TxDOT hosts roundabout meetings in Kyle, San Marcos

Plans to build a roundabout at the intersection of FM 1626 and Kohler's Crossing in Kyle have many residents slamming on the brakes.

The Texas Department of Transportation hosted an informal public meeting at the Hays County Precinct 2 office in Kyle on Aug. 28 to discuss the project with residents.

Victor Vargas, assistant director of transportation operations at TxDOT, said roundabouts move traffic more efficiently than signalized lights by cutting down on "wasted time," or time when all traffic signals are red or some are red and others are yellow.

"To be quite honest, a traffic signal does not move traffic like a roundabout," Vargas said. "A roundabout moves traffic much more efficiently."

According to a traffic modeling study performed at the intersection by TxDOT, a roundabout would handle higher traffic volumes, cause fewer delays and improve travel times more than signalized and stop sign intersections.

Development near the intersection includes the Hays CISD Performing Arts Center; the Austin Community College Hays campus, which is expected to open in January; and part of the Plum Creek development that is zoned for mixed use.

Plum Creek resident P.M. Summer, a 20-year veteran of the transportation planning department in the city of Dallas, said he was concerned the roundabout would make it difficult for pedestrians to cross the street.

"That seems counterproductive to me in this situation. We don't need students going from ACC to the Whataburger across the street in their cars," Summer said. "We need them to be able to walk."

Plum Creek resident Nancy Whitcome said she was concerned that the decision to put a roundabout into the intersection took finances into account more than safety.

According to educational materials available at the meeting on Aug. 28, the roundabout project carries a $545,000 price tag, whereas a signalized intersection typically costs between $200,000 and $250,000. However, when the city's population passes 50,000, all intersection maintenance will be turned over to the municipality. Because the cost of maintaining a roundabout is much lower than that of a signalized intersection, the roundabout is ultimately the less costly option, Vargas said. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the city's population is expected to top 60,000 residents by 2020.

Whitcome also worried that the roundabout would confuse drivers.

"They're very infrequent in Texas," Whitcome said. "This isn't Europe, and there's going to be too much indecision at that intersection."

Vargas said two alternatives were examined for the intersection including signalization and construction of a bridge. Vargas said the cost of building a bridge and the maintenance and inefficiency at signalized intersections made the roundabout the best option.

He added that the roundabout only has eight conflict points—areas where cars, cyclists or pedestrians could collide—whereas a typical four-way intersection, such as the current one at FM 1626 and Kohler's Crossing, has 32 conflict points. The most common type of accident at a roundabout is sideswiping, he said.

"Everyone walks away from those types of accidents," Vargas said. "Those kinds of accidents are not life-harming, they're not life-changing."

Vargas said the project received support from City Council at a previous meeting with the caveat that TxDOT would seek more input from city residents.

"TxDOT is in the driver's seat, so to speak," Vargas said. "We've asked for the support of the city, which we received at a council meeting with the caveat that we would go out and meet the public more, which is what we're doing."

At this point there has been no funding mechanism identified for the project. According to TxDOT officials, construction is expected to begin in December 2016 and will take three to six months.

City Council is set to discuss the issue at its meeting Sept. 3.

Roundabout planned for Hunter Road in San Marcos

The city of San Marcos held an open house Aug. 26 to discuss plans for improvements to Hunter Road, which include a roundabout at the intersection with San Antonio Street.

The $13 million TxDOT project, scheduled to begin construction in October, will also widen Hunter Road from Wonder World Drive to Bishop Street, adding a two-way center turn lane and bicycle paths.

The city and TxDOT also plan to realign Dixon and San Antonio streets so the two roadways intersect Hunter Street in the same place, where the roundabout will be constructed.

In addition, the project includes a 150-foot-long concrete bridge over Purgatory Creek, replacing the existing crossing, and it will add right-turn lanes to Hunter Road where it intersects with Wonder World Drive.

Residents who oppose the roundabout have scheduled a protest rally at 5 p.m. on Sept. 3 at City Hall, 630 E. Hopkins St.