Drivers will pass through a total of 80 transportation projects, either under construction or in the works, in Round Rock and Pflugerville this year. A rising number of businesses moving to the area coupled with the population growth is pushing both cities to focus on the future of the roadways.
The city of Round Rock’s $1.2 billion transportation master plan, which was approved in October 2017, emphasizes the need to upgrade the roadways for the city’s growth. The plan identifies major lapses in the city’s transportation network.
In Pflugerville, funds for transportation projects went from $28 million through the transportation bond passed in 2014 to $238 million in 2019 when Pflugerville City Council approved a new transportation master plan. The master plan, named Pflugerville Pforward, focuses on creating new infrastructures over the next 10 years.
Accommodating for growth
The funding for the Round Rock roadway improvements comes from the 1997 adoption of a 1/2 cent sales tax.
Round Rock dedicated a minimum of $240 million to improve roadway capacity and connectivity between 2019 and 2024 through the Driving Progress Program. A funding strategy put in place in 2019 by the city will speed up the transportation improvements under the $1.2 billion transportation master plan.
Two of the major projects breaking ground in 2021 are the University Boulevard expansion at A.W. Grimes Boulevard and Gattis School Road Segment 6. Projects that broke ground in 2020 and will progress this year include University Boulevard at Sunrise Road and the Logan Street extension.
“The Logan Street Connection Project is a neighborhood connectivity project intended to improve access and connectivity of surrounding neighborhoods. This is anticipated to give residents alternative routes and improve emergency response times to the neighborhoods,” said Brian Kuhn, Round Rock assistant director of transportation.
The widening of University, between the I-35 frontage road to Sunrise, will add a median and expand the road to six lanes. At the Oakmont Drive and University Oaks intersection, dual left-turn lanes will also be added.
A construction contract for the second project on University Boulevard, approved by Round Rock City Council on Jan. 28, will widen the two-lane roadway to four lanes from North A.W. Grimes to SH 130, according to Kuhn. The $11.1 million contract will add a raised median and left-turn lanes on University from North A.W. Grimes to SH 130.
The Gattis School Road Segment 6 project aims to reconstruct the current four-lane roadway to a six-lane divided arterial from Via Sonoma Trail to Red Bud Lane. The $13 million improvements include a raised median, intersection upgrades and turn lanes.
The Gattis School project is in the final stages of property acquisition with only a few parcels remaining, according to Kuhn. Round Rock anticipates a construction contract to be awarded later this year.
As a part of the city’s neighborhood connectivity program, the Logan Street Connection Project will improve emergency response times to nearby neighborhoods by adding a two-lane extension on East Logan Street from Greenlawn Boulevard to A.W. Grimes, said Kuhn.
The emergency response times are evaluated based on station location, backup at stations, roadway connections for access and avoidance of potential traffic impacts. The Logan connection will help emergency drive times for Round Rock Station Nos. 2, 4, 6 and 8.
The major projects under construction in the Pflugerville master plan include Old Austin-Hutto Road and Heatherwilde Boulevard. The master plan is a long-range plan that focuses on transportation objects, solutions and policies.
Pflugerville City Council approved safety improvements for Old Austin-Hutto in October with a price tag of $3.6 million. The project will also widen the road to three lanes as well as improve the pavement and drainage. One lane will be added in each direction along with a two-way center left-turn lane.
Phase 1 of construction included the full road closure of Old Austin-Hutto Road from Pecan Street to Poppy Pass. Phase 2 of construction will begin in March. Poppy Pass is being used as a detour until construction is complete.
Impacts of construction
While construction is actively underway, there is one business located right behind the Old Austin-Hutto Road closure barrier at Firebrush Drive, M&M Auto & Diesel. A sign to the left of the barrier reads “We Are Open.” The owner, Leslie Urbanovsky, said the business has been impacted by the construction with customers calling unsure if they are open or not.
“It’s cut off one whole entrance where customers can come down,” Urbanovsky said. “But we’re still open, and we’re still going.”
When construction kicked off, Urbanovsky called the city of Pflugerville asking for help. The city installed the sign to let drivers know the business is still open. Customers can drive around the Old Austin-Hutto Road barriers to access the business.
The second major project Pflugerville City Council approved is the $1.3 million construction contract with QA Construction Services Inc. for rehabilitation work on Heatherwilde Boulevard. The improvements come as part of the city’s 2020 pavement maintenance program, according to Pflugerville Assistant City Manager Amy Giannini. This area has been identified as a major regional connection with a significant amount of traffic and congestion, as stated in the Transportation Master Plan.
Council approved an engineering services agreement July 28 with Halff Associates for the Heatherwilde Subdivision Pavement Rehabilitation Project. The scope of work includes Heatherwilde, Sweetwood Song Drive, Hughmont Drive and Gazania Drive.
“The Heatherwilde Roadway Rehabilitation Project was identified through a pavement evaluation assessment in 2019 and is part of a larger pavement maintenance program that will improve the safety and life of our roadways,” Giannini said.
Hot spots for crashes
Heatherwilde was identified under the master plan as a hot spot for crashes. The top intersections for crashes involving injuries are Pflugerville Parkway at Heatherwilde and Pecan at Heatherwilde.
In Pflugerville between 2014 and 2018, a total of 3,322 crashes occurred, of which 170 resulted in injuries, according to the Texas Department of Transportation’s Crash Reporting Information System database. From January to October 2019, a total of 630 crashes were reported. Using that data, Pflugerville mapped out which traffic corridors were prone to the most number of crashes.
Along with gaps in safety for drivers, Pflugerville looks at the gaps in safety for pedestrians or cyclists. Due to the high-speed traffic on Heatherwilde, the city approved the addition of sidewalks and shared-use paths.
By the end of the year as a number of projects reach completion, from a birds-eye view the arteries spreading across the cities will offer new routes to drivers, EMS and pedestrians to make the cities a safer place to live.
Millions of dollars driving road improvements in Round Rock, Pflugerville
Pflugerville City Council approved safety improvements for Old Austin-Hutto in October with a price tag of $3.6 million. (Claire Ricke/Community Impact Newspaper)