Developers question plans for FM 1460 overpass, however

Development along FM 1460 near the intersection of S.E. Inner Loop could shape how and where the City of Georgetown and Texas Department of Transportation expand FM 1460.

The roadway will be expanded to four lanes, with ultimate design and right of way for six lanes from just north of University Boulevard in Round Rock to Quail Valley Drive, Georgetown Transportation Services Director Ed Polasek said. The first phase from just north of Westinghouse Road to Quail Valley Drive could be ready to go to bid in fall 2013 and start construction in 2014.

The road expansion has been in the works for nearly 10 years, Polasek said.

A lack of funding delayed the project, but Polasek said the city—using funds from bond money, the City of Round Rock, TxDOT, the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization and some federal monies—has found a way to pay for the project's final design, right of way acquisition and construction.

Development concerns

Questions over a portion of FM 1460's proposed schematic at its intersection with S.E. Inner Loop arose this spring after property owners in the area said the design could hamper development along FM 1460, including in Longhorn Junction, a 280-acre commercial center located at the southwest corner of the intersection.

During the preliminary design process, TxDOT designed FM 1460 to include a bridge over S.E. Inner Loop in response to traffic counts from CAMPO's 2030 Plan that showed more than 35,000 cars a day could be traveling FM 1460. More than 20,000 trips per day were expected on S.E. Inner Loop.

"They said the volume is going to be such that you are going to have to build an interchange or [overpass] at some point," Polasek said, adding that the bridge design was also based on a piece of property along Inner Loop that was intended for rail.

"They found it easier to have the [bridge] going over the rail and over the Inner Loop to allow for free flow of traffic on FM 1460," he said.

However, CAMPO's updated 2035 Plan added plans for Inner Loop that included expanding it to be a bypass for Hwy. 29 as part of the Southeast Bypass project, which increased the expected traffic count to 70,000 trips per day, Polasek said.

"That will be a major, major artery for Georgetown," Georgetown City Councilman Danny Meigs said.

In March, City Council approved buying the 12.05-acre rail easement on Inner Loop.

"With the rail easement gone, there doesn't need to be a bridge on FM 1460," said Bruce Barton, a partner with Omni Projects, which owns Longhorn Junction with Hall Properties.

If built on FM 1460, the bridge could hurt the area's development potential, Barton said.

"None of the properties had access [from FM 1460 in the old design]," Barton said. "[Our potential anchor tenant] wanted to start working on a development agreement because it is a big project. The total investment is at least $65 million, and it would [generate] many times that."

He said the restricted access made the property useless from a development standpoint.

Barton declined to say who the anchor tenant was because of a confidentiality agreement but said the company has other locations in Georgetown.

Council support

City Council also approved a resolution in April to study shifting the proposed bridge structure from FM 1460 to S.E. Inner Loop as part of the S.E. Inner Loop Corridor Analysis.

"I think it makes more sense for Georgetown on traffic flow [to change the bridge placement]," Meigs said.

Pending the results of the city's study, TxDOT could move forward with removing the bridge from FM 1460's design and shifting it to S.E. Inner Loop, Georgetown Transportation Engineer Bill Dryden said.

The resolution also approved realigning a portion of FM 1460's schematic.

"We are trying to rearrange the road so it will be more beneficial for development," Meigs said.