By LYNETTE HAALAND, Four Points News
The Travis County Transportation & Natural Resources department has changed its preference of an evacuation route out of Steiner Ranch. On Wednesday, July 3, TNR announced first to Four Points News that it has decided to move forward with recommending route B instead of route F as a gated, emergency only road off of Flat Top Ranch Road.
“TNR staff recommends, that because of current funding constraints, Commissioner’s Court approve moving forward with design and construction of route B as a gated-only emergency route,” said Kathy Hardin, an engineer with Travis County Transportation & Natural Resources Capital Improvement Projects.
“Although route B does not provide the same level of evacuation capacity (as route F), the route is viable, beneficial, and can be constructed with existing funds in place,” Hardin said.
TNR will make this presentation and recommendation before the Travis County Commissioners Court on Tuesday, July 9, which starts at 9 a.m.
The item is number 20 on the agenda and states: Consider and take appropriate action on the selection of an emergency evacuation route out of Steiner Ranch in Precinct Two. (This item may be taken into executive session under the “Consultation with Attorney” exception.)
Hardin said she and Precinct Two Commissioner Brigid Shea are “on the same page” on the recommendation.
Hardin added that the staff still maintains that route F is the better long-term solution for the neighborhood, but that “Travis County’s current budget is not sufficient to cover the construction costs of $7.2 million.”
Originally grant funds through the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization were anticipated as an 80 percent funding source but CAMPO recently approved committing $400 million of state and federal funds to I-35, Shea stated.
This commitment has caused a postponement of the scheduled “Fall 2019 CAMPO Project Call” for at least two more years, Shea stated.
“Additionally, the next county bond election is not anticipated until 2023 and no other funding sources have been identified to construct route F,” Shea said.
In light of this recent funding development, the Travis County staff will make the recommendation to go ahead with route B.
Hardin said that TNR also recommends that route F remain identified in the Travis County “Transportation Blueprint”. She said staff still believe this is a “better long-term solution for the neighborhood and may consider proposing it for funding through CAMPO when call for projects are announced.”
Route B is estimated to cost $980,000 to construct and will include the acquisition of two parcels, one private party lot on Montview Drive and one that is either an easement or owned by Steiner Ranch Master Association, Hardin said. These acquisitions are not included in the price as far as she knows at this point.
If Travis County commissioners take action and approve evacuation route B on July 9, the consultant would be directed to work on the design. Route B was not as far developed in the design phase as route F.
“We would work with the neighborhood and make sure we get it right,” Hardin said. “It could take between a year and 18 months to complete the project.”
Hardin recognizes that the Steiner evacuation route project has been challenging but she remains grateful for community involvement.
“We appreciate everyone’s input,” she said.