Emergency evacuation route from Steiner expected by 2020

Travis County shows a dozen alternative emergency evacuation routes being proposed.

By LYNETTE HAALAND, Four Points News

The Steiner Ranch area has more than 5,000 homes and in case of an emergency evacuation, many residents feel there should be more than two roads in and out of the community.

“I think we need additional routes out. With the terrain and preserve, we’re certainly limited with options,” said Bill Rosenberg, Steiner resident for 12 years.

Since the 2011 wildfires that destroyed 23 homes in Steiner, many in the community say they need a better way to evacuate.

“It’s long overdue since the fires seven years ago,” said Terry Witt, a resident of Montview Acres. “We need an evacuation route but it’s all about where the fire starts.”

The Travis County open house on Aug. 9 at Canyon Ridge Middle School gave residents an opportunity to give feedback and learn about a dozen proposed options for evacuation routes.

Funding for the Steiner Ranch emergency evacuation route was unanimously approved by the Travis County Commissioners in early 2017. The $2.7 million funding is by 2017 Certificate of Obligation bonds.

Initially, plans were discussed to build an emergency road connecting Flat Top Ranch Road with Montview Drive but now there are other options being considered in addition to that.

All 12 proposed routes lead to RM 620, the main thoroughfare. The majority of the routes are off of Flat Top Ranch Road. The others are behind the John Simpson Park subdivision area and Canyon Glen greenbelt areas.

Residents in both Steiner and neighboring Montview Acres are encouraged by the progress. Some have concerns.

Witt said using Flat Top Ranch Road makes sense because it is wide but some of the route proposals do not make sense. One of the plans leads to a lot where a new house is being built, he said.

Witt and others in Montview also do not want drivers to use the road other than for an emergency.

“We do not want the route becoming a cut-through road,” Witt said.

Tony and Cheryl Clift moved from California into Montview less than a year ago. They say they do not want the road becoming a shortcut either, which would build up unwanted traffic on their small street.

“There would have to be a gate,” Cheryl said.

County leaders say that the emergency evacuation route will only be used during an emergency and there likely will be a gate to prevent cutting-through.

Tony Clift, 31-year firefighter and retired captain, said having an evacuation plan is important. Fire and floods near the low water crossing are real dangers in this area, he said.

“Some of the (proposed) routes are so brushy, I don’t know how successful of an evacuation route they would be,” Clift said.

The route ultimately will provide options to emergency service agencies including Lake Travis Fire Rescue, Travis County Sheriff’s Office, Travis County Transportation and Natural Resources, said Katharine Hardin, project manager.

“We are working with our emergency folks” to make sure these ideas work with them, Hardin said.

Route options will be refined and ultimately determined by terrain, utilities, safety, environmental impacts and improved traffic volumes.

Steve Widacki, project manager for the Travis County’s Steiner Ranch Area Evacuation Route Design said some routes require a bridge, cross Bear Creek and go over budget.

The project is in the preliminary design phase, evaluating route alternatives and gathering feedback.

Last month, a Steiner Ranch Neighborhood Association working group met with county officials to discuss these route alternatives.

In the near future, the number of route options will be narrowed down to four before the final selection of one route is made.

To share input to Travis County’s Steiner Ranch Area Evacuation Route Design team, go to www.traviscountytx.gov  and put “Steiner” in the search box.

Bill Rosenberg, far left, gave feedback last week at the Travis County open house for the emergency evacuation road designs. Katharine Hardin, Travis County project manager, is second from right.

Local residents were able to see a dozen different options for emergency evacuation routes. Travis County hosted an open house on Aug. 9.