By LYNETTE HAALAND
Four Points News
The proposed $18 million bypass connector road project slated to improve Four Points traffic congestion along RM 620 and RM 2222 could be ready to for construction bids as early as summer 2018 for a possible completion by mid to late 2019, according to the Texas Department of Transportation.
“This project could go to bid by the summer of 2018… this is our best guess at this point,” said Bruce Byron, TxDOT project manager. “Construction… should take somewhere between 12 and 18 months before they’re finished.”
Byron gave updates on the status of the RM 620/ RM 2222 bypass plans at the Community Transportation Meeting last week hosted by the Steiner Ranch Neighborhood Association. More than 350 people attended the Jan. 25 meeting at Canyon Ridge Middle School.
Elected officials — Texas Rep. Paul Workman (HD-47), Brigid Shea, Travis County Commissioner Precinct 2, and Jimmy Flannigan, Austin City Councilman District 6 — also gave updates at the meeting on how they are working to help get these improvements made.
Brian Thompto, SRNA chairman, helped organize the Community Transportation Meeting.
“What is important here is that we get engaged as a broader community,” Thompto said. “We’re going to have to stand together and make sure our voices are heard, as you know we have very real issues out here with traffic.”
TxDOT’s Byron has been studying the Four Points traffic issues for some time.
“We understand the grief you’re suffering. We understand the misery you’re putting yourself through everyday trying to get anywhere in town,” he said.
The proposed bypass connector road is an example of cooperative efforts across city, county and state departments.
Bypass connector road
The bypass would create a new road that would run along transmission lines between RM 620 and RM 2222. The project also adds three new traffic signal lights, more lanes and raised concrete medians along RM 620 and RM 2222 — all to help alleviate current and projected gridlock traffic situations.
“Our modeling has shown this will provide a tremendous amount of relief to this intersection, because what it does effectively is split the traffic coming from the north and the traffic from the south and allows better green times to merge and get past this bottleneck we currently have,” Byron said.
The bypass construction is composed of two projects that will be constructed simultaneously.
Project 1 is RM 2222 lane additions from Ribelin Ranch Road to the intersection of RM 620. These changes will include intersection improvements at River Place Boulevard and RM 2222.
“The major improvement we’ll have is two left turn lanes on both sides and they’ll be able to turn simultaneously. This reduces the amount of green time allocated, giving more green for the through traffic,” Byron said.
Plans also include raised concrete medians and designated turn lanes along much of RM 2222 from RM 620 to McNeil Drive.
Project 2 is creating the actual bypass connector road which will be two lanes both westbound and eastbound and new signal lights at these intersections with RM 2222 and RM 620. It includes adding an additional lane along RM 620 from Steiner Ranch Boulevard to the new connector road.
Also there will be raised medians along RM 620 in these road improvements from Steiner to the bypass road. The most expeditious way to get the extra eastbound lane will be to take the existing middle lane.
“There’s a long stretch in there that has the middle turn lane and there is no where to turn left, so we’re going to use that and squeeze that and still maintain a 5- to 8- foot shoulder on both sides for breakdowns and bicycles, but it allows us to get that additional eastbound lane,” Byron said.
The raised medians and designated turn areas will help drivers avoid dashing from one side of the street to the other, or using the middle lane as a landing place until they can merge, Byron said. Those two scenarios cause a lot of crashes.
“There are environmental concerns in this tract of land we have to take into consideration so we can properly handle any environmental concerns,” Byron said. He said if they do not take the appropriate amount of time on this and do it properly, a potential lawsuit could hold things up even longer.
To create changes in Texas roadways, TxDOT has legal obligations to go through and environmental studies, which seem to take a long time but that is the law, he said.
“Unfortunately transportation development takes a long time. I often compare transportation years to dog years. It’s unfortunate but it’s part of the process,” Byron said.
Once the project is past the environmental stage, then acquiring the right of way and relocating utilities is scheduled to take place. The project is estimated to go out for bid in summer 2018 and take another year or so to finish construction.
Additional RM 620 plans
In addition to the bypass, TxDOT previewed the next round of RM 620 improvements from Mansfield Dam to US 183 and discussed the possibilities of a boulevard and express lanes and the possibility elevating lanes in the long term plans. (Four Points News will update this in a future article.)
Also at the meeting, David Greear, Travis County Engineering Division manager, detailed plans to add the traffic light to RM 620 and Steiner Ranch Boulevard this summer. He shared that some paving will be done in Steiner over the summer and that the pedestrian hybrid beacon light has been waiting for Austin Energy to connect it to electricity.
SRNA is seeking feedback from this meeting and these transportation topics. To watch the meeting video and to give feedback, go to: steinerranchna.org/feedback