East Whitestone pass-through project begins

During an Aug. 26 groundbreaking ceremony, local leaders said traffic congestion and lane closures associated with a 16-month construction project on East Whitestone Boulevard will be worthwhile.

The pass-through project will widen Whitestone from four to six lanes between Parmer Lane and Sam Bass Road, add turn lanes for side streets and rebuild the intersection of Whitestone and Parmer Lane/Ronald Reagan Boulevard.

Engineers will reconfigure the intersection into a partial continuous-flow intersection. When the CFI is complete, drivers on Parmer and Reagan will be able to make traditional right or left turns onto Whitestone. But drivers on Whitestone will wait at separate traffic signals to bring them across to the road's left side before permitting them to turn left onto Parmer or Reagan.

At the Aug. 26 groundbreaking, Cedar Park Mayor Matt Powell said the city will work to smooth construction delays until the project's anticipated conclusion in spring 2016.

"There's going to be a lot of disruptions that take place; we're aware of that," Powell said. "But there is a real commitment to making adjustments as the project takes place—changing [signal] timings, looking at options to make sure the traffic keeps moving as much as possible."

Powell addressed the uniqueness of the partial CFI, which will be the first such intersection built in Cedar Park. The Texas Department of Transportation is planning similar intersections in Austin and San Marcos.

"When the CFI was first shown to me my first reaction was, 'No way, that's crazy,'" he said. "I quickly got past that and I know that [City Council] did as well Williamson County and Cedar Park are trying to have this attitude of not doing things the same way they've always been done. Sometimes it takes an out-of-the-box solution to create better safety and to keep traffic moving."

Powell said the Whitestone and Parmer/Reagan intersection is one of Cedar Park's 10 most dangerous intersections, but now eight of those intersections are being improved.

On the morning of the groundbreaking, westbound traffic on Whitestone frequently backed up from the Parmer/Reagan intersection to Toro Grande Boulevard. Williamson County Precinct 2 Commissioner Cynthia Long said the partial CFI will help alleviate that congestion.

"I promise we didn't order idling traffic behind us just for a photo op," Long said. "It is going to be painful for a little while because of the changes that have already had to be made in order to accommodate the construction. But we are excited for the ultimate outcome."

The city of Cedar Park will spend $22 million on the project and TxDOT will reimburse the city up to 80 percent of construction costs in annual payments.

"A lot of that is based on the usage of the road," Powell said. "So drive it and drive it often."

TxDOT will also pay $2 million for the project's administration costs and will spend $100,000 on sidewalks. Williamson County will contribute $1 million for the new intersection and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. will pay $250,000 for turn lanes near its new store, Powell said.

"So [there's] a lot of cooks in the kitchen, but everyone is coming together well," Powell said. "In Williamson County a long time ago, we made a decision that we're going to build roads; we're going to build them as wide as possible. This project is yet another example of that. It's getting out ahead of things. It's a little pain now for a lot of good later."