Are roadway plans forcing out small businesses along 2222?

During the upcoming roadway improvements, a raised center median with turn bays will be added along RM 2222 to control turning movements to local businesses and minimize disruptions to through-traffic, according to Texas Department of Transportation documents. Source TxDOT

Proposed medians may hinder the ability for some local shop owners to earn a living

By LESLEE BASSMAN, Four Points News

Skot Ingram, owner of Skotz Inc., a welding company that fronts RM 2222 near RM 620 in Austin, said he remembers when his shop was the first building in Four Points. That was in 1967. Now, Ingram said a proposed roadway project along RM 2222 set to be complete in 2019 will render his company ineffective, forcing him to move to a new location outside city boundaries and beyond the reach of Austin bureaucracy.

“We’ve been here for 50 years,” he said. “I’m sort of the old-timer out here. The first concrete (of the Skotz building) I poured myself. Bobby Ray’s Texaco was on the corner. Mr. Little’s Gulf (gas station) was across the street. I was the biggest building (in Four Points) until 3M came in. (RM) 620 was a two-lane road.”

Access at issue

The proposed $18 million Texas Department of Transportation bypass project includes widening RM 2222 at points from Bonaventure Boulevard to Ribelin Ranch Drive; adding a connector road on RM 620 from just north of Steiner Ranch Road to RM 2222 near Heritage Body and Frame that allows traffic to ‘bypass’ the RM 2222 at RM 620 intersection; and constructing center turn lanes and medians down RM 2222 within the project limits.

However, Ingram said trucks carrying his metal products — including materials 125-feet long and/or eight feet in diameter — to customers won’t be able to make the turn out of his building site if a median is placed on the road fronting his shop.

“We deal in real large stuff,” he said. “Most people have no clue what we build here. (TxDOT) is taking a five-lane road, putting a divider down the middle of it to help traffic out and we can’t move our product out of here anymore. So, we’re being displaced by this road.”

An 18-wheeler truck would not be able to make the turn into and out of the site, said Richard Smith, Skotz manager.

TxDOT negotiated with Ingram to pay part of the cost to relocate his company but he said that offer does not compensate him for the potential loss of customers he has developed over five decades as well as finding a new site that can accommodate his business.

“I’ve got industrial zoning, so that’s a big deal,” Ingram said of his more than one acre-sized property. “I’ve got 100 percent impervious cover, so that’s a big deal. And highway traffic. And now go find that somewhere else?”

Austin and other cities have impervious cover restrictions that dictate how much of a citizen’s property can be built on.

Ingram said he had to fight with government officials for his site’s industrial zoning back when Skotz Inc. was created and has been doing the same with city staffers over the past few months regarding the proposed medians within the bypass project.  

“Not in Austin, not in Austin, not in Austin,” Ingram said of where he intends to set up his welding operations next. “It took me seven-and-a-half months to get zoning for being what I am and I was here before most of the people. And I fought and I got it. That was years ago. This is another brick wall.”

Median breaks

The proposed median runs from RM 620 to McNeil Drive, with breaks at Target/Bell Four Points, Alicante Townhomes, the RM 2222 bypass, Bonaventure Drive, River Place Boulevard, Sitio Del Rio Boulevard and McNeil, TxDOT Public Information Officer Christopher Bishop said.

  1. J. Bartosh, president of Alicante Townhomes Homeowners Association, said the planned median does not directly affect the residents in his 154-unit townhome complex because a median break or left-turn access is proposed for the median portion directly in front of the site’s entrance at 11203 RM 2222. However, he said the same is not true for other establishments along the roadway.

“There is a planned left turn in the median for us,” Bartosh said. “What that (plan) did not do was to take care of our neighbor across the street at Action Marine. We’ll be able to make left turns but he won’t.”

Aaron Sher, owner of boat sale and service company Action Marine, said he has been in business at his Four Points location, 1118 RM 2222, for 25 years. But, that longevity may need to change for Sher to stay in business, he said.

“(Customers) can’t come from the lake and go into my location as they have been doing since 1993,” Sher said of the facility he constructed. (TxDOT’s) plan is to put a divider (on RM 2222). We need to get large, large trucks and trailers in here and I don’t know what’s going to happen.  It may force us to move. I’d hate it because we like our place. Our customers like us being here.”

He said, once the median is installed, Action Marine customers coming from the lake with their boats would need to go down RM 620 to RM 2222 and then continue until they can turn left at a median break in order to enter the premises.

Bartosh said he does not know why the project lacks a solid median in front of Target, leaving access to the store’s entrance open for left- and right-turns into and out of its driveway.

“I don’t understand the point of any of the medians if the one place you’re not going to control is the Target intersection,” Bartosh said. “That’s the busiest one of the places where people are going to be making a left turn.”

Sher agrees, adding that he has witnessed close calls for pedestrians attempting to cross RM 2222.

“The biggest problem on this whole road is the entrance and exit from Target,” Sher said. “That’s where all of the accidents happen.”

The lack of a crosswalk for safety, Bartosh said, is one of his top concerns about the proposed project.

“We didn’t have major issues with the project other than it didn’t provide any means for pedestrians to use or cross (RM) 2222,” he said. “When you add that bypass in there, you essentially make Alicante this little island in the middle of highways (the bypass and RM 2222). That was my only real concern. (TxDOT is) going to do all of these improvements and not add any kind of sidewalk or crosswalk anywhere along that stretch. That’s a little frustrating to live right across the street from Target and H-E-B but you’re taking your life in your hands to get over there any other way other than in a car.”

Skot Ingram, owner of welding company Skotz Inc., has been in business at his RM 2222 location for 50 years. He said he is sad to have to leave the Four Points site in order to remain operating.