San Gabriel Ranch Road to reopen after sudden closure

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By Christine Bolaños

A roadway in the San Gabriel River Ranch subdivision, which was closed after it was deemed unsafe, will soon be open again.

More than 100 signed a petition protesting the county’s Road and Bridge Division’s action. Residents said it happened suddenly disrupting their daily commutes, school bus routes as well as mail, UPS and Fed-Ex delivery. Since San Gabriel River Ranch at Remuda shut down one resident claimed there have been at least three wrecks.

“The County has continuously been looking into solutions for San Gabriel Ranch Road following the necessary closure due to loss of structural integrity,” explained Terron Evertson, director of Williamson County Road and Bridge Division, of the decision to re-open the road.

“All options were analyzed and the Commissioners Court determined that, with the best information we currently have, repairing the road and re-opening it to traffic is the most favorable option at this time,” he said.

He said his division put a request for the Commissioners Court to consider and take action on advertising for an engineering firm to begin designing different solutions to repairing the road at the section that is closed.

Evertson said the Court approved the request and the county is moving forward with engineering services.

“It is anticipated that should no unexpected complexities be found, the process should take approximately 11.5 months to 15.5 months,” he said.

The timeline includes the county advertising for an engineering firm and then receiving and analyzing the firms’ qualifications. The county will then interview a narrow list of qualified firms and staff will recommend the company they find to be most qualified to the Court. If the Court approves the selection then the county negotiates and enters into a contract with the chosen firm. This part will likely take up to two months. During the next phase, the engineering firm will analyze the hydrology and hydraulics of the Lackey Creek watershed and the impacts to the San Gabriel Ranch Road repairs. The firm is also expected to propose different alternatives and analyze structural components.

“Once a proposed solution is determined resident input will be sought,” Evertson said.

He expects the process to take a couple of weeks. The design will then turn into a bid package and the county will next find qualified contractors to do the work. Evertson said this process should take four to six months. Once the Commissioners Court approves a contractor, construction will begin and should last four to six months depending on weather conditions.

For residents, like Dephanie Cates, the decision comes as a relief to the inconvenienced neighborhood. However, she worries about how residents will deal with the closure in the meantime.

“We apologize for any inconvenience closing the road has caused but the safety of the traveling public is paramount,” Evertson said. “We appreciate everyone’s patience and understanding and are moving as fast as we can to a successful solution.”

Cates said she received a call from Evertson on Nov. 30 asking if residents could meet with him on Dec. 3 at the closed section of the road. She said three residents attended the meeting.

“We had not had any other update so we were happy to meet with him,” Cates said. “He wanted to give us an update about what went on during Commissioners Court on Tuesday, Dec. 1. He told us basically that the Court made it perfectly clear on Dec. 1 that they want Road and Bridge to absolutely repair and reopen the road and that was really the bottom line.

“That’s what we had been waiting to hear,” she said.

Though she was uncertain how many of her fellow neighbors had been notified via email of the meeting she could tell Evertson wanted to open a dialogue with them as best he could.

“We are very happy to know that the Commissioners Court did grant repairs to our low water crossing,” Cates said. “It literally divided our neighborhood in half. The school buses don’t get kids home now until almost 5 and it’s dark by then.

“UPS, the mail and FedEx all have to go extra routes,” she added. “It causes another 10 to 15 minutes to get to our half of the neighborhood.”

She predicts home insurances will also go up since emergency services will take longer to get to her side of the neighborhood while the road remains closed.

“In the meantime we have to live with the narrow road and there have already been three accidents that I’m aware of as of four weeks ago,” Cates said.

She said she received another email informing residents about an upcoming public meeting in Cedar Park. She views the decision as beneficial because the opening of the road will reunite the neighborhood and get drivers onto Highway 29 faster using a safer road.

“Right now I feel that Williamson County is making an effort to rectify the split of the neighborhood in satisfactory way to the residents,” Cates said. “Right now it’s just talk. We don’t have physical evidence of their commitment to this point.”

This is a drastic change from the tone of the emails she sent the county in early October after the road was suddenly closed without notifying residents. Evertson said the county takes resident input seriously.

“Resident input is always important,” he said. “All comments are considered, however, resident safety is paramount and was/is our primary concern at this location.”

He said the county regrets not having enough time to notify residents in advance of the closure.

“Once the severe loss of structural integrity of the roadway and the hazard that it created was determined, it was necessary to close the road immediately and without delay,” Evertson said. “Williamson County is committed to listening to resident’s concerns and has made sure to keep them informed, through an email distribution list, information provided on the website, telephone calls received with questions and a public meeting to be held on Tuesday, Dec. 15, at 6 p.m. at the Cedar Park Annex.

“We will continue to answer resident’s questions and correct misinformation so that they know where we are in the process,” he added. “We will continue to keep the public informed on progress to repair and reopen San Gabriel Ranch Road.”

He said the meeting will inform residents further on matters related to the closing and proposed re-opening of San Gabriel Ranch Road at the spillway location as well as give the county an opportunity to hear any concerns. A letter sent to residents provided more detail about the meeting to be held at 350 Discovery Blvd. in Cedar Park.

“We heard from residents that individuals were congregating on the close section of roadway and continuing to drive over and around barricades,” the letter states. “Because this is a serious safety and a law enforcement issue, we have requested the Sheriff’s Office to provide patrols more frequently at the location. We have also added more barricades and physical impediments for safety purposes.”

The letter also mentioned aid from FEMA.

“The request by Williamson County for disaster recovery funds from FEMA for repair of the closed section of roadway has received both first and final approval,” the letter states. “It is expected that Williamson County will receive some funds for mitigating flooding at this location.”

He encourages residents ensure they are a part of the county’s email list by emailing roadadmin@wilco.org or calling 512-943-3330.

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