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Travis County to make improvements to substandard county roads

Monday, April 18, 2022 by Seth Smalley

There are about 108 miles of substandard, unmaintained and “often unpaved” roads in Travis County, according to a recently circulated county document.

The Travis County Commissioners Court passed a resolution Tuesday to improve these roads, specifically by increasing funding for county road infrastructure and reshaping an existing program.

“The provision of safe, high-quality local road networks for citizens is one of our core county responsibilities,” Commissioner Ann Howard said. “In my first year as county commissioner, I’ve learned that we have many local roads that are in poor repair and not maintained.”

Howard said constituents as well as local fire chiefs have reached out to her office asking about road improvements.

“They say we have so many roads that are very difficult to maneuver in times of emergency,” she said. “We do have this substandard road program, but it’s not being used very much.”

Howard also noted that Transportation and Natural Resources staff agree that the county’s substandard road program deserves another look.

The unanimously passed resolution asks county staff to do four things:

  • return to commissioners with recommendations on what changes need to be made to the program
  • make an inventory and prioritization list of roads that need improvements
  • make recommendations for the expedited use of residual money, left over from the 2011 and 2018 substandard road programs
  • determine potential federal funding or other additional funds that Travis County could draw on to benefit the program

Between 2009 and 2017, TNR completed 11 projects related to the substandard roads program, costing about $1.7 million. However, according to David Greer with TNR, the rate of spending – and therefore project completion – has waned.

“I think we were able to attack the easiest ones first, and we were also able to use road and bridge crews to do the work. That kept costs down,” Greer said.

Greer said other reasons the rate has declined are a high vacancy rate among TNR’s road and bridge crews, as well as TNR’s requirements of locals to help ease the cost burden.

“Typically anywhere from 20 to 30 percent is what we usually ask for the community to be able to help out on the cost,” he said. “We also typically want at least 50 percent of the residents attached to that road to agree to the improvement so they can be accepted into the roadway system. We don’t always get that.”

After listing a host of other regulatory impediments to funding roadway improvements, Greer mentioned that TNR is looking into relaxing some of the standards to speed up development.

“We do have about $1.8 million in our budgets right now for this program, but it’s hard to find projects that are eligible at this point.”

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