City kick starts transportation development
By Christine Bolaños
City of Liberty Hill officials want to get the ball rolling on transportation development as the population continues to increase.
Representatives from Williamson County, Texas Department of Transportation and Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority are scheduled to attend the Liberty Hill Economic Development Corporation’s scheduled meeting at 6:30 p.m. today, April 21, at 2801 Ranch Road 1869.
City Administrator Greg Boatright said future development of US Hwy 183A Toll Road, expansion of the main lane to the intersection of State Highway 29 and U.S. Hwy 183, County Road 200 improvements and the future of SH 29 are all topics he would like discussed at the meeting.
“Things only get done when there’s somebody taking the initiative and kind of pushing the project forward,” Boatright said. “This is kind of our first step to get our foot in the door and try to become a regional player, if you will, when it comes to transportation.”
There have been rumors among community members about a SH 29 expansion, but county officials insist there is no timeline for the project at this time.
Chiang, Patel & Yerby provided engineering and technical services for an SH 29 improvement study from D.B. Wood Road to the Burnet County line.
“The SH 29 expansion will not be built until it is needed,” said Connie Watson, Public Information Officer for the county, in a written statement. “Construction would take place only when overall traffic volumes significantly increase, resulting in traffic congestions at both peak and non-peak periods.”
Once construction begins, there will be frontage roads for safety and an express lane with no stoplight or driveways.
“We estimate that the road would not be built for at least 15 years, depending on traffic counts and safety issues along the highway,” Watson wrote.
County officials did not give a specific traffic volume and how much it would need to increase by in order for construction to begin.
“There is no set number,” Watson wrote. “The timing of the SH 29 expansion is a combination of need and funds availability.”
Watson referenced the initial study and said the county is in the process of buying right-of-way from willing sellers.
“Due to the growth of Williamson County and that area in particular, it was decided to study the roadways now to prepare for future growth,” Watson wrote.
She said it is important for the county to plan ahead amid its rapid growth.
“Cedar Park began planning for Highway 183A in the early 1980s in preparation of projected growth in the area,” Watson wrote.
In 1990, the City of Leander reportedly had 3,398 residents. Today, it has more than 30,000 people.
“Today, Hwy 183A carries more than 55,000 vehicles per day,” Watson wrote. “With this in mind and as we look toward the future, our county must plan in smart and prudent ways.”
She said about 20,000 new residences have platted in the surrounding area.
“That translates into 50,000 to 60,000 more people who would use SH 29 in the next 20 years,” Watson wrote.
Smart and prudent is what the City of Liberty Hill is also trying to do. That is why the April 21st meeting and a scheduled workshop of the EDC and City Council on May 12 are critical.
Boatright hopes discussions will lead to the development of a long-range transportation plan for Liberty Hill.
“What we’re wanting to see and what projects we feel would be of most benefit to Liberty Hill,” he said.
He said there are plans to expand CR 200 to CR 201 and that TxDOT is working with the county to fix the intersection in that area.
“It’s a pretty good jump on the loop and if you’re coming across (CR) 200 you really can’t see where you’re landing,” Boatright said.
He said he wants to find out more about the feasibility study CTRMA is working on concerning the main lanes where 183A ends now and up to Seward Junction.
“They’re looking at what would it do as far as generating funding for us if we were to expand,” Boatright said.
Expansion of the highway could be especially critical, he said, to Liberty Hill’s future economic development.
Watson confirmed the future projects the county is involved with that could impact Liberty Hill include the southeast and southwest Seward Bypass projects, Bagdad Road and CR 200.
TxDOT officials said the county is developing plans for the loop around the northern side of Liberty Hill. Kelli Reyna, public information officer for TxDOT Austin District, said the entity has plans for pavement repairs and resurfacing on SH 29 on the eastern side of Liberty Hill.
She said the project includes full deck repair, layer of pavement off to the bottom and repainting for a nice, smooth surface.
“We call it replace and repaving project,” Reyna said. “That is happening from the Burnet/Williamson County line all the way to County Road 277. That work is being performed by Lone Star Paving.”
She said there is no established timeline, but there is a scheduled pre-construction meeting coming up. Typically, projects begin four to six weeks after such meeting.
Reyna reported the repair and repaving project to the west of Liberty Hill is roughly $865,000. The project to the east side is about $450,000.
“We’re constantly reviewing our roadways and we’re looking at areas where we can make improvements,” Reyna said. “We drive those roadways too so we know whenever roadways need to be upgraded or improved. That’s why we have this plan so we can systematically go about improving our roadways.”
Boatright said one of the main reasons he wanted to have these discussions at the EDC meeting today was because the Board needs to be aware of associated costs with taking on any of the projects. He said a project he would like to consider as soon as possible is the possibility of a right turn lane at the intersection of Ranch Road 1869 and SH 29.
“Because traffic backs up so far,” he said.
He said improvements at Carl Shipp Drive are also critical.
“There are several projects we’ve kind of identified that we’d like to participate with TxDOT,” Boatright said. “It’s going to be difficult with us to do it with the county.”
He said it likely makes sense for the City to take over Loop 332 and work with TxDOT on the project.
“The loop was such a hot topic,” Boatright said. “The council voted to take it over and then not to take it over. TxDOT was kind of caught in the middle. Now it probably makes sense for the City to have the loop.”
The bottom line is for stakeholders to find out what they can do to make the projects happen sooner.
“We have to take an active role if we’re going to see some of these projects happening in the near future,” Boatright said.