Momemtum building for Four Points traffic fixes

Brian Thompto

Brian Thompto

Pam Waggoner

Pam Waggoner

By LYNETTE HAALAND, Four Points News

Never before has so much momentum been built for real improvements to address traffic congestion in Four Points, but local traffic advocates Brian Thompto and Pam Waggoner want to make sure residents know how to best back the most timely initiatives currently underway. They want to maximize the traction gained last week when a local reader brought up seemingly simple traffic fixes to the traffic issues in an opinion column.

The $720 million transportation bond is one timely initiative on the table that will be on the November ballot. In the next couple of weeks, Austin City Council members will be working on the language that can determine allocations for specific projects like the multi-prong, RM 620 and RM 2222 solution that could make significant changes to improve Four Points traffic flow.

Another initiative is adding a second road to Vandegrift High School, a proposal that is awaiting approval by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Last week, Four Points News ran Mike Beal’s point of view on the opinion page about another idea about how to fix the local traffic issues that would involve a 3,500 foot road to Vandegrift.

Thompto and Waggoner said they wanted a chance to address, amplify and clarify the points made by Beal and encourage the community to get involved at this critical juncture.

Thompto is the Steiner Ranch Neighborhood Association chairman and co-founder and the West Austin Chamber of Commerce (formerly Four Points Chamber of Commerce) director of community relations and mobility.

Waggoner is the Four Points Traffic Committee founder and Leander ISD Board of Trustees vice president.

The following is their response including background and updates on the two local initiatives underway to help alleviate traffic issues in Four Points.

Traffic in Four Points is frustrating – all of us who live and work here know that and sometimes it helps to get it off our chest – see Mike Beal’s Four Points News editorial last week. Sometimes you would think that nothing was done to plan for the traffic mess we have out here, and guess what – until about four years ago – you would be right!

Creating plans
When the Steiner Ranch Neighborhood Association (SRNA) first formed in January 2012, we were seeing the mess that is Four Points traffic explode. For those that don’t remember, traffic was backed up over the Mansfield Dam daily. No one was advocating for our area and nothing was in plan – we weren’t even on the radar. The first thing we did was realize that we needed to take the bull by the horns. We started demanding big fixes while we worked on short-term issues in parallel. Within two years, by early 2014, we had a real solution with preliminary engineering completed and on the table (no studies got in the way!): the widening of 2222 and bifurcation (division into two parts) of the 620/2222 intersection being spearheaded by Texas Department of Transportation.

Around the same time Pam Waggoner, working with LISD staff and advocates in Four Points, started an initiative to add a second road to Vandegrift to relieve the acute traffic and safety issues encountered by students, parents and staff on a daily basis.

Both 620/2222 and the road to Vandegrift projects are essential – each contributing in its own way to addressing traffic and safety concerns in Four Points.

After the plans were conceived, the really hard work began. To build anything, it needs to meet federal requirements for new roads and it needs to be funded. Unfortunately, these are not overnight processes, but fortunately, we have been working hard to get this done!

620/2222 proposed fixes
The 620/2222 improvements will provide desperately needed improvements to overall traffic flow.
• With an additional lane in each directly through the choke points along 2222, we will get 50 percent more traffic flow.
• With widening of the River Place Boulevard/2222 intersection, we will get dramatically reduced light cycling by allowing concurrent left turns onto 2222.
• With the bifurcation of the intersection at 620/2222, we will allow for traffic to flow concurrently in opposing directions – because no matter where our students enter Vandegrift there is still opposing traffic which must get through the intersection. This improvement was projected by TxDOT to cut wait times by 65 percent saving almost a million hours in annual delay.

For the 620/2222 improvements, we are at a critical point. The detailed planning has proceeded since 2014 and plans should be ready to enable right of way acquisition in 2018 followed by construction. The focus now is on getting the funding in place so that the road gets built by 2019.

There should be nothing in the way of our governments doing the right thing here and getting this road built as quickly as possible.

Road to Vandegrift
The additional road to Vandegrift is a proposed, approximate 1-mile road to be built along an existing infrastructure corridor that borders the canyonlands and it would sit on a portion of the Balcones Canyonlands Conservation Plan.

It will provide an essential second access point for thousands of students and parents each day. This will address an acute safety issue – providing secondary emergency access and evacuation paths to the campus. It will also provide desperately needed relief for the traffic jams which rob our children of many hours a week just to exit the campus by providing a second egress point.

To build the second road to Vandegrift, the proposal must first be approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to amend the plan for the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve (BCCP). Many of our friends and neighbors joined arms and spoke in support of this plan to the BCCCP board back in 2014 – relaying the importance of keeping our kids safe and insisting that a solution be further explored to address this critical need.

LISD has been working on the detailed plans and is pursing plan approval with the USFWS to ensure that the project will provide a much needed solution while also being considerate of the environmental concerns in the area. The topology requires construction of a bridge and the cost of the project will not be insignificant, but funding will be a second step after first gaining approval from USFWS.

How to help
We are forming a larger coalition in Four Points which includes neighborhoods, the West Austin Chamber of Commerce (formerly Four Points Chamber), schools, businesses and others to rally support. We cannot afford for this project to be delayed due to lack of funding.

How can you help? Support the $720 million Austin City Transportation bond which should include sufficient money to get this project rolling. Anyone who thinks we don’t need to invest in transportation in Austin has been living under a rock. The good news is that the proposed bond will include over $100 million for projects like 620/2222. If you recall only a couple years ago Austin tried to float a bond with almost no money for the critical road improvements we so desperately need, so this is a huge step in the right direction and it will be the first time that significant improvements in West Austin traffic would be funded by the City of Austin. Other monies to help complete funding of the 620/2222 improvement are expected to come from a combination of county and state funding.

We will need your support in speaking up to get this support in the coming months so we can get funding secured. Watch for more on this in the Four Points News. Like the Facebook pages for West Austin Chamber of Commerce and Steiner Ranch Neighborhood Association to learn more. You can also visit To encourage the Austin City Council to include strong funding for 620/2222 in the Transportation bond – help us reach out to the council members and let your voice be heard,

On the road to Vandegrift, sometime in the coming months – hopefully by the end of 2016 – the issue will come up for public input. At that time it will be critical that we all participate and ensure that the USFWS hears the full impact and understands the “environmental impact” that not building the road will have on our students and families in Four Points. Stay tuned and “like” the Four Points Traffic Committee Facebook page for future updates.

Thank you to all 100-plus Four Points residents that supported traffic and safety in Four Points by taking the time to submit letters to CAMPO and other officials to support the 620/2222 improvements. These are the types of positive actions that have a real impact and bring the support and rhetoric to life.

If you would like to bring your voice to the dialogue, planning and strategizing to help make things happen, join us at an SRNA meeting, contact your local neighborhood or home owners association or the West Austin Chamber of Commerce. The next SRNA monthly meeting will be Tuesday, Aug. 9, at 7 p.m. at Towne Square Community Center in Steiner Ranch.

Stay tuned, and please watch for more updates on what you can do to support traffic and safety improvements in Four Points. Working together we can make these critical traffic and safety improvements a reality.