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Travis County Transportation Blueprint begins final phase of public engagement

Thursday, November 8, 2018 by Ryan Thornton

The Travis County Commissioners Court has unanimously approved the draft of the county’s Transportation Blueprint, with two changes. It now moves forward into the final stage of public engagement from November through January 2019, with any last modifications to be made before submission to the county for adoption in spring 2019.

Transportation and Natural Resources staff members have spent two years developing the TCTB in order to create a more comprehensive plan for Travis County than that encompassed by the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) 2045 long-range plan, which involves five other Central Texas counties. The blueprint draft comprises an outline of multimodal transportation projects, including arterial projects with right-of-way needs, bicycle and pedestrian trails, and county transit.

The Commissioners Court last reviewed the draft on Oct. 25 and raised questions about the inclusion of a connection between State Highway 71 West and Hamilton Pool Road via Reimers-Peacock Road in the county’s southwest quadrant. Staffers had included the connection based on its existence in the CAMPO 2045 plan with the assumption, according to County Judge Sarah Eckhardt, that the court could omit or add roads as it saw fit.

TNR Long Range Planning Manager Scheleen Walker, who asked the court to approve the draft plan with any desired changes so it could be taken to CAMPO this week for the mirroring changes to be made to its 2045 long-range plan, assured the court that the inclusion of Reimers-Peacock Road in the blueprint draft was not necessarily a recommendation to follow through with the project.

While a Reimers-Peacock connection would cut 11.5 miles off the trip between SH 71 W and Hamilton Pool Road, the blueprint notes that the area is not an activity center or corridor based on the Travis County Land, Water, and Transportation Plan (LWTP). The blueprint also cites minimized urban sprawl as a reason to omit the Reimers-Peacock project.

Plans for Reimers-Peacock Road were scrapped in favor of connecting Hamilton Pool Road and SH 71 W via Vail Divide Road, several miles east of Reimers-Peacock Road. Commissioner Gerald Daugherty said that a route to Hamilton Pool Road is much needed, but that Reimers-Peacock Road will likely be built by a private entity if not by Travis County.

“Vail Divide needs to be done way before we do another bond,” said Daugherty. “It’s a timing issue, but I think if I can cobble together everybody to throw some money in it I might have the ability to work with my colleagues and find a way to come up with those dollars.”

With these two changes, TNR will now take the blueprint to the public for feedback, followed by scenario model runs based on data in the plan as well as a complete evacuation stress test for emergency evacuations such as the recent floods in the area. The public will also be engaged to prioritize specific projects besides those already prioritized in the Travis County bond election last November.

The final step will be to develop the plan amendment policy with the legal team and bring it back to the Commissioners Court for approval. Once approved, the plan will be updated every five years and will feed into the CAMPO 2045 long-range plan that will be updated in 2020.

TNR staffers also recommend feasibility studies for Hamilton Pool Road/Pedernales River safety improvements, an environmental preservation study and a western Travis County lake and river crossing study in addition to a Capital Area Pavement Engineers Council (CAPEC) financial life-cycle analysis concerning the engineering preference for eastern Travis County infrastructure where swelling clay soils pose particular challenges.

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