By CASSIE MCKEE, Four Points News
A $650,000 feasibility study launched by the Texas Department of Transportation earlier this year will be taking a closer look at each section of RM 620 and discussing all possible improvement options with the community members who live and work along the congested roadway.
The study will focus on the 18.8-mile segment from SH 71W to US 183N by breaking the roadway into six sections and evaluating each section individually.
To gather input, TxDOT officials will choose a selection of people from each of the six areas who represent a cross-section of the community and will work with them over the course of the project. They plan to work with smaller groups such as neighborhood associations and chambers of commerce rather than hosting larger, town hall-style meetings.
“It will be small group-based instead of a large open house,” Byron said. “Small groups are much more productive as far as good feedback.”
Byron said they have already begun preliminary discussions with members of the Steiner Ranch Neighborhood Association. SRNA Chairman Brian Thompto said this is a unique opportunity for residents to directly influence the set of options that will be considered for 620.
“I encourage anyone who would like to be involved to register at our website: steinerranchna.org,” Thompto said. “SRNA is very excited about this study since it will give us a chance, as a community, to look at the data and find solutions that will be aligned with our long-term needs.”
Thompto said the area is in desperate need of smart planning that recognizes future growth and puts in place significant solutions and the required timeline and steps needed to achieve them.
“We also anticipate that this study may provide some limited near-term incremental solutions that can be implemented very quickly at pinch points like Anderson Mill, and will reinforce the need for the planned expansion of 2222 and the reconfiguration of the 620 intersection,” Thompto said.
One objective of the feasibility study is to see if it backs up the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization’s 2025 Plan, which envisions RM 620 as eventually becoming a six-lane divided roadway. That plan is not set in stone, according to Chris Bishop, public information officer with TxDOT.
“That is based on the growth and population and traffic that is predicted,” Bishop said. “That is what (CAMPO) believes will be needed in an area. It is not marching orders.”
The feasibility study will play an important role because it may determine whether another option may work better. Those suggestions could then be taken back to CAMPO.
“(CAMPO) is painting with a broad brush and we’re looking much more specifically at what’s needed,” Bishop said.
Over the course of the study, all possible options will be discussed, from doing nothing to doing as much as possible within the limited right-of-way. Possible options include intersection improvements, constructing new overpasses and extending the SH 45 toll road further south.
“All those have different implications and we will spell them out as clearly as we can,” Byron said.
Byron said he expects the study to wrap up in early 2016, depending on how much community engagement there is.
“It’ll take as much time as it takes for the public to be informed on what their options are,” he said.
Once that phase of the study ends, Byron said TxDOT hopes to gain a consensus with each of the local governments as to what the short-term and long-term projects would be.
“Then, it’s a matter of getting together and figuring out how we would fund those projects,” Byron said.
For now though, Byron said the goal is to make sure the public is well informed.
“At the end of the day, the public will have a clearly-defined list of options and what their impacts would be,” he said.