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County approves southern realignment of William Cannon

Friday, September 12, 2008 by Kimberly Reeves

Travis County Commissioners have approved a southern realignment of the future William Cannon Drive through southeastern Travis County, a move that will benefit one developer but also provide a cost-sharing scenario when the expensive road is eventually extended.

Although commissioners discussed the matter only briefly at this week’s meeting there are a number of issues for county and state officials to consider.

The backup materials on the project show the six-lane William Cannon alignment that puts the arterial along a southern route from McKinney Falls Parkway to a proposed TxDOT alternative route for FM 812 in Precinct 4.

The realignment of such a significant road would go into the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization’s road plan. The timing of the William Cannon proposal, however, means that the road improvements would go into the 2035 Plan rather than the 2030 Plan.

The 2035 Plan, however, won’t be approved until 2009 or even, possibly, 2010. The Transportation and Natural Resource Department brought the road scenario to the County Commissioners this week, however, so the department could get the nod to start the necessary assessment of right-of-way acquisitions and construction documents, as well as a possible cost-sharing arrangement with developer Carma Texas.

This does present somewhat of a risk to developers. No change in a route – no matter how favorably the court smiles upon it – can go into effect until the CAMPO Transportation Policy Board approves it. That’s a risk that developers say they are willing to take, TNR Executive Director Joe Gieselman told the court.

The new route would take the road through Carma’s land. That presents more economic opportunity to Carma but also less disruption to other landowners. According to backup materials on the new alignment, stakeholders were supportive of the new route at a county-led meeting on the subject in August. The City of Austin also indicated no opposition to the route.

The new scenario for the road presents a cost-sharing scenario between the county and Carma. Carma has indicated its willingness to participate in cost sharing, but the project is so significant, it would have to be on a future county bond proposition. The county is far from prioritizing, or approving, any such proposition.

Pct. 1 Commissioner Ron Davis, in particular, was interested in the route because it means a more direct connection to SH 130, which would have an impact on his district. Davis would like to see FM 812 extended to SH 130 and beyond.

Looking at a map presented to the Court, it appears the proposed Slaughter Lane also would be adjusted through the Carma development.

For instance, TNR would want to review and approve the Carma plan and plats. The Carma property is located along the proposed southern route between McKinney Falls Parkway and US 183.

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