By LYNETTE HAALAND, Four Points News
The Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization is voting on May 7 to designate over $440 million in state grants to improve roads, and leaders say RM 620 north — from Mansfield Dam to Hwy. 183 — will not be on that list to get a grant this round. But leaders say critical awareness is being built among decision makers and government representatives, who are getting lots of feedback on the challenges of RM 620 north.
Despite high traffic volumes, congestion, fatality rates and failing grades from the Texas Department of Transportation roadway studies, “RM 620 north will not be funded in this (next CAMPO) cycle period,” said Morgan Briscoe, West Austin Chamber of Commerce president.
But there is hope that future improvements will come from the momentum being built now with input from residents along the RM 620 north corridor. TxDOT has already identified a fix — turning RM 620 north into six lanes with a divided median for an estimated cost of $121 million.
“With meetings happening over the next couple weeks between TxDOT and local government representatives, we are eager to see them step up and agree on the urgency of funding the next round of RM 620 (north) improvements,” said Brian Thompto, chairman of the Steiner Ranch Neighborhood Association.
Brigid Shea, Travis County Commissioner Precinct 2, Jimmy Flannigan, City of Austin Council Member District 6, and other leaders of RM 620 plan to follow up on communications with the community in the weeks ahead.
“We’re going to make sure we’re a part of that,” Briscoe said.
Thompto is hopeful that the local government representatives and TxDOT will “align on project urgency and a funding and project pipeline, which should include local money.”
Getting this alignment will be pivotal to enable funding as soon as possible, he added.
South vs north
The southern portion of RM 620 road improvements has been prioritized by TxDOT, and is on the CAMPO funding proposal for 2022. For that project, $59 million is earmarked from CAMPO, $39 million coming from TxDOT funds and $5 million each from the City of Lakeway and the City of Bee Cave.
The northern segment of RM 620 road improvements is multi-jurisdictional including the City of Austin, Travis County, the City of Cedar Park, and Williamson County. TxDOT officials have said, “as for the northern segment, there have been no strong indications of support or commitments from the local entities as compared to the southern segment, therefore, there are no plans at this time to advance the northern segment beyond the feasibility study.”
For the southern section of RM 620, the project horizon is 2022 in the current proposal. Looking at that, it places the timeline for construction of the northern section likely at or after that, Thompto said. Every year it is delayed, the solution moves farther away.
For perspective, the plans for the bypass project at RM 620/RM 2222 were laid out in 2014, funding was secured in 2016, and construction is to start in 2019, he added.
Many residents have submitted input to CAMPO, especially over the past couple week, and some responses from feedback mention the phrase “additional funding calls in the future”.
Thompto said this could possibly mean as soon as next year, or when money becomes newly available, which does happen periodically at CAMPO but not often as funds free up for one reason or another.
“The actual ‘when’ will depend largely on TxDOT and local entities agreeing on the next steps to address the problem and on the urgency,” Thompto said. “They do not need to wait on CAMPO to start planning for funding and get things rolling.”
Keep submitting feedback
Thompto and Briscoe stress that feedback continues to be critically important and that every piece of input helps to build the case for RM 620 north improvements.
Even though the deadline of April 30 is passed for CAMPO’s latest round of funding, there is still time to give feedback.
“It’s not too late to have your voice heard,” Thompto said. “Contact your local representatives and urge them to fund big fixes for the big problems we have on RM 620, like the six lanes in both directions with a raised median that TxDOT has proposed.”
Thompto also urges local residents to complete the CAMPO arterial plan survey (www.surveymonkey.com/r/arterials18) which will feed into the next big long-term planning update for the region called CAMPO 2045. The survey is open for input until May 12.
“We will need to stay vigilant: If the response to the public outcry is one of ownership and ‘how quickly can this be done’, then we will be off to a great start,” Thompto said.