Wednesday, May 31, 2017 by Sommer Brugal

SH 45 SW continues to move forward

The Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District Board of Directors was informed of various updates to State Highway 45 Southwest at its regular meeting May 25.

The high-profile transportation project, which hopes to improve mobility for the northern Hays and southern Travis county areas, is a collaborative effort between the Texas Department of Transportation, Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority and regulatory agencies.

According to Vanessa Escobar, the district’s regulatory compliance coordinator, the most active spot in the construction zone is the area surrounding the water quality pond, located at the beginning of Highway 45 on Farm to Market Road 1626.

Escobar said the pond is intended to capture drainage from the permanent design of the whole roadway. She said the pond is currently being excavated and is considered to be an active project for the next few weeks.

Other updates include a “splitter,” or what Escobar said to be an energy flow dissipator, that is part of the underground stormwater system, and a temporary bridge that’s under construction over Bear Creek. Escobar also said developments on the permanent bridge for that same area are progressing fairly quickly as well.

Construction on the 3.6-mile toll road that’s set to connect Loop 1 with FM 1626 in Hays County began in November.

Since then, Barton Springs Edwards/Aquifer Conservation District staff members have been visiting the site on a monthly basis as part of the project’s ongoing environmental study efforts.

Escobar said staff has conducted four of its own inspections and accompanied the city of Austin for a fifth visit, along with the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority and TxDOT.

“While we’re out there, we’re typically asking a lot of questions, we’re taking photos, we’re documenting status updates (and) new activities that are ongoing,” said Escobar. “We make it a point to be very thorough.”

She said those site visits are the basis for staff reports used to track comments and recommendations that are then sent to TxDOT and other organizations looking to be informed of updates.

The project is expected to be completed by late 2019.

Photo by Ken Lund made available through a Creative Commons license.

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Key Players & Topics In This Article

Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District: An entity charged with oversight of a portion the Edwards Aquifer. Groundwater Conservation Districts are established through Texas State legislative approval, under a state law first approved in the 1950s. According to its web site, the BSEACD's charge is "to conserve, protect, and enhance the groundwater resources in its jurisdictional area."

SH45SW: A controversial road project that supporters argue would ease traffic traveling through areas of far Southwest Travis and far Southeastern Hays County. Opponents argue that the environmental impact of the effort, which runs close to sensitive land, is not worth that risk. The debate over the issue goes back as far as the mid-1980s.

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