 Westlake Chamber of Commerce transportation forum provided guests with an overview of local roadway projects as well as insight into future avenues to address the area’s congested roads.

Bee Caves Road widening

West Lake Hills’ major project will widen Bee Caves Road and provide a center turn lane from Westbank Market, 3300 Bee Caves Road, to St. John Neumann Catholic Church, 5455 Bee Caves Road, Mayor Dave Claunch said.

“This [project]has been my ‘Moby Dick,’” he said. “I’ve been chasing this whale for five or six years now, and I’ve just about caught it.”

Claunch said West Lake Hills has been acquiring right of way—a portion of the property adjacent to Bee Caves Road—from landowners to expand that stretch of the road. Staff negotiated with 30 to 40 landowners to acquire the rights to a portion of the properties that line the state-maintained roadway, spending $3 million to $4 million in the process, he said.

“Now we are down to the last two properties,” Claunch said regarding the property acquisitions.

He said the city should complete the acquisitions before the end of the year, and the project is estimated to take 24 to 30 months to complete. The Texas Department of Transportation is set to bid the project in November with construction to begin in late February or early March, he said.

Claunch said crews will lay temporary pavement on the south side of Bee Caves Road, diverting traffic onto the temporary pavement while work is performed on the north side of the road. The work will then switch to the south side of the road, with two lanes of traffic expected to be open in each direction, he said.

Loop 360 improvements

Loop 360 is the last corridor in the region that has not been developed, TxDOT public engagement officer Bruce Byron said. As MoPac fills with added traffic, Loop 360 becomes more important, he said.

“If you look at the 20-year regional plan for transportation, there is nothing shown for improving [Loop] 360,” he said. “That’s not because everyone doesn’t know it should be improved. It’s because no one has figured out what to do with it.”

A transportation survey regarding issues on Loop 360 was conducted this fall to provide a list of improvement options, Byron said.

A majority of respondents—about 53 percent—said they believed eliminating traffic lights and building overpasses and underpasses is the best way to relieve traffic on Loop 360, he said.

Byron said the agency will release its survey report by the end of the year.

Fuel tax factor and toll roads

Only 2 percent of the population in Austin uses public transportation, Travis County Commissioner Gerald Daugherty said. This issue is exacerbated by the lack of space in western Travis County to build new roads because of preserve land, he said.

Although the state’s fuel tax is used to fund roads, this tax revenue has dwindled because newer cars get better mileage and use less fuel, he said. As a result toll roads have become a necessary part of the way the state funds roads, he said.

“People are serious enough to want to see improvements [on area roads]because it is so painful in this community to get from Point A to Point B,” Daugherty said.

People can carpool, stagger their work hours and telecommute, he said.

The Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority funds road projects in Williamson and Travis counties, Executive Director Mike Heiligenstein said.

Following improvements to Toll 183A and E. Hwy. 290/Manor Expressway, the agency is focusing on adding express toll lanes to MoPac, Heiligenstein said. The highway’s cost for commuters will be based on demand, with prices increasing as more vehicles enter the road, he said.

“The metric will be 50 miles per hour,” Heiligenstein said of the agency’s goal for mobility on the highway.

Forum brings to light traffic issues, road projects in west Travis County

School district transportation

The area’s traffic increase has a negative effect on the local school district.

Eanes ISD bus ridership increased more than 20 percent from 2008-14, Superintendent Tom Leonard said.

More students are spending more time on school buses, with EISD spending more money on transportation and adding buses to its fleet, he said.

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