by ANDY SEVILLA
After more than a year of deliberations and public meetings, the Hays County Commissioners Court unanimously adopted a countywide transportation plan aimed at addressing the expected population boom for the next 20 years.
The plan will also serve as the County’s Major Thoroughfare Plan, which under Local Government Code Section 232.102 allows the county to require up to 120 feet of right-of-way for future major thoroughfares.
“Our goal with this process was to develop a plan in conjunction with our cities and neighboring counties that would serve the needs of our current and expected population growth,” said Pct. 1 Commissioner Debbie Ingalsbe. “Working together on the plan helps all entities spend road dollars wisely and partner where possible to maximize the benefits to our taxpayers and traveling public.”
The transportation plan estimates the county’s population will more than double in the next two decades to 371,000 residents in 2035, up from 157,000 in 2010. In the same time period, the transportation plan estimates employment in the county will increase to 137,300 jobs in 2035, up from 73,000 in 2010, and vehicle miles of travel will also increase by almost half-a-million.
“This is a guidepost, not a hitching post. And like all plans, it will be tweaked as we move closer to needing and funding the new roads,” Pct. 2 Commissioner Mark Jones said of the transportation plan, “The routes and connection points shown on the map are for planning purposes and will be pinpointed at a later time by our county engineer in coordination with other jurisdiction involved.”
“Approval of the plan doesn’t commit us to spend any funds and it doesn’t require us to build any of the roads,” Pct. 4 Commissioner Ray Whisenant said. “But, with a population expected to more than double … by 2035, this plan will help us be ready to meet those transportation needs.”
The plan is intended to identify current and future transportation needs and issues, which include the decreasing system performance, lack of capacity on existing roadways and lack of connections between existing roadways. The travel speed, if roads are not addressed, is estimated to decrease from 41 miles-per-hour (mph) in 2010 to 24 mph in 2035, that delay equates to 7,940 hours in 2010 to 39,773 hours in 2035, according to the transportation plan.
In November, the county held four public meetings on the transportation plan, which allowed residents to provide feedback on the project and policy direction.
“Public input was paramount to creating a plan that is realistic and meets the needs of the public,” Pct. 3 Commissioner Will Conley said. “Hays County residents attended public meetings, participated in an online survey and were members of two advisory groups (the citizens advisory group and the technical advisory group) that helped define our needs. The time and effort put into this plan was unprecedented in our county, and much credit for the final plan must be given to the citizens who stepped up and provided valuable insight, creating a consensus for how our transportation needs should be met.”
The transportation plan, which was adopted by the court on Jan. 22, updates the previous decade-old plan and takes into account the estimated 60,000 people that have moved in since and future growth corridors.
The court noted that while regional transportation plans exist that have had county input, it was important that the county and municipalities coordinate transportation planning within the county to maximize available funds, while minimizing the potential for traffic bottlenecks, which can occur when different road systems intersect.
The transportation plan’s approach provides for increased capacity by calling for upgrades and expansion to existing roadways and creating new roadway connections. The plan balances growth and infrastructure with community character and quality of life by requiring sidewalks on all “appropriate roadways,” working with transit systems in the county, and assuming most roads can accommodate bicyclists.
For now, the plan shies away from engineering roads and major thoroughfares, but provides guidelines for right-of-way acquisitions.
“(We have) a comprehensive plan, developed with the help of people who live and work in Hays County and understand the growth challenges we are facing,” County Judge Bert Cobb said. “We’ll be ready to build when the time is right and when funding is available.”
The county’s resolution calls for Cobb to submit an amendment request to the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) to add Hays County thoroughfares to the CAMPO Regional Transportation Plan.
The transportation plan can be viewed on the county’s website.
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