by WES FERGUSON
Easier access to Main Street could be just around the corner in Buda.
Various lane closures at the intersection of Main Street and Interstate 35 have bedeviled Buda drivers since fall 2010. But if the warm, sunny weather holds out, Texas Department of Transportation area engineer Don Nyland said he expects all lanes of Main Street to reopen beneath I-35 by the middle of April.
He also expects the I-35 northbound on-ramp to reopen in mid-May, good news for drivers trying to skip the Main Street light on their way to Austin. After months of delays, Nyland said he’s ready for the project to conclude.
“Drivers can get off my back, and I can get off the contractors’ backs,” he said.
TxDOT has replaced the old I-35 overpass with a taller and wider bridge, and Main Street is also being widened to four lanes, with “Texas Turnarounds” being added so drivers on the frontage roads can make U-turns beneath I-35 without waiting at the intersection.
The $9 million project is being funded by federal stimulus money, TxDOT and the city of Buda, which has identified east-west mobility as one of its most pressing transportation issues.
The city has also hired the consulting firm LAN to gather public input and develop a new transportation master plan.
During a presentation at the City Council meeting last week, engineer Tom Gerrity said Buda must take action to ease traffic for its residents who commute to and from Austin. He said the city cannot rely on the proposed extension of the State Highway 45 toll road that would link Buda to Mopac Boulevard in Austin.
Some council members found the most viable option to connect FM 967 and Garison Road north of downtown. The other two options were connecting FM 967 to I-35 north of town and extending Garison Road to FM 1626. Both of those plans would be far costlier and travel through environmentally sensitive terrain.
Council members also discussed ways to alleviate downtown traffic, including traffic from heavy trucks. The consultants expect to hold a second community forum to gather residents’ input next month.