When Round Rock resident Orieta Ender first moved to the city more than a decade ago, she was transfixed by the natural environment surrounding Hairy Man Road. A cultural site of the Tonkawa tribe, the area is also home to wildlife such as the Jollyville Plateau salamander.
Now she said she fears a planned extension of Wyoming Springs Drive—which would bisect the area—will put both its historic legacy and natural environment at risk.
“Being in this community for 11 years, the majority of people that live in this area are really, really against this project,” Ender said. “This is considered a very historical part of Round Rock.”
Paving the way
The Wyoming Springs project would extend the existing road from Creek Bend Boulevard to Old Settlers Boulevard, adding bridges over Dry Fork Creek and Brushy Creek. The extension would be a four-lane divided road with shared-use paths for pedestrians and cyclists.
The project has been on the table since 1998, when the city’s first transportation master plan was officially adopted, said Transportation Director Gary Hudder. As the city’s population continues to grow, the need for additional connectivity has only magnified, Hudder said.
“From a volume standpoint, we expect that it’s necessary,” he said. “Beyond that, it’s been more than 50 years since there’s been a new crossing of Brushy Creek in this area.”
Navigating natural environments
However, the city has acknowledged environmental concerns surrounding the project, which have also captured the attention of area residents. Ender founded local activist group Save the Trees on Hairy Man Road in December in an effort to preserve historic trees and tree canopies in the northwest area of Round Rock. The group has since garnered more than 3,000 members.
“They can show us how much the area is growing, but we still don’t think there’s a need for this project, taking into consideration the impacts on the environment and the historical value of this road,” Ender said.
In addition to raising concerns about historic trees, Ender’s group is concerned about threatening the habitat of the Jollyville Plateau salamander. Native to Travis and Williamson counties, the salamander has been listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act since September 2013.
Gauging public feedback
The city of Round Rock hosted a transportation open house Sept. 1 with public feedback accepted online through Sept. 22.
Hudder said the city is open to facilitating comments, critiques and concerns from residents as this is an early and evolving stage of the project. The project requires approval from local and state agencies regarding any potential environmental concerns, Hudder said.
Funding for the roadway will be provided through the city of Round Rock’s Type B funds, a dedicated portion of city sales tax, and Williamson County’s 2019 bond program, he said. At this time, the project costs are estimated at $15 million.
The project is currently in the design phase, with construction anticipated to begin late 2022 or early 2023, Hudder said.
“It’s a very complex project because of not only the development that we’re impacting that has been there for years, but also, it is environmentally sensitive,” Hudder said. “We knew that going in, and so we have to be sensitive to all those things.”
Mobility, environmental concerns drive Wyoming Springs project discussions in Round Rock
Planned improvements along Wyoming Springs Drive are more than 20 years in the making, Round Rock Transportation Director Gary Hudder said. (Rendering courtesy city of Round Rock)