Just as drivers traveling east along Hwy. 79 outside of Hutto begin to see the dozens of cranes crowded around Samsung’s $17 billion semiconductor plant going up, they’ll pass a string of concrete columns on either side of the roadway.

The construction site is one of several segments to create the East WilCo Highway. The roadway to effectively connect the northern and southern portions of the county is one of many projects Williamson County officials have planned to improve the region’s infrastructure. If voters approve an $884 million bond election Nov. 7, they will have secured more funding to go to the highway.

In total, the bond would go to 38 road projects and 14 parks projects. Officials say these would help address increases in population and industry.

Precinct 4 Commissioner Russ Boles said the county can’t control the growth of neighborhoods, but it can try to plan for it with mobility projects.

“The way we fund new roads is through bond proposals,” Boles said. “So that’s what we’re doing. We’re planning, and we’re trying to keep up with the growth as it occurs.”

The overview

On Nov. 7, voters will decide on two Williamson County bond propositions totaling $884 million.

Proposition A: $825 million for road projects

Proposition B: $59 million for parks projects

The bond amount was whittled down from more than $6 billion in projects submitted by local city governments, county staff and other regional partners.

David Hays chaired the Williamson County Citizens Bond Committee, which met with local stakeholders to consider each project. The committee brought $1.69 billion in road projects and $78.96 million in parks projects to Commissioners Court, which then determined the final bond amounts. If it passes, the bond would not impact the debt service portion of the tax rate, according to county documents.

Hays said commissioners want to put forward a bond package voters will view favorably.

“I think it’s smart, and I think it’s a good number,” Hays said. “It fits within their budget knowing they’ll need to come back, but it gives them the ability to do things.”

Zooming in

Bob Daigh, senior director of infrastructure for Williamson County, said a bond is the only mechanism the county has to fund road projects that add capacity and make major safety improvements—meaning the annual road and bridge fund only pays for maintenance and operations of existing roads.

Barring extreme inflation or an unpredictable economic event, Daigh said the funding in the bond would cover the cost of design and construction for most projects, which vary in scope from intersection improvements to completely new roadways.

Additionally, many of the road projects are joint ventures with local city governments. Because of this, funding for them will be split between the county and local cities as well as regional or statewide transportation organizations.

A closer look

Williamson County Parks Director Russell Fishbeck categorized the projects in the parks proposition into three groups: shared-use paths, facilities and land acquisition.

“There’s going to be a great demand for open space, parkland [and] trail systems—places where people can go and get out of the urban environment,” Hays said.

Trails projects include:

  • Brushy Creek Regional Trail connection from Cedar Park to Round Rock ($3M)
  • Connection from Southwest Williamson County Regional Park to RM 1431/Sam Bass Road ($2.5M)
  • Connection from Lakeline Park to Twin Lakes Park, including a pedestrian bridge over Bell Boulevard ($1.8M)
  • Connection from Georgetown’s Westside Park to Berry Springs Park ($2.9M)
  • Study a connection from River Ranch County Park to San Gabriel Park ($100K)

What they’re saying

“The county is adding about 125 people a day, and people are driving here; they’re not walking, so there is significant need,” Bob Daigh, Williamson County senior director of infrastructure, said.

“We’re trying to provide linkages and connectivity to more places where people need to get to and where they’re able to recreate,” Russell Fishbeck, Williamson County parks director, said.

What’s next

Both Daigh and Fishbeck said if the bond passes, work on included projects will be underway shortly. Fishbeck said this is especially true of many of the trails projects because design for them is already in the works.

However, he said if the parks proposition doesn’t pass, it means many of the projects would be delayed, and it may put some of the partner projects in jeopardy. Still, future planning would continue, he said.

Additionally, the county said a 2016 law prevents governing bodies from issuing debt to fund projects included in a bond that was rejected by voters during the previous three years.

“There was $6 billion of need identified of all good projects,” Daigh said. “I think that $6 billion number shows the magnitude of a problem that we would have if the bonds did not pass.”

Did you know?

The bond represents the largest package ever put before Williamson County voters by nearly double. Additionally, it comes four years after the county’s last bond in 2019, while previous bonds were six to seven years apart.

Early voting runs from Oct. 23-Nov. 3, and Election Day is Nov. 7.