CAMPO: Wirtz Dam Crossing recommended

Alexandria Randolph/Burnet Bulletin

A new crossing below Wirtz Dam between Lake LBJ and Lake Marble Falls has been recommended in the new Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization Transportation improvement Plan.

By Lew K. Cohn

Managing Editor

The Highlander

A new bridge crossing at Wirtz Dam Road has been recommended to receive nearly $3 million in funding for engineering costs in the proposed 2019-2022 Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization's Transportation Improvement Plan.

The CAMPO Technical Advisory Committee was scheduled to meet at 2 p.m. Monday, March 26, to hear the recommendations of CAMPO technical staff and to review a draft list of recommended projects from the region, which is comprised of Burnet, Blano, Travis, Williamson, Hays and Caldwell counties.

Technical staff from CAMPO reviewed 57 submitted projects with an estimated cost of more than $1 billion and scored them based on project readiness, planning factors and cost-benefit analysis to create a “recommended” project list. The average request submitted to CAMPO 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.

The bridge was not the only Burnet County project to have made the recommended list. Also included are plans to add center turn lanes to sections of US 281, Texas 29 and Texas 71 as well as a project to add curbs and gutters, shoulders and sidewalks to a section of US 281 from Lantana Drive to Nature Heights Drive in Marble Falls.

“I am very pleased that the recommended project funding list includes safety improvements to Highways 29, 71 and 281 and I am very excited that it includes engineering money for the long sought-after bridge below Wirtz Dam to connect 2147 to 1431,” said Burnet County Judge James Oakley, a member of the CAMPO Transportation Policy Board. “This engineering funds set a clear path for the construction of this new artery in our regional transportation system.

“Now that these funds have been recommended, I look forward to voting for funding these projects at the May CAMPO meeting. I am excited we are getting the ball rolling.”

Burnet County officials have been pushing for a new bridge crossing below the Wirtz Dam to connect Ranch to Market Road 1431 to RM 2147 for more than 40 years, but while the project has been a part of the Burnet County Transportation Plan since 1974, it really started to gain traction two years ago when CAMPO held public meetings and conducted surveys to gauge support for a new crossing.

More than 85 percent of Wirtz Dam Community Outreach survey respondents indicated they believed a new bridge crossing at Wirtz Dam road would be “beneficial” or “very beneficial.” CAMPO officials have praised the outreach done to inform the community about the project and it appears that outreach may have helped raise project visibility.

The total cost to perform engineering, right-of-way acquisition and construction of the new bridge crossing is expected to exceed $20 million.

The CAMPO Transportation Policy Board will vote on the recommended list at their May monthly meeting and will forward the approved list to the Texas Transportation Commission, which will then consider it for approval at their August meeting. It is anticipated the commission would approve CAMPO's project list.

Because federal highway dollars are used to fund transportation projects on the list, it would then go to the Federal Highway Administration for final approval. Once the project list is approved by the FHA, the Texas Department of Transportation can begin advertising for requests for qualifications (RFQ) for consulting engineers for the project.

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