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Travis County opposes plan for expansion of FM 1626

Wednesday, December 2, 2009 by Austin Monitor

On Tuesday Travis County Commissioners voted unanimously to express their displeasure at the proposed changes to FM 1626 from FM 967 to Brodie Lane. After discussing drafting a resolution to detail their complaints, they instead decided to draft a more general letter of dissatisfaction to TxDOT District Engineer Carlos Lopez.  They will probably send a more detailed resolution in the near future.


Hays County and TxDOT plan to widen FM 1626 to four lanes up to Brodie Lane, where it is currently a two-lane county road. Hays County Commissioners are also copied on the letter.


The letter summarizes the commissioners’ complaints, saying the court “has concerns that improvements to FM 1626 will divert regional traffic to Brodie Lane through existing neighborhoods, thereby significantly degrading the safety of Brodie Lane, a two-lane county road, and the quality of life in the adjoining neighborhoods.” 


Director of Transportation and Natural Resources Joe Gieselman told the commissioners that Hays County was experiencing significant growth and that he “fully realizes Hays is doing something they feel is necessary to accommodate what is going on there.” However, he cautioned that the increased traffic the widened road would bring to Travis County could spell trouble for an already congested Brodie Lane. “That arterial can’t take much more than it receives,” he told the court.


While Gieselman said that increasing traffic on Brodie was not the goal of Hays’ improvement plan, the lack of an alternative left few other options. He suggested that TxDOT could widen Manchaca up to Ravencroft Road or make further progress on SH 45 Southwest but admitted that, due to financial concerns, the latter option was unlikely.


The resolution – which Gieselman described in this way: “Don’t dump any more traffic on Brodie Lane” – didn’t satisfy the concerns of some. Bill Bunch, Executive Director of the Save Our Springs Alliance, told Commissioners that though his group agreed with the “key thrust” of the resolution, they were concerned about its “poor planning,” which could increase traffic over the sensitive recharge areas of the Edwards Aquifer. Bunch told the court, “If 1626 is built as proposed and 45 is built, you’re talking about dumping a massive amount of traffic onto MoPac,” necessitating more overpasses being built and creating “a domino effect that’s not been thought about or paid attention to.”


Pct. 1 Commissioner Ron Davis told Bunch, “I hear you,” and the other commissioners also expressed concerns. Pct. 2 Commissioner Sarah Eckhardt said, “The phasing seems to be the problem here,” and suggested the court devise “other ways to skin the cat.” Judge Sam Biscoe also agreed with Gieselman’s assessment and noted that TxDOT seemed to be on a “fast track” with the road’s construction. In the end, the commissioners decided to scrap the resolution, and after expressing their environmental concerns and suggesting other modifications, they directed Gieselman to draft the letter.


TxDOT will hold a public hearing next Tuesday, December 8, at 6pm in Buda at Elm Grove Elementary. The comment period lasts until December 18.

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