By ANDY SEVILLA
Kyle and Buda are undergoing several major face-lifts, and with $34 million in recently announced Hays County road project savings, more improvements can be expected.
The Commissioners Court was advised by county road bond project managers to anticipate about $34 million in savings on its 2008 road bond projects, because lower than estimated construction costs and interest rates coalesced with strategic partnerships and “keen” financial oversight.
In 2008 Hays County voters approved $207 million in road bond projects – about $58.8 million were targeted for priority local safety and mobility improvements and about $148.2 million were allocated for projects funded by TxDOT’s pass-through financing program.
With 70 percent of the projects complete, priority projects are now expected to cost $48.2 million and pass-through projects should amount to about $124.6 million.
Commissioners now are tasked with maximizing the reach of the savings.
“We’re looking at some other pass-through opportunities with the State, with TxDOT (Texas Department of Transportation),” said Pct. 2 Commissioner Mark Jones. “We’ll also be looking at monies from the CAMPO (Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization), and any federal stimulus money that comes in.”
Jones said getting as many shovel-ready projects completed with the $34 million will increase the value of the savings, because federal, state, and regional partnerships can be actualized for shared projects.
“We met with TxDOT and our transportation plan people, and we’re trying to find ways for the best use of those $34 million to leverage it,” Jones said. “We can turn those $34 million into $100 million if we do it right.”
Pct. 1 Commissioner Debbie Gonzales Ingalsbe said in a press release that TxDOT encouraged the county to be ready with projects that can move forward quickly once money becomes available from the state and federal side.
“Perhaps as early as mid-2013, purchasing right-of-way and beginning environmental and schematic studies for projects we consider most important could be a good use of the savings.”
Although commissioners agree that government partnerships maximize the bang for the county’s buck, Jones said there are a lot of roads and areas in the county that need attention and the savings will provide for a “good start… and keep things moving forward.”
“There’s a couple of projects that we feel like we need to go ahead and build now,” Jones said. “I’ll be pushing to go ahead and do the improvements on (FM) 967, from Onion Creek to (FM) 1626. What I’m proposing is that we build shoulders and a turn lane and that can be done with between $3 million and $3.4 million.”
Jones said Pct. 2 was able to complete the intersection of FM 1826 and FM 967 with monies for priority projects, along with improvements at the intersection of Hwy 21 and High Road, improvements at FM 2001 and Hwy 21, design work for Dacy Lane Phase II, the future turn lane on FM 967 at Ruby Ranch Road, the imminent build of the Lakewood bridge in Buda.
Jones said the pass-through funds provided the design of the Yarrington Bridge, improvements along IH 35 and FM 2001, and the approaching construction on FM 1626 Section A and the start to design Section B.
TxDOT’s pass-through financing program enabled major road and bridge construction in Hays County, and the transportation department will reimburse $133 million of the pass-through costs to the county.
Hays County was one of the first to partner with TxDOT on its pass-through program, which permits local governments to finance road project costs with TxDOT reimbursing the counties at a set rate per mile any vehicle travels on the completed road.
Hays County is being reimbursed at $0.14 per mile traveled per vehicle. In the pass-through agreement with TxDOT, Hays County took on the responsibility for all cost overruns and therefore was entitled to any savings, thus TxDOT now will reimburse the county more than the county will have paid for the projects. The county will rake in an additional $8 million from TxDOT.
The program has since been modified so that TxDOT and local governments will now share cost overruns and savings for future projects.