By Rachel Madison
A slew of road improvement projects have been planned to improve traffic flow across Liberty Hill, though construction on some projects may not begin for another year.
The most anticipated projects, according to Williamson County Commissioner Cynthia Long, are those planned for the intersection of County Road 200 and State Highway 29.
“Right now it’s sort of a traffic mess in the mornings,” she said. “We’ll be putting in a dedicated right turn lane, as well as a left turn lane when you’re on CR 200 approaching [Highway] 29. The improvements that we will do there will make traffic flow a whole lot better.”
The work on CR 200 are being designed as three separate projects, and are all headed by Williamson County.
The first, which includes the dedicated turn lanes, will cost an estimated $2 million, with $500,000 coming from the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) and $100,000 coming from the City of Liberty Hill. Design for the project is 60 percent complete and utility relocations are underway. Construction is anticipated to begin in late 2018.
The second project, which includes the mile-long span from the railroad tracks on CR 200 down to CR 201, will involve reconstructing CR 200 to a two-lane roadway with a center turn lane and shoulders. The estimated cost of this project is $5.8 million. Design is 60 percent complete with utility relocations already underway. Construction for this section of roadway is also anticipated to begin in late 2018.
The final project will be at the intersection of CR 200 and Bold Sundown—at the entrance to Clearwater Ranch—and will include widening CR 200 and adding a left turn lane for Bold Sundown. Estimated cost of this project is $473,000 with a $200,000 contribution from Clearwater Ranch. Design will be finalized this month and utility relocations are underway. Construction is anticipated to begin by early 2018.
“In addition to the CR 200 projects, [Williamson County] is finishing the engineering and getting ready for construction around the Seward Junction Loop,” Long said. “We’re working on the southwest and southeast corners of the [Highway] 29 and [Highway] 183 [intersection] to put in, on the east side, improvements to existing roadways, and on the west side, a new roadway that will help improve the mobility and circulation around the intersection.”
The project cost for the Seward Junction southeast project is estimated at $9.6 million, and construction is anticipated to begin in spring 2018. The cost for the Seward Junction southwest project is estimated to be $7.2 million with a construction start date of spring 2018.
“The final project [Williamson County] has planned is improving and putting in a turn into the [new] River Ranch [County] Park,” Long said. “The entrance will be on Bagdad Road right at the Liberty Hill and Leander border. We’ll be putting in protected turn lanes into the entrance of the park.”
The mile-long construction project, which will add turn lanes and acceleration lanes on Bagdad Road at CR 278, will cost an estimated $4.8 million. Final design for the roadway is complete, and utility relocations are already underway. Construction is slated to begin in spring 2018.
In November 2013, Williamson County voters approved the passage of a proposition for $275 million in road bonds. All of these road improvements projects were included in that bond, Long said.
“These projects were identified back in 2013 as priorities,” she added. “That was through extensive public input and ultimately voter approval. Unfortunately, people look at construction as the beginning of a project, but you have to start way before you ever see dirt turn. There’s engineering, environmental approvals, right-of-way acquisition, relocating utilities and cable lines. Most of these projects did start multiple years ago.”
Maintenance is always included in the annual budget for Williamson County, and this upcoming year, the roads that will be focused on will be in the San Gabriel Ranch Road area.
“At the end of CR 214 we’re doing major rehab of several roads,” Long said. “Old Windmill Road and River Road will see some major improvements over the next year or so. The planning of that has been done and now we’re scheduling the improvements. These projects are part of our normal maintenance, but on some of those roads we’re needing to do a whole lot more repair because it’s one of our older neighborhoods in the county.”
Diann Hodges, public information officer for the TxDOT Austin District, said TxDOT projects in the Liberty Hill area include installing a flashing beacon and safety lighting just north of State Highway 29 on Highway 183 between CR 213 and Long Run Drive.
“Safety improvements are obviously done to improve safety, and if there have been multiple issues there, like people not stopping when they should have or if we see an increase in collisions, that prompts us to make changes,” Hodges said. “The project went out to bid in August and construction should begin in the next six months.”
Another project TxDOT is heading up includes making improvements to the four-lane divided road with a grassy median beginning at the intersection of State Highway 29 and Highway 183 and going north. That project is still under development, which means it’s in the early planning stages, Hodges added.
Williamson County also has Highway 183 north of State Highway 29 on its radar because of the growth that area has seen in recent years, Long said.
“Last year, [Williamson] County worked on an update to our county transportation plan,” she said. “One of the areas that has major growth going on is along [Highway] 183 north of [Highway] 29. That is a project area that we are going to be having public meetings on to get input from people throughout that corridor to talk about what safety improvements near term can be done, and what safety improvements long term can be done.”