County submits 10 projects to CAMPO

Wirtz Dam Road, improvements, along with US 281, Texas 29, Texas 71 and RM 1431 are among those submitted.






By Lew K. Cohn

Managing Editor

Burnet Bulletin

Burnet County has submitted their order and now they must sit back and see if local transportation needs are given a slice of the federal funding pie.

Greg Haley of KC Engineering, who represents Burnet County on the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) Technical Advisory Committee, spoke to Burnet County commissioners Tuesday, discussing 10 projects Burnet County has identified to compete for funding through the 2019-2022 Transportation Improvement Program (TIP).

Comprised of representatives from a six-county region, CAMPO is charged, working in cooperation with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) and area transit operators, with developing the four-year plan, which lists projects funded with federal dollars which are consistent with the area's long-range plan.

Project funding requests had to be submitted to CAMPO by 5 p.m. Jan. 19. Technical staff from CAMPO score the projects, based on project readiness, planning factors and cost-benefit analysis. The highest-ranking projects are recommended, based on eligibility and funding availability and then hearings and a public comment period are scheduled in April to get public input on the projects before the CAMPO Transportation Policy Board, of which County Judge James Oakley is a member, gives their final decision in May.

Haley said the 10 projects submitted by Burnet County have a total cost estimate of around $107 million and, with the exception of the Wirtz Dam Road project and proposed upgrades to a section of Ranch-to-Market Road 1431, is centered around three main arteries in Burnet County — US 281, Texas 29 and Texas 71.

In all, the six counties, plus TxDOT, submitted a total of 140 project requests to CAMPO with a total estimated cost of just over $1.5 billion, including 100 roadway projects totaling nearly $1.27 billion. The average request submitted had an average price tag of about $8 million, with the highest logging in at more than $120 million and the smallest costing just under $100,000.

Haley was very complimentary of the role Oakley has played on the CAMPO Transportation Policy Board.

“The judge has done a great job of representing the constituents of Burnet County on the projects they want and something he has done really well is foster a partnership with TxDOT and CAMPO, because if we work together in that partnership, the constituents are going to win,” Haley said.

The projects

Haley said three of the projects submitted by Burnet County were also submitted by TxDOT:

* US 281, from Park Road 4 south of Burnet to RM 1855 north of Marble Falls, add a continuous left turn lane and paved shoulders, $14,640,000.

* Texas 29 from the Longhorn railroad tracks east of Burnet to RM 243 North in Bertram, add a continuous left turn lane and paved shoulders, $12,077,000.

* Texas 29 from RM 243 North in Bertram to Williamson County line, add a continuous left turn lane and paved shoulders, $5,854,000.

“TxDOT also wrote a letter of support co-sponsoring many of the projects we submitted, especially the ones they felt were necessary,” Oakley said. “It wasn't all of the projects we submitted, but it was a large number of them.

“We work very closely with TxDOT to be in good synchronization of asking what they felt were good projects and would advance through the process,” Oakley added. “We're asking for very responsible projects which are based primarily on safety enhancements and not wishful thinking. It is ironic that we are lobbying for safety enhancements to TxDOT infrastructure, as it seems like they should take care of that themselves, but if they need our help to get at some of these federal dollars for the funding process, then so be it.

“Not only are we asking for what TxDOT wants, but we are seeking what the citizens want, and they were very loud and clear (last year at commissioners court) on Highway 29,” Oakley continued. “They are very loud and clear on 281 and they are very loud and clear on 71, so here we are.”

Other projects submitted include:

* Wirtz Dam Road from RM 2147 near Cottonwood Shores to RM 1431 east of Granite Shoals, construct a new road and bridge below Wirtz Dam, $18.6 million. This project received more than 80 percent approval rating from the public following information meetings last year.

“Wirtz Dam is a unique scenario, because it is not on the TxDOT system,” Oakley said. “Because it is not on the TxDOT system, they are unable, by their rules, to be a co-sponsor on it, but I can share with you they are enthusiastic about the project. It's just a fine print thing that they are unable to co-sponsor the project because it is not currently on the TxDOT system.”

* RM 1431 from The Manzano Mile, 4.9 miles east, to east of Sycamore Creek, realign segments of the highway and add paved shoulders, $19,274,000.

“Parts of 1431 have gotten what I call 'the treatment,' so this is identifying a section which needs the treatment as well,” Oakley said. “That is not comprehensive to all that road's needs. There are other sections which need it as well, but given its proximity to Marble Falls and the traffic incurred by Faith Academy, as well as some developments out that way, this was identified as a palatable project to chew on right now.”

* Intersection of US 281 and RM 1431, intersection improvements to right turns and traffic signal improvements, $4.37 milion.

“You have a sharper than 90 degree turn if you are going northbound on 281 and want to go east on 1431, and that becomes problematic for big trucks or tractor-trailers,” Oakley said. “That needs a complete overhaul with substantial right-of-way acquisition to make that work.”

* US 281 from Texas 71 south of Marble Falls to Blanco County line, add a continuous left turn lane and paved shoulders, $6,381,000.

“Part of this is what is called bringing it up to current design standards,” Haley said. “That four-lane out there is what is known as a 'four-lane poor-boy.' There are four lanes, but there are no shoulders or turn lane, so we are just trying to get everything on these priority corridors up to current design standards.”

“If that (Asphalt Inc.) rock crusher comes to fruition, we will be working with them on intersection requirements at the confluence of their intersection of Highway 281 and County Road 403 to try to make that as safe as possible access and to make that access part of an intersection that has traffic controls,” Oakley added.

* Texas 71 from US 281 south of Marble Falls to Spur 191 in Spicewood, add a continuous left turn lane and paved shoulders, $15,873,000.

* Texas 81 from Spur 181 in Spicewood east to the Blanco County line, add a continuous left turn lane and paved shoulders, $11,035,000.

“We submitted 71 in two separate application in order to hopefully increase our chances of getting some work done,” Haley said. “We submitted from 281 to Spicewood and from Spicewood to the county line. We are hoping that will improve our probability of success, but especially wanted to focus on that area west of Spicewood, where they are seeing real heavy development right now.”

“Right now the profile that has had the treatment stops at the Pedernales River coming from the east,” Oakley said. “Travis County has been successful in their pressuring to get that going from the Pedernales River to the Travis County line, but commuters don't know where county lines are; they just know the roads they drive, so we are advocating taking that same profile and carrying it all the way through to Highway 281 through Spicewood.

“Some of that has been done, so this is to pick up the pieces where it hasn't been done. There is a little bit of alignment work that needs to be done right at the Blanco County line, but the low-water crossings, when they were improved several years ago, already were widened in anticipation of going to that bigger footprint.”

“There is about a mile and a half stretch on 71 just west of Spicewood that is a really intense commercial and heavy commercial area, where we have a quarry and two asphalt batch plants and a brand new subdivision as well, Spicewood Trails, which has more than 200 lots out there,” said Precinct 4 Commissioner Joe Don Dockery.

* US 281 from Lantana Drive to Nature Heights Drive in Marble Falls, add concrete curb and gutter and sidewalks along each side, $1,265,000.

Going north in future?

Oakley said the county reached out to Burnet, but they did not suggest any other projects besides what had been identified already. However, Oakley said future TIP funding requests could include reworking 281 north of Burnet to Lampasas to a full four-lane highway with shoulders and a center turn lane. Recently, TxDOT restructured 281 north of Burnet into a “Super 2” highway with alternating passing lanes.

“It just wasn't in the mix at this time (to include 281 north of Burnet),” Oakley said. “I'm not supportive of the Super 2 concept either. I'm on record that I do not think that is a solution.”

“I think this would be a great opportunity if we can get some of these higher priority projects now, then in two years or four years, we can start moving our focus north and continue this progress,” Haley added.

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