Drivers anticipating the Bee Caves Road expansion project will soon see signs prohibiting them from turning left onto certain side streets and through neighborhoods to avoid construction and congestion during peak morning rush hours.
The $29 million Texas Department of Transportation project will add a 3-mile-long center turn lane, shoulders and a sidewalk from Walsh Tarlton Lane to Redbud Trail.[polldaddy poll=9384410]
Robert Wood, West Lake Hills city administrator, said drivers heading east on Bee Caves will be prohibited from turning left onto Buckeye Trail, McConnell and Westhaven drives and Reveille Road—intersections without traffic lights—from 7 to 9 a.m. on weekdays once the project gets underway later this spring.
The ban on eastbound left turns comes after several citizens raised concerns about cut-through traffic to City Council.
Wood said eastbound left turns onto those four streets is what is causing most of the current congestion, because drivers get stuck behind other motorists turning in the left lane.
“What people are afraid of is that the issue [of cut-through traffic] will get worse,” he said. “We found that there were a lot of people that felt like something needed to be done.”
Neighbors take action
Apart from speaking at City Council meetings about the cut-through traffic, citizens living in the affected area also requested the city create speed humps along the four impacted streets to deter drivers from speeding. After neighbors surveyed the community, they found the majority of residents in favor of the speed humps. City Council approved the traffic-calming measures in November, Wood said.
Homeowners have lined their streets with signs such as “Drive like your kids live here” in an effort to slow down drivers.
Roxanne Gage, who lives on nearby West Spring Drive, said the traffic is heaviest between 7-9 a.m. and 4-6 p.m., when drivers heading east on Bee Caves cut through her neighborhood to reach Westlake Drive.
“You come into your front yard and there’s a whole row of cars just sitting there,” she said, adding she will not let her children play outside during rush hour.
“It can be intense even trying to back out of the driveway,” she said. “If there’s any kind of car accident, West Spring gets backed up.”
Motorists often honk at her when she tries to back out of her driveway to get to work, she said.
Ruth Fulton, who also lives in the affected neighborhood, said she often sees lines of cars outside her house, and drivers only occasionally stop at the stop signs.
“Honestly, it makes for a dangerous situation,” she said. “We’ve seen a lot of close calls.”
She said at one time a car attempted to pass a school bus that was stopped to let children off.
“I think [the left-turn ban] will help relieve a lot of traffic in the neighborhood, which is a good thing,” Fulton said.
Once construction is complete in fall 2018, the new center turn lane should alleviate those backups and make it easier for drivers to get around West Lake Hills using Bee Caves, TxDOT Public Information Officer Kelli Reyna said.
The project will be completed in three phases, she said. The first phase involves rebuilding and widening pavement on the south side of the road and shifting traffic to the north side. As construction progresses, the same process will occur on the north side of the road in the second phase, which means traffic will shift to the newly constructed lanes. The third phase involves constructing the center turn lane and binding the pavement between the previous phases together with the center turn lane.
Reyna said some business entrances may have to be closed temporarily during construction to complete work, but TxDOT and the contractor will work closely with businesses to minimize the impacts.
Work will begin once utilities have been relocated, she said.
Two lanes will remain open in each direction during peak driving times, Wood said.
Before the project could commence, TxDOT required West Lake Hills to acquire rights of way in order to expand the road and add a sidewalk.
Wood said the city began acquiring rights of way prior to 2008, when the project was just an idea.
In total, the city acquired—either by donation, purchase or eminent domain, in which a government entity takes private property for public use—35 rights of way, which cost the city about $4 million, he said.
There are still costs involved with the donated properties, because the city paid for mitigating efforts to move parking spaces and driveways out of the way of construction and connect a property to the city’s wastewater system, he said.
Other road improvement projects
While construction is underway on Bee Caves, the city is also looking to improve some city-maintained side streets such as Camp Craft Road, Westlake Drive and Westbank Drive, Wood said. Camp Craft is slated receive improvements first, he said.
“We don’t know exactly what [the road improvements] would look like yet,” Wood said.
The city is currently working with engineering firm CH2MHill to come up with a road design to improve traffic flow on Camp Craft, he said.
“If there’s going to be construction there anyway, it makes sense,” Wood said.
The city may be able to use Aaron Concrete Contractors—the company performing the Bee Caves expansion—to complete the work, he said.
Reyna said there is a possibility Loop 360 or Bee Caves in Rollingwood may undergo TxDOT maintenance work while the Bee Caves project in West Lake Hills is under construction. However, “some of [the additional construction] may be unavoidable due to the 30-month time frame of [the Bee Caves project],” she said.
“We will continue to coordinate with our internal team to ensure we minimize impacts to the travel public as much as possible,” Reyna said.