Solutions to providing safer and more efficient travel along RM 620 are still in the works as the Texas Department of Transportation is considering how many additional lanes to add in the long term.
Since the February 2017 conclusion of a feasibility study on RM 620 between Hwy. 71 in Bee Cave and US 183 in Northwest Austin near Cedar Park, the state agency has been refining its proposals for nearly 19 miles along the roadway.
Refining its options
The agency noted the most significant delays were occurring during peak travel times between Hudson Bend Road south of the Mansfield Dam and US 183 and is focusing efforts on that section, which could include expanding up to 10 lanes and adding elevated lanes, similar to US 183 near I-35. TxDOT’s mid-term proposal for RM 620 is to widen the road to six lanes.
“If we were to start a project just to do six lanes, we basically would be obsolete by the time we got finished,” said TxDOT Public Engagement Officer Bruce Byron at the Aug. 15 West Austin Chamber of Commerce luncheon.
This is because the roadway is nearly at the capacity of a six-lane road that sees between 35,000 and 45,000 daily vehicles, he said.
TxDOT staffers plan to complete the refinement study in early 2020, and the environmental process will begin after that.
Byron said TxDOT is doing a cost-benefit analysis of building new lanes up or out and weighing options for right of way acquisition.
An online survey to gather resident input is still open at www.surveymonkey.com/r/rm620. TxDOT is planning an open house in late October to discuss the challenges it is facing on the northern section of RM 620, including constrained right of way near Anderson Mill, Byron said.
Roadways such as RM 620 were developed as rural highways and are now urbanized, he said. These roadways often become people’s only means of getting home or to work, and one accident can affect the entire area.
“We have a roadway that’s too small,” Byron said.
The northern portion of RM 620 also crosses two cities—Austin and Cedar Park—as well as through Travis and Williamson counties, so all parties need to be on board with TxDOT’s solutions, Byron said.
“We’re searching for the least-worst solution, one most people can get behind,” he said.
RM 620 projects
Between Hwy. 71 and Oak Grove Boulevard, TxDOT plans to widen RM 620 to six lanes with raised medians. The $60 million is expected to begin construction in 2022, although the length of the project is still being considered and analyzed.
“It’s up to debate how far [along RM 620]that we widen that,” Byron said.
TxDOT has also been making some short-term safety improvements. In mid-August, the department completed installation of concrete barriers and orange cones in center-medians in four areas of RM 620 between RM 2222 and the Mansfield Dam where sharp curves are present. The barriers, costing $556,000, will help prevent drivers from crossing into oncoming traffic, according to TxDOT.
“That’s basically a Band-Aid solution,” Byron said.
Other projects underway include widening RM 2222 just east of RM 620 to add through-travel lanes, turn lanes and raised medians. The $17.2 million project began construction in fall 2018 and will be complete in summer 2020. TxDOT reports the project is on schedule, and utility work will be done in late August at River Place Boulevard.
In July, TxDOT awarded construction of the bypass road project to Capital Excavation for $15.5 million. The project will add an outside northbound merge lane north of Steiner Ranch Boulevard to RM 2222 and a bypass road for vehicles turning right from RM 620 to RM 2222 to avoid the traffic signal. Construction will begin this fall and wrap up summer 2020.
In May, the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization awarded TxDOT $25 million in state funding for a project to alleviate congestion at the intersection of RM 620 and Anderson Mill Road. Although project specifics are still being designed, TxDOT is planning either an underpass or overpass. A timeline has not yet been developed, according to TxDOT.