By MIKE BEAL, Steiner Ranch Resident
I guess I hit the point where I needed to vent, and in talking to friends and neighbors, it appears I’m not alone. It seems like every time I read a Four Points traffic article I get more and more discouraged. Here are some reasons why:
1) A year to get the “bird people” to approve any construction that would provide some relief. When did a bird that lives here for four months out of the year become more important than our kids safety… only in Austin. Maybe the bumper sticker should read ‘Keep Austin Weird and Stupid’.
2) Proposals that will increase our property taxes that may be on the ballot in November that may be in the works two-three years out and are currently ‘waitlisted’… glad we are fast tracking. Please note that this is not a dig on the folks working very hard trying to push this boulder up the bureaucratic mountain… once again our fine government at work… or maybe not at work.
3) A proposed new light on 620 and Steiner Ranch Blvd that is approximately 300 feet from the existing light on Comanche Trail. If this was really in the plan before the bank went in, then we are trying to accommodate the half of 1 percent of people wanting to take a left turn and are too lazy to exit Quinlan Park Road…so let’s penalize the 100 percent of folks on 620… really?
4) A bypass proposal that is a seven iron from the 2222 corner and still dumps everyone out above the 2222/McNeil choke point and it’s going to add more lights…ugh. And I’m supposed to believe that all these new lights can be timed… we can’t time the ones we have! Furthermore, does it really matter what the lights are doing if you are sitting still?
The “current situation” for those of you who have only been here for a day looks something like this: In one week, I witnessed eight accidents, at least two involving a VHS student. On the way to VHS, you have some of the 620 westbound traffic (coming from direction of Rudy’s) going through the light at 2222 in order to turn ‘left’, across traffic, into the Wells Fargo lot and then cut through the parking lot and merge back onto 2222 behind Walgreens. You have the eastbound traffic (coming from Steiner Ranch) on 620 going through the light in the other direction in order to turn right into H-E-B, then weave their way through the parking lots to exit the Target parking lot where they have to make a left turn to get back in, not safe with the north bound traffic flying by. Some very creative kids just use the apt gate code and make their own bypass road… sorry kids, probably ruined that one for you. Anyway it’s like a big glob of spaghetti on that corner with accidents happening almost daily when school is in session.
I know, don’t complain without having a solution, right? So how about this – maybe the bureaucrats, politicians, and “bird people”, who are delaying any progress on this issue, should have to drive my kid to and from school each day until it gets fixed. I wonder what “fast track” would look like then. Btw, when the 4:05 p.m. bell rings at VHS it is like the floodgates have opened with all the students ‘sprinting’ to their cars so they can get in line and still wait 45 minutes to exit the parking lot. They run faster to their cars then they do on the football field. I’m concerned that this situation is an accident waiting to happen as well. Sorry I digress, but it makes the point for a much needed second entry/exit to VHS, which leads me to my real proposal to be considered.
OK I’ll try to be serious for minute. I would really like the powers-that-be to evaluate a second entry/exit to VHS that would extend from the back side of the VHS campus to the corner near the 3M entrance, a proposed road that is only 3,500 feet long. (See Map). The benefits would be:
1) Two entry / exits to VHS to relieve the pain, and God forbid, help with any emergency situation.
2) All 620 westbound students coming to school could turn left at the existing light at Four Points Driver by McDonald’s and enter school this back way which would get all of that traffic off of the 2222 corner.
3) All River Place students would simply cross 2222 to enter the back way and they would never have to get onto 2222. Much safer and again makes for less congestion on 2222 above the “choke point” at McNeil.
4) I’m guessing that if you removed this traffic from the 2222 corner and the McNeil “choke point,” and the lights were timed accordingly, traffic would flow much better.
5) This solution adds no new lights and construction could be done without impacting any current traffic flows.
6) It is a proposed road that is only approximately 3,500 feet long.
7) It follows an existing power line cut so minimal clearing is necessary.
8) It will not inconvenience the “bird” if done after July. I’m sure the “birds” are smart enough to build a nest 20 feet to the right when they return next March, if they had one in a clearing under a power line to begin with. If they cannot figure that out, they will never survive in the wild anyway. It is amazing how this bird is protected by the extortionists… I mean environmentalists until the dollar amount of the check gets big enough, unbelievable. Just ask a 3M old timer how the VHS campus got built… it will blow your mind. Fyi, those who know me, know that I am an avid outdoorsmen, I love to hunt and fish, contribute to conservation efforts and love this planet that God gave us. I also like birds, preferably grilled with a little Montreal Steak Seasoning.
9) Cost – due to the short distance, minimal clearing, no need for new lights, and no current traffic conflicts, it would be a fraction of the proposed $25 million solution on the table that I’m not convinced will help much since it still dumps everyone out upstream of the choke point. Maybe we should smoke the skunks out of that woodpile and see what comes running out. Smells a lot like a development opportunity proposal on the taxpayers nickel vs a traffic solution proposal. I’m sure the wording on the ballot will make it look like the best thing since sliced bread, however, it is going to be hard for me to vote for anything that increases our property taxes without significant benefits. Did you know that process flow simulation software does exist? If this is really a good idea, show us the simulation. I find it hard to believe that a solution that just cuts the corner and adds two lights will actually improve the situation. I think it will be worse and we’ve then spent $25 million of taxpayer’s money with no recourse. Btw, how much money have we spent “studying” this situation for the past three plus years? One year-long study concluded “We have a traffic problem at the 2222/620 and Anderson Mill/620 intersections”. No kidding, anyone driving on 620 for more than two days could have told us that in 2.5 seconds. Maybe we should cut the study budget and throw that money into the “Get ’er done!” budget and we would all be better off with no increase in taxes!
10) Time – before school starts!!! If we rent a bulldozer and a gravel truck, we could solve this in 30 days well before school starts again and we realize that doing nothing just made the problem worse. OK so maybe we upgrade it a bit and pave it. The dozer and gravel truck is my “Get ’er done!” solution because I’m tired of hearing about and wasting taxpayer dollars on “studies” and nothing getting done.
11) 3M could give their security guard something to do other than being a traffic cop. I’m sure 3M would be a good corporate citizen and support anything that would keep the traffic off of their campus and I believe they have tried.
12) My study was free to the taxpayer and only took an hour. Not counting the hour I used to cut out the stuff my wife wouldn’t let me print… should have seen that version ☺.
As I mentioned earlier, if the bureaucrats had to drive my kid to school or if they had a kid driving in this mess, I’m sure it would be fixed before school starts and gridlock sets in again. Also, can someone please explain how our kids safety is worth less than the 1 percent chance we may make a bird build a new nest… wow.
On a final note, my fallback plan is: I’m moving the day my last kid walks across the stage, which will be just before all the construction starts on the current proposal….yea!! Have fun y’all and come visit me in some little town on a lake with no traffic.
Thanks for letting me vent and please be considerate of new student drivers as we fly down 620 at a whopping 2 mph.
Mike Beal is a concerned parent with a kid “driving in this mess”.