Commission okays Texas 29 fixes

From staff reports

An accident-prone stretch of Texas 29 outside Bertram in Burnet County will undergo safety improvements and upgrades, after the Texas Transportation Commission approved a 10-year state transportation plan last week.

The 2020 Unified Transportation Plan includes more than $77 billion in funding meant to improve public roadway safety and address congestion and connectivity issues throughout the state during the next decade.

Project BUC12RD will involve construction funds for Texas 29 to reconstruct to four 11-foot lane, a 12-foot continuous turn lane and 10-foot shoulders from Ranch-to-market Road 243 in Bertram to the Williamson County line. Burnet County/TxDOT are sponsoring entities, at a cost of $5,184,000.

Three other local projects included in the Texas Department of Transportation 2020 UTP are:

• Project BUC16RD, which will set aside $1.62 million for fiscal year 2021 for construction to fix the right turns and the traffic signals at the US 281 and Ranch to Market Road 1431 intersection in Marble Falls. The irregular intersection would be upgraded to include a new right turn lane and signal improvements.

Irregular intersections are frowned upon in urban planning due to safety concerns, according to the National Association of City Transportation Officials' Urban Street Design Guide.

• Project BUC14RD, Construction funds to reconstruct to four 12-foot lanes, a 14-foot continuous turn lane and 10-foot shoulders, US 281 south of Texas 71 to the Blanco County line, Burnet County/TxDOT are sponsoring entities, at a cost of $5,616,000.

• Project BUC20RD, Reconstruct to four 12-foot lanes, a 14-foot continuous turn lane and 10-foot shoulders, Texas 71 from Spur 191 in Spicewood east to the Blanco County line, Burnet County/TxDOT are sponsoring entities, at a cost of $9,720,000.

All four projects are also included in the CAMPO Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP) for 2019-2022, which was approved in 2018.

Burnet County Judge James Oakley, a member of the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization's Transportation Policy Board, said including the four Burnet and Blanco county area projects into the UTP was both anticipated and appreciated.

“We are excited that all of those projects are in (the UTP) but it is just one step of the process,” Oakley said. “These projects address the most eastern portions of Highways 29 and 71 to make them continuous with the highway footprint as it is off to the east (in Williamson and Travis counties).

“We will be more excited once they include the next step, which would be to make improvements to 29 from Bertram to Burnet, as this is where the majority of accidents have happened, and to 71 from Spicewood to 281, as this is where we have a number of rock quarries with heavy truck traffic on the roadway. What was approved is good, but it sets the stage for where heart of the problem actually is.”

The UTP contains more than $4 billion for safety improvements, including an extra $600 million for the next two years to help accelerate even more safety measures in an effort to reduce crashes and eliminate fatalities from our roadways by 2050.

Many of these improvements will widen roads; improve median barriers and bridges; upgrade guardrails; provide intersection improvements, such as upgraded traffic signals and signage; and make safety improvements for bicyclists and pedestrians.

“TxDOT is committed to reducing congestion and improving mobility and safety in Texas as evidenced by the agency’s largest 10-year plan to date,” said Texas Transportation Commission chairman J. Bruce Bugg Jr.

“Additionally, we keep making progress in addressing congestion in our busiest parts of the state through our Texas Clear Lanes initiative, which addresses congestion in top chokepoints in our largest metro areas.”

Projects are selected based on how effective the projects are in addressing areas such as pavement condition, safety, capacity and rural connectivity. Projects are chosen collaboratively by TxDOT and local transportation leaders, such as CAMPO, with ultimate approval by the Texas Transportation Commission with input from the public.

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