Burnet County took another step towards the creation of a new bridge crossing over the Colorado River when commissioners approved a contract with KC Engineering for planning, surveying and engineering the Wirtz Dam Road project during Tuesday’s regular meeting.
“This is yet another monumental baby step for Burnet County in the development of the new Wirtz Dam Road crossing,” County Judge James Oakley said.
“This is certainly a historic day and we are extremely glad to be a part of the process,” said Greg Haley of KC Engineering. “As thrilled as are, the credit for this must go to Judge Oakley. He has been a champion of this project for as long as any of us can remember and has spent tireless time behind the scenes with CAMPO (Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization) and other groups to get us to this point. Kudos go to him for this effort, because without him, we wouldn’t be here right now.”
KC Engineering was one of three firms that had been approved by commissioners to provide consulting engineering services to the county earlier this year and, in May, the county chose Haley’s firm, which is located in Marble Falls, to work on the new crossing that would link Ranch to Market Road 1431 with RM 2147.
The $2,308,350 contract signed Tuesday by Burnet County and KC Engineering will pay for surveying, environmental, geotechnical, structural, illumination and engineering for the Wirtz Dam Road project. This includes route and design studies; social, economic and environmental studies and public involvement; right of way data; field surveying and photgrammetry; roadway design controls (computations and drafting); drainage; signing, pavement marking and signalization; bridge design; management and other miscellaneous roadway engineering expenses.
Haley said the process to produce final construction plans for the crossing should take about two years and a “tremendous amount of work.”
“First off, we will be having a meeting with LCRA, PEC and other stakeholders about the crossing and we will be coordinating extensively with the Burnet TxDOT (Texas Department of Transportation) area office,” Haley said. “We will do a design concept conference where we will discuss roadway layout and determine all specific highway and bridge criteria for design and make sure we are all on the same page.
“Once that is done, we will take a look at the corridor. There is no alignment set specifically yet, so we will look at corridor options and come up with several options. That process will certainly involve the public with public meetings and we will take public comments. Once we have our alignment options up, we will then take all of those opinions and comments and evaluate them to determine how to proceed.”
Haley said an environmental assessment will be done to determine the impact to endangered and threatened species in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
“We will then develop a schematic for TxDOT to review and approve and then we can start working on construction plans and right-of-way review,” Haley said. “The county will be involved in helping acquire all the necessary right-of-way for the crossing and roadway. We will then be submitting construction plans at 30, 60 and 90 percent completion and TxDOT will be in the loop each step of the way to make sure everything is done right.”
Haley worked for 13 years as an area engineer in the Burnet office and was also involved in the project to build the Ranch-to-Market Road 620 bridge crossing below Mansfield Dam in Travis County.
In February, Burnet County commissioners approved the final version of an advanced funding agreement, or AFA, between the county and the Texas Department of Transportation that will allow the county to pay — and be reimbursed for — the preliminary engineering and environmental studies for the bridge crossing.
The AFA was the result of 14 months worth of negotiation between the county and TxDOT in an effort to get the ball rolling on a transportation project that has been under consideration for more than 40 years.
In 2019, Burnet County approved the issuance of $2.5 million in tax anticipation notes to fund infrastructure improvements throughout the county. Included in that amount was $425,000 to finance a portion of the upfront payments on planning, surveying and engineering for the new Wirtz Dam Road bridge crossing to help speed up work on the project.
The money TxDOT will use to reimburse the county was already added to the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization’s 2019-2022 Transportation Improvement Plan and approved by the Texas Transportation Commission in 2018.
Oakley previously has said issuing the tax notes let the county set aside several months funding to pay upfront engineering costs and, because that money will be reimbursed by TxDOT, it can later be earmarked and used to fund other transportation-based improvements within the county.