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Commissioners approve Road and Bridge Division’s 2021 work plan

Wednesday, April 7, 2021 by Seth Smalley

Following a brief presentation from Assistant Public Works Director David P. Hunter, the Travis County Commissioners Court unanimously passed the request to approve the Road and Bridge Division’s work plan for the 2021 fiscal year.

Hunter’s presentation detailed the wide assortment of responsibilities and systems overseen by Road and Bridge, in addition to spotlighting the division’s financial needs in order to address physical areas where the county is lacking.

“Road and Bridge is responsible for maintenance of 1,330.34 miles of accepted roadway through many different programs, providing a cost-effective, efficient and safe roadway system,” Hunter said.

In addition to rehabilitating damaged roadways, Hunter said Road and Bridge also performs various other duties throughout the county, such as right of way and shoulder restoration, sign and barricade maintenance, secondary drainage maintenance, and drainage structure rehab services.

Hunter said the division has 168 available positions and an 18 percent vacancy rate, “most of which are road maintenance workers.” Six positions were eliminated in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Moving on to some of Road and Bridge’s goals, Hunter said the division aims to maintain 70 of accepted roads and 75 percent of collector roads in “fair” or “better” condition, as measured by a “third-party pavement management condition survey.” Additionally, Road and Bridge intends to “manage and operate the counter transportation system” according to American Public Works Association standards.

Interestingly, he also mentioned a five-year study that detailed optimal road types given the county’s soil makeup. The recommendation of the researchers, given the widespread soft clay soil in the capital area, was to build thicker, and consequently more costly, road types. This was another factor adding to the division’s financial requests.

“Due to the higher costs of building the much thicker road designs, the implementation of the stronger designs is moving along slowly,” he said.

Commissioner Ann Howard, citing the profusion of inferior dirt roads in Western Travis County, called upon the budget office to help find the necessary funding to speed up the process of Road and Bridge’s more urgent projects.

“Yesterday I was out in Western Travis County, looking at dirt roads that families would like to be taking to get kids to school, so I would like to call on our trusted partners in the budget office to help us look at the federal dollars in the new infrastructure bill, to see if we can drive more funding to these local challenges,” Howard said.

Commissioner Brigid Shea added that the Travis County communities that are attempting to disannex from the city, “presumably to lower their taxes,” would find the infrastructure problems outlined by Howard much harder to solve with no city funding.

“They need to understand they will not be receiving services anything like what they would be getting from a city, from a county. We don’t have the resources, we don’t have the same mandates. Everybody just needs to just understand this is not some fantasy – to be disannexed from a city,” Shea said.

Commissioners unanimously voted to pass the Fiscal Year 2021 funding measure for Road and Bridge.

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