By LYNETTE HAALAND, Four Points News
Texas Department of Transportation revealed pla
ns for proposed traffic relief in Four Points at the Steiner Ranch Neighborhood Association annual meeting last week.
“We are well aware of what’s going on out here and about the congestion,” said Mark Jones, Georgetown area engineer with TxDOT. “We are developing ideas about what we can do.”
TxDOT has mapped and modeled an auxiliary connector road and additional through lanes to move more traffic where current bottlenecks are located. These concepts could cost more than an estimated $4o million and could take up to five years to complete, if funding is earmarked and plans go smoothly, said Greg Malatek, Austin district engineer with TxDOT.
With the proposed connector road, Jones said there would be a estimated decrease in delays in Four Points traffic of 65 percent by the year 2020.
“No money is set aside for this. If we want it done, we need support from TxDOT, the city and the county to get it done,” said Brian Thompto, chairman of the SRNA.
More than 250 people from the community attended the SRNA meeting on May 28 where many topics were covered, with the most anticipated being TxDOT’s proposed changes to roadways in Four Points.
TxDOT’s presentation focused on two main areas — the intersections at RM 620 and RM 2222 and RM 2222 and McNeil Drive, which leads to Vandegrift High School and Four Points Middle School.
Vehicles per day
- 48,600 @ RM 620 (south of RM 2222, same stretch as Boathouse Grill)
- 38,400 @ RM 2222 (east of RM 620, same stretch as Target)
- 43,500 @ RM 2222 (east of River Place, same stretch as 3M)
The maximum hourly vehicle volume of these three spots ranges from 3,900 to 3,200 to 3,700 respectively. These volumes have gone up since Four Points News reported on this topic last fall.
Proposed connector road
The proposed connector road would split traffic at RM 620/RM 2222 into two separate intersections, thereby reducing congestion.
It would “cut the corner” between northbound RM 620 and eastbound RM 2222, similar to the way Bee Cave Parkway connects Bee Cave Road and RM 620 at the Hill Country Galleria.
This bypass from RM 620 to RM 2222 would start near the High Pointe Shopping Village sign and run adjacent to the power lines and emerge east of Cooke’s Automotive. There would be added traffic signals at both spots.
“It is important to point out that these would not be full-purpose lights but their only purpose would be to allow the bypass traffic,” Thompto said.
Additional through lanes
Two additional lanes would be added onto RM 2222, one in each direction feeding this new connector road. These added lanes would go through McNeil Drive and start/stop at the top of Tumbleweed Hill.
TxDOT also has a dual left-turn project pending at McNeil Drive that has been in the works for some time.
TxDOT’s plans also call for adding an additional lane northbound from Steiner Ranch Boulevard to the proposed connector road south of BBQ Outfitters by the High Pointe Shopping Village sign.
“The additional lane from Steiner Ranch Blvd would be done by realigning traffic on the existing roadway, mainly removing the center lane since it is not utilized during that stretch,” Thompto said.
With these changes, morning peak traffic delays per vehicle would be cut nearly in half at the RM 620/RM 2222 intersection, by two thirds at the RM 2222/River Place Boulevard intersection, and by nearly three fourths at the RM 2222/McNeil Drive intersection. Similar results are projected to happen at evening peak traffic times.
The road construction itself would cost an estimated $20 million but that does not include right-of-ways, which could cost another $20 million, TxDOT’s Malatek said.
Thompto said that TxDOT has these plans for Four Points in its pipeline but does not have the money to do this on its own.
“TxDOT would need to partner with the county and the city… all helping to fund this together,” he said.
“We’ve not laid out the numbers with the City of Austin or Travis County yet but they’ve been very receptive (of the ideas),” Malatek said.
“The earliest we could do this is three to four years, if everything comes together,” he added.
TxDOT will try to go ahead with the environmental study part of the project, Thompto said.
Steiner Ranch Blvd./620 options
In addition to the TxDOT plan, Travis County is working on another plan that will help improve traffic flow in the area. The county is studying improvement options for better egress or entering and exiting to and from Steiner Ranch Boulevard and RM 620.
Travis County is evaluating a Steiner Ranch Boulevard extension northward to allow for a signal. A distance of 1,000 feet is required from one signal to the next, and Comanche Trail’s signal is not 1,000 feet from Steiner Ranch Boulevard as it sits now, said Steven Manilla, Travis County executive, who presented this option at last week’s SRNA meeting.
For years, another consideration has been to connect Comanche Trail with Steiner Boulevard but Travis County studies reveal the “engineering is difficult due to the (steep) grade,” Manilla said.
Up until now
SRNA has worked over the past two years with TxDOT to get a specific solution on the table to relieve traffic pressures.
Other options have been considered by TxDOT like more right-of-ways “but we have to be feasible too and be mindful of the environment,” Jones said. Grade separation has been another costly consideration.
Over the past year or so, TxDOT has made some improvements including syncing signal lights and finishing the dual right-turn lane at RM 620/RM 222.
TxDOT originally planned for 470-foot long double turn lanes, but then shortened it to 320 feet after businesses at the intersection complained to TxDOT their roadway access in and out of RM 620 could be reduced. The agency agreed, shortening the lanes to a point before the driveway entrance.
The dual right-turn lane construction was “not to the original specifications but I can say that TxDOT has taken that scenario and is doing something more significant,” Thompto said.
“TxDOT has given us some short term fixes but they know major fixes are needed at 620 and 2222,” said Thompto.
Up next, Rally support
TxDOT’s plans have conceptual support from the City of Austin and Travis County. Now public support and funding are needed, Thompto said.
“We need to rally political support next. It is critical to petition elected officials for financial support for this project,” Thompto said.
SRNA has plans to update these concepts at future meetings involving River Place and Grandview Hills.