TxDOT presents potential future Hays County projects at open house

Texas Department of Transportation representatives hosted open houses in Buda and San Marcos this week to discuss the ongoing planning process for Mobility 35, a program that aims to improve mobility and safety on I-35 from San Marcos to Georgetown. The Hays County portion of the project covers the 23.7-mile stretch of I-35 from SH 45 SE north of Buda to Posey Road in south San Marcos.

TxDOT spokesman Chris Bishop said one potential future project is the addition of one lane traveling in each direction on I-35. The lane, known as a Future Transportation Corridor, or FTC, could potentially be reserved for high-occupancy vehicles, public transit or other purposes.

"One of the things people have told us is, 'We don't want to see a great big, wide, huge road,'" Bishop said. "So what can we do within the constraints that we have? The FTC is it. But how are we going to use [the FTC]?'"

Other potential projects presented at the open houses include improvements at I-35 intersections with FM 150 in Kyle, FM 1626 in Kyle and Guadalupe Street in San Marcos. Each of those intersections could potentially receive a diverging diamond, something TxDOT officials call an "innovative intersection," which reduces the number of cycles traffic signals must make and moves traffic faster than traditional intersections.

Each of those intersections is expected to meet capacity demands through 2030 but may be over capacity by 2035, according to TxDOT materials.

In May, TxDOT unveiled its first innovative intersection in San Marcos at the intersection of I-35 and Aquarena Springs. The intersection, known as a continuous flow intersection, or CFI, was built in hopes of reducing congestion during peak travel times. A similar project is being built at the intersection of Hopkins Street and I-35. The Hopkins Street CFI is scheduled to open to traffic on Oct. 9.

Bishop said the Mobility 35 program is focused largely on roads that feed directly onto the highway.

"We could pay attention just to the interstate, but it's the cross streets that sometimes can back up the interstate or make people say 'I don't want to go there,'" Bishop said. "We have a responsibility to make those move along as well."

Kyle City Councilman Shane Arabie attended Thursday's open house in San Marcos. Arabie said he was pleased with the proposed projects he saw. Arabie highlighted a proposal that would change the location of an I-35 entrance ramp near Beebe Road. Arabie said that as currently constructed, drivers turning from Beebe Road onto the I-35 frontage road do not have enough time to speed up from when they turn to when they begin to enter the highway, so their slow speed often backs up traffic on I-35. The entrance ramp would be relocated so that drivers have more time to speed up.

"That fixes a big problem on the east side," Arabie said. "They've done a really good job of figuring out the little nuances of the roads."

Funding has not been identified for any projects included in the program, and all projects are preliminary. The process of identifying projects for inclusion in the plan is expected to be completed in mid-2015. When it is completed, an environmental study on all proposed projects will begin.

A digital open house of all the Mobility 35 materials can be viewed at www.mobility35.org.