Intersection realignment coming downtown

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By MIKE EDDLEMAN

The Liberty Hill Council gave its approval to a plan to realign the intersection of Loop 332 and CR 279 downtown.

The initial estimate for the project is $858,081, but a final total will not be known until engineering work is completed and bids are opened.

“The task order will actually drill down more into the weeds and will do some more studying to make sure it is what we need,” said Mayor Rick Hall. “The Council seemed very receptive to the drawings and how the layout was done. I feel like this will be a great thing to do. It gives us that traffic control we need in the area and it also gives us safety controls.”

The plan will alter the Loop coming from the east toward CR 279 to create a T-intersection with a three-way stop. Traffic coming into downtown from CR 279 would be able to turn right onto the Loop or continue into downtown after a stop. Drivers entering downtown from the east on Loop 332 will be able to continue right on the Loop with a yield or turn left onto CR 279 after a stop. Traffic leaving downtown will be able to continue south on CR 279 or turn left and continue on the Loop following a stop.

To assist with traffic control at the intersection and designate the continued right into downtown from the Loop, a triangular median will be constructed at the intersection.

The project replaces a plan scrapped by the Council in May 2019 to construct a roundabout at the intersection. The City spent close to $400,000 on engineering for the project and awarded a bid in April 2019 for $1,372,104 for the roundabout and adjacent parking lot project on the laundromat property.

Under the new plan, the intersection and parking lot come in at a combined projected cost of $1.2 million.

The parking lot has been separated from the intersection work as it has already begun as part of a larger downtown street and utility project totaling $1.2 million.

“In this we’re also doing two and a half of the roads downtown, replacing water lines and sewer lines downtown,” Hall said. “All these projects we’re doing now are more expensive than the roundabout, but it’s also better used money than the roundabout and we’re getting better use of it by repairing water lines and sewer lines and services downtown for our citizens and not just a traffic circle that has been mentioned several times as having a pretty look to have coming into our city.”

Hall said the project specifically includes the parking lot, Van Alley parking, utilities for Barton, Aynsworth, a new water line going down CR 279, resurfacing of those roads, and completion of Munro. The Independent requested the breakdown of the projects by cost and Hall said he would gather the information for a clearer picture of the work being done.

“The $1.4 million for the roundabout actually included the washateria parking and the roundabout,” Hall said. “I’m just trying to get you apples to apples. All those other things are additional things we filled in outside what the roundabout bid was.”

Council member Tony DeYoung regularly voiced concerns for both vehicles and pedestrians at the intersection wanting the Council to pursue a solution, specifically pointing to the pending opening of the splash pad at Wetzel Park on the southeast corner of the intersection and the anticipated increased pedestrian traffic.

Through traffic modeling, Hall said engineers determined the three-way stop sign at the intersection would manage the traffic flow well.

“We actually took the traffic counts we got from the engineers, they sent them over to Steger Bizzell, and they modeled it with the traffic counts and this was basically what they came up,” Hall said.

Cross walks will also be installed allowing pedestrians parking in the new lot on the laundromat property to safely cross Loop 332 to reach Wetzel Park.

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