Pflugerville bond passage targets better roads

Officials intend to start soon on road improvements near future high school No. 4



Pflugerville voters soundly approved the largest bond package in city history Nov. 4. Two bond measures worth more than



$53 million will fund road and parks and recreation improvements throughout the city.



The bond package and subsequent road improvements are intended to have a major impact on Pflugerville's growth, particularly east of SH 130, where a 2,500-student high school is slated to open in 2017, thousands of homes are set to be built in the coming decade and key arterial roads are deteriorating.



Pflugerville Mayor Jeff Coleman said shoring up roads east of SH 130 would rank high on the city's priority list as bond money is disbursed.



"Three of those roads listed in the bond projects were there specifically because of the anticipated growth in East Pflugerville, and we are trying to get ahead of that growth rather than trying to play catch-up," Coleman said. "Our goal is to move as expeditiously as possible to get those improvements made before that growth occurs."



Road development



Voters approved $28 million in bonds for road fixes throughout Pflugerville. Councilman Wayne Cooper said the city would work with its bond attorney and sell the bonds incrementally.



"We don't go out and sell all the bonds at once," Cooper said. "We sell them as we need them. So city staff will pull together a schedule, and we sell the bonds based on what projects [staffers] are designing, how far they are in the permitting process and when they are ready for construction."



Several thoroughfares east of SH 130, including Pflugerville Parkway, Rowe Lane, Weiss Lane and Pecan Street, will be improved with bond money.



Coleman said he anticipates Pecan would be one of the highest-priority roads because of its poor condition. The former farm road is splitting, sagging, cratered and lacks shoulders. According to city documents, the road will be increased to three lanes from SH 130 to Weiss Lane and rehabilitated from Weiss to Cameron Road.



Road fixes will be key to developing the area around and south of Pecan, said Floyd Akers, Pflugerville Community Development Corp. executive director.



The land south of Pecan Street and along Cameron Road is well-suited for industrial and commercial development, Akers said. The area has access to power, gas and SH 130. It is also separated from residential development to the north by Wilbarger Creek.



"Once those roads are repaired it is going to stimulate more economic development at the 130 Commerce Center," Akers said. "We see Pecan and Cameron as maybe being a major employment center, a major commercial development, a major light industrial and heavy industrial district."



130 Commerce Center is a growing business park at the southwest corner of Pecan and SH 130. The business park's boundaries extend to all four corners of the intersection, though only the southwestern corner is currently under development.



Although the area south of Pecan has the potential for commercial and industrial development, a more immediate concern for city and school district officials will be improving east Pflugerville roads prior to the opening of Pflugerville ISD's fourth high school.



High school No. 4



Two weeks prior to the Nov. 4 bond election, PISD announced the location of its future fourth high school on Weiss Lane between Pflugerville Parkway and Pecan.



Weiss is a former farm road, and it is cracked and sinking in places. Near the fourth high school site, a bridge over Wilbarger Creek narrows to a single lane and lacks guardrails.



At a cost of $3.77 million, Weiss will be reconstructed into a two-lane road with shoulders and turn lanes from Pecan to Cele Road. Travis County will invest



$6.73 million in Weiss improvements as well, according to the city of Pflugerville.



However, some residents question whether two lanes with shoulders will be enough.



Residential development projections provided by PISD estimate 5,882 lots exist for future homes in subdivisions near the fourth high school site. Those projections, however, do not include future developments Verona—300-plus homes—and Carmel, which could hold more than 3,000 homes. PISD Spokeswoman Amanda Brim said the referenced PISD estimates might not list certain developments, but PISD is planning for tremendous growth on the district's east side.



Robert Prater lives on Weiss Lane next to the future high school. He said he is comfortable with the location of the high school, but he is concerned the city and county are not planning to improve Weiss Lane enough initially.



Prater said he has heard from city officials that the end goal is to make Weiss Lane a six-lane roadway from Pecan to Cele.



"The road construction should be upgraded in the first place and done right," Prater said.



Helen Noneman lives across the road from Prater. She said the roads have been "horrible" since she moved to the area in 1982.



"I have seen so many close calls," Noneman said regarding nearly catastrophic crashes on the narrow bridge outside her house.



Among the close calls, Noneman recounted instances of cars smashing each other's side mirrors while passing simultaneously on the bridge.



The construction of the fourth high school and major residential development in the area represent progress for Pflugerville, Noneman said. But, echoing her neighbor's sentiments, Noneman said she the improved two-way road with shoulders and turn lanes may not be able to handle the increase in traffic that will accompany the high school and development.



"It's not going to be enough. It's like Kelly Lane; they waited too late," Noneman said. "What they are doing now we needed 10 years ago."



Coleman said the city has heard concerns from residents that Weiss should become a divided four-lane roadway with turn lanes rather than an improved two-lane road. But widening Weiss to a four-lane divided roadway would cost an additional $11 million to $12 million, Coleman said.



"Council made the decision that we could not justify spending that much additional money on a road that is not fully within the city limits of Pflugerville and not fully utilized by tax-paying Pflugerville citizens," Coleman said.



Many homes east of SH 130 have Pflugerville addresses but sit in municipal utility districts, or MUDs. Those homes do not pay city of Pflugerville taxes and will not pay for the road bonds, he said.



"We are doing everything we can to improve [Weiss Lane] within a budget that seems reasonable," Coleman said.



PISD Superintendent Alex Torrez said demographic projections estimate Hendrickson High School in northeast Pflugerville would be over capacity by 2017, and Pflugerville's fastest growth is occurring east of SH 130.



PISD's goal was to find the best location for the new high school, which staff decided is the Weiss Lane site, Torrez said. PISD was confident the city prepared the bond package well and citizens would support it, he added.



"We believe that Weiss Lane will be completed in time for us when we open the school to be able to ensure that our students and our community are able to get in and out of there," Torrez said.



When asked if he is concerned Weiss will not be able to handle the increased traffic with two lanes and shoulders, Torrez said: "The road, as it is coming, we are happy to get that. We are happy to have those improvements."



'A lot of interest'



Real estate developer John Lloyd is one of the developers behind Verona and Carmel, which could account for more than 3,300 future homes within a few miles of the fourth high school.



Lloyd said he has been waiting for the city to approve permits for Verona. Once Verona is underway, he said he would move forward with the first 1,750-home phase of Carmel. He did not have an exact timeline for the start and finish of either project.



The addition of the fourth high school "won't hurt" area development, but the roads need to be fixed, Lloyd said.



"They are good for a horse and buggy," he said.



Lloyd said he is waiting on area road improvements before moving forward with Carmel. In the more distant future, he said development in east Pflugerville could stretch all the way to New Sweden.



"This is where, on the east side of the city, where the growth will happen. This is just the first step," Cooper said about the road improvements. "We have a long way to go. There is a lot of open space out there."



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