Wheels turning on CR 200 changes

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By MIKE EDDLEMAN

Work should begin this summer on a pair of projects to provide long-awaited traffic relief for County Road 200.

While the goal is to eventually widen CR 200 to four lanes, the work will be done in phases, based on available funds from county bond packages. The work expected to begin soon – the widening of the road at the intersection of Bold Sundown, and the makeover of the intersection of CR 200 and State Highway 29 – is being covered by the 2013 bond package.

“The money allocated wasn’t near enough to do everything we’d like to do on CR 200,” said Pct. 2 Commissioner Cynthia long. “So what we did was kind of honed in on some things.”

The first project, currently out for construction bid, is the widening of the road at Bold Sundown, the entrance to Clearwater Ranch. Widening CR 200 at that intersection will allow for a left turn lane into the subdivision, relieving some traffic congestion and improving safety.

The developer of Clearwater Ranch, Lookout Partners, has contributed $200,000 for the project. The total cost is $470,000 and is expected to take about two months.

The big piece in the works is the intersection of CR 200 and SH 29.

“We’ve really focused on the intersection because it is horribly broken,” Long said. “Once it’s complete you will have through lanes, a dedicated right turn lane and dedicated left turn lane, from 200 as you are getting on 29, which will dramatically improve the throughput of that intersection.”

The total cost for intersection improvements is $2.06 million, primarily funded by the County, but the City of Liberty Hill ($100,000) and Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) ($520,000) have also contributed some funding.

“Rather than do that in isolation, we got together with TxDOT and asked for money,” Long said. “This allows us to do more while we’re doing the whole intersection. Is it the ultimate solution? No. It is getting us what we could afford at the time.”

Engineering plans for the project have been submitted to the County for review and will also have to be reviewed by TxDOT because the project intersects SH 29.

“We’re hoping to send that out for bid for construction in late summer,” Long said. “You just have so many different entities with different rules.”

In addition to TxDOT, coordination must include many other entities at the unique intersection.

“The other challenge is the Capital Metro (CapMetro) rail line,” she said. “That need for coordination unfortunately slows things down because in that convergence area you’re dealing with City of Georgetown because they took over Chisholm Water, TxDOT, City of Liberty Hill, the rail line, and the County.”

Drainage issues and the City’s plans for City Park also play into the planned road expansion. The rail line makes increased runoff and drainage needs an issue, meaning detention will be critical in the area.

The City of Liberty Hill is hopeful that rather than invest in detention on the east side of CR 200, that the County will help with drainage projects in the park that will both mitigate the drainage issue and help with park plans. The City is looking to the County to help with box culverts that will allow for drainage between the current basketball courts and football field in the park, which will also allow for more parking options. The City is also offering options for detention in areas of the park. Negotiations between the City and County are ongoing regarding the drainage improvements.

The timetable of the work at the intersection is largely dependent on bids.

“There will be a proposal in the bids as to how long it will take, but most of the time my experience has been the easiest projects are six months and that’s not an easy project,” Long said. “It could be upwards to a year.”

The work will likely take longer because there will be extensive efforts made to mitigate traffic flow problems due to construction as well.

“Obviously that is a highly trafficked intersection, so a very key part of that will be the traffic management plan in the whole process of ensuring we don’t create huge traffic messes while it is under construction,” Long said. “Does it mean there won’t be days where we have glitches and traffic backs up? No. But we will work closely with our own sheriff’s office as well as Liberty Hill police so we can have someone out there directing traffic if we have a major issue.”

The next phase of the CR 200 improvements will be widening it from the railroad tracks to Stagecoach. There is no definite timetable on that, but the cost is expected to be about $4.4 million. A corridor study from SH 29 to CR 236 with engineering and design has been conducted by the County at a cost of $590,000.

The eventual widening of CR 200 to four lanes is part of the County’s overall arterial plan, a part of the Long Range Transportation Plan put together due to the rapid growth in the county and the need to look beyond typical projections such as Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization 20-year plans.

“What we realized in fast-growth areas like Williamson County is that’s really not enough,” Long said. “In that planning process you go out, you do traffic studies and you say this two-lane road really needs to be four lanes, but 20 years from now that four-lane road is not big enough so what we did is we looked at what Williamson County would need as a transportation network at buildout. In no way shape or form does it mean we are going to go build that tomorrow.”

Mike@LHIndependent.com

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