Downtown intersections remain a challenge for Council members
By MIKE EDDLEMAN
The Liberty Hill City Council has been debating the solution to the downtown traffic back ups during peak commuting hours for more than two years.
As part of the planned solution in the past the City developed a plan for a roundabout at CR 279 and Loop 332, and a one-way streets plan for some downtown streets.
Both plans have been met with skepticism by current Council members and Mayor Rick Hall, with the roundabout project shelved in May and the one-way streets plan altered in the Spring as well.
To get a potential solution back on the table, the Council voted in August to hire WSB Engineering – at a cost of $8,000 – to do new traffic counts and look at potential solutions to the intersections at Loop 332 and CR 279 as well as Loop 332 and RR 1869.
“What we were hired to do was do some real basic traffic modeling to take a look at how the intersections operate, how they might operate in the future and then look at if there are improvements needed what would those be,” said Jay Kennedy with WSB Engineering. “We counted the traffic in late August because we wanted to wait until school started.”
Intersections are graded on traffic counts to determine their level of service.
“What we’re ultimately looking at is level of service and just like algebra grades are graded A through F with A being free flowing and no delay and F being a failed intersection,” Kennedy said. “In traffic engineering anything D and above is looked at as acceptable. That doesn’t mean you like to sit in it, but it means it is acceptable.”
The firm did current counts and established projections for 15 years from now.
The intersection of Loop 332 and RR 1869 was found, due to traffic counts, to be an E level of service in the morning, but slightly better in the afternoon peak time.
Kennedy said projections show that the addition of a traffic signal would improve flow to satisfactory levels.
The traffic counts at Loop 332 and CR 279 showed satisfactory levels of service currently in both the morning and afternoon peak times.
The 15-year projections show the Loop 332 and RR 1869 intersection at a level F both in the morning and evening, and in addition to the traffic signal, the intersection would need dedicated left turn lanes in all directions to improve flow.
Kennedy said in 2034 the Loop and CR 279 intersection would need a signal to operate in satisfactory levels during both peak times, but that the current geometric layout of the intersection should also be evaluated to improve flow.
Hall said the future impact of the SH 29 bypass, with the phase from RR 1869 around the south side of downtown and connecting to CR 279, would also help with traffic flow at the intersections.
The bypass is one of the projects that hinges on voters approving the Williamson County bond proposition Tuesday.
“That intersection does not warrant the need for a roundabout so that justifies better to do multiple projects with that same amount of money,” Hall said of the shelved project.
Council member Tony DeYoung has made his focus with the CR 279 and Loop 332 intersection more about safety than traffic congestion, citing the parking lot planned for one side of the Loop and the splash pad being built at Wetzel Park on the other as creating increased risk for pedestrians.
“My push on this one is making sure we don’t see a kid hit, with someone turning or not turning a signal on,” DeYoung said.
No decision was made on any future plans for either intersection, but Hall did ask engineers to compare their counts to information previously gathered by Williamson County to get a clearer picture.
“One thing I’ve instructed our engineers to do is to take the traffic count that Jay Kennedy came up with and look at some potential lane modifications to the CR 279 and Loop 332 intersection,” Hall said. “Once we get the numbers from the County and group that in with the numbers from Jay that can help leverage from TXDoT to see what they can do at the Loop and 1869 intersection.”
More information is expected to be presented to the Council after the first of the year.
The Council voted unanimously to formally name Loop 332 as “Charles Canady Memorial Loop” after the late husband of Council member Kathy Canady.
“They’ve both done a lot of work here in the city and the City is what it is today because of all the hard work,” Hall said. “It is fitting that we name that Loop after Charles for all the work he did.”
The name change will not effect mail or other address issues.
“We didn’t rename the Loop, we just gave it a memorial name, so it will continue to be Loop 332, that way there is no interference with mail,” Hall said. “We can have a memorial road without actually changing the name. It will just be a sign up in his honor.”
RR 1869 turn lanes
The Texas Department of Transportation has signaled to the City that it is ready to begin installing right turn lanes at the intersection of SH 29 and RR 1869, which have been planned for some time.
The Council approved the City’s funding contribution, which is up to $300,000 of the project cost.
The Council approved bids Monday for a handful of capital projects to be completed downtown, at a total cost of nearly $1.5 million.
“These are basically the projects that are taking over what we had allocated for the roundabout,” Hall said. “We were able to get more needed projects done with that money versus having one project done. I’m trying to spread that money out over multiple needed projects versus one.”
The projects include the downtown parking lot on the old laundromat property and parking in Van Alley, as well as landscaping, downtown drainage improvements, installation of 12-inch and 8-inch water lines and repaving of Aynsworth and Munro streets.