A non-binding, new county transportation plan adopted by Burnet County commissioners Tuesday, Jan. 12, calls for development of not one, but two new bridge crossings over the Colorado River to help relieve traffic congestion and improve emergency response time.
The Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) developed the 2020 Burnet County Transportation Plan at Burnet County’s request to update a similar one drafted a decade ago and to focus one future growth and mobility needs for the county.
“The improvements will bring benefit to residents and travelers in Burnet County through savings in time and miles traveled,” the plan states. “These transportation improvements can help provide greater and more efficient connections for communities to key service providers and essential retailers, such as grocery stores and health clinics.
“Perhaps most importantly, these improvements will also enhance the safety of the roadway network and better facilitate emergency response. These roadway recommendations help advance the goals of this plan by supporting mobility, quality of life, and the economic success of Burnet County.”
On the west end of Burnet County, the plan recommends construction of the Wirtz Dam Bridge to connect the cities of Horseshoe Bay and Cottonwood Shores to Ranch to Market Road 1431 via South Writz Dam Road (Spur 2147) and North Wirtz Dam Road (County Road 426). Funding has already been granted to TxDOT to perform engineering studies for this project, which is part of the Regional Transportation Improvement Plan.
On the east end, there would be a new, high-functioning arterial roadway The Narrows extension — that would extend north from the intersection of County Road 406 and Texas 71, cross the river at the portion known as “The Narrows,” and continue along RM 344 to RM 1431 at Smithwick.
According to CAMPO, Burnet County currently has more than 2,258,000 vehicle miles traveled daily by drivers in Burnet County, who spend more than 51,000 hours a day traveling on the 848 network lane-miles of road within the county.
If there are no improvements made to the system, those numbers will climb to 3,405,000 vehicle miles traveled and 63,000 vehicle hours traveled by 2045 because the county’s population is expected to grow by 115 percent to 94,000 in the next 25 years.
“The arterial system is underperforming because it lacks the necessary connectivity and redundancy for efficient transportation,” the plan states. “There are also many environmental constraints that make roadway network expansions infeasible or cost-prohibitive.
“Most importantly, high crash rates were found on many of the primary transportation routes within the county, including significant portions of US 281 and RM 1431. This existing conditions analysis found that focusing on safety improvements for these roadways can provide substantial gains in safety for the county as a whole.”
Building the new bridge crossings as well as performing upgrades to change portions of US 281, US 183, Texas 71, Texas 29 and RM 1431 to four- or six-lane divided highways will create 315 new lane-miles of road and result in a reduction of 5,000 vehicle miles traveled and 900 vehicle hours traveled.
Also, the plan notes that several areas of Burnet County have Emergency Medical Services (EMS) response times which are greater than the identified county average goal of 11 minutes without traffic delays.
For example, RM 1431 east of Marble Falls has one of the highest crash rates in Burnet County and has an emergency response time greater than 11 minutes and it is believed emergency response time could be improved by enhancing the road’s efficiency and making connections to Texas 71 via new river crossings.
“These areas have inadequate response times due to poor road connectivity, barriers like the Colorado River, and traffic congestion especially on arterials,” the plan states. “Enhanced network connectivity can improve travel times and reduce the size of the emergency response challenge zones.
“New and improved connections can decrease travel times and reduce the size of the emergency response challenge zones. However, new arterials and increased capacity may not always be the most effective ways to serve these areas. Additional emergency response infrastructure could also help close the gaps.”
Other identified improvements in the plan include the following:
• Blanco County line to RM 2147: from four-lane undivided major arterial to six-lane divided regional connector.
• RM 2147 to Mission Hills: from four-lane undivided major arterial to four-lane divided major arterial.
• Mission Hills to County Road 340 Extension: from four-lane undivided major arterial to six-lane divided re-connector.
• County Road 340 Extension to Old San Saba/Green Mile: from two- to four-lane undivided major arterial to four-lane divided major arterial.
• Old San Saba/Green Mile to Lampasas County Line: from four lane undivided major arterial to four-lane divided regional connector.
• Williamson County Line to Lampasas County Line: from two-lane undivided major arterial to four-lane divided regional connector.
• Llano County Line to US 281: from two-lane undivided minor arterial to four-lane divided regional connector.
• US 281 to Travis County Line: from four-lane undivided major arterial to six-lane divided regional connector.
• Llano County Line to RM 2341: from four-lane undivided minor arterial to four-lane divided regional connector.
• RM 2341 to Hill Street: from four-lane undivided minor arterial to four-lane divided regional connector.
• Hill Street to Williamson County Line: from fourlane undivided major arterial to six-lane divided regional connector.
• Llano County Line to US 281: from four-lane undivided major collector to four-lane divided regional connector.
• US 281 to Travis County Line: from two- to four-lane undivided major collector to six-lane divided regional connector.