By Moses Leos III
The Buda City Council Feb. 29 joined citizens in expressing staunch opposition to plans for a proposed expansion of Main Street after discovering six heritage trees may be sacrificed to do so.
According to a city of Buda press release, city engineers will explore “other alternatives” that don’t require the removal of the trees.
The city’s project calls for the expansion of the north side of Main Street near Stagecoach Park to Willie’s Joint to five lanes. The project, part of the city’s $55 million bond, called for improvements that would address roadway conditions.
The project called for improving capacity, drainage and creek crossings, along with adding bicycle and pedestrian-friendly services.
Due to the rapid growth of Buda, a transportation plan in 2006 identified what changes would need to be made to the city’s roadways in order to accommodate the future traffic concerns of Buda.
HDR Engineering designed the bond proposal identifying four major streets that needed improvement in order to meet the rising demands of traffic. They said Main Street would be the most congested with the city’s other improvements to downtown.
“Main Street is going to resemble a parking lot when the new municipal building is completed in 2021, as it would greatly intensify the congestion in the area,” Allen Crozier with HDR said.
But the widening from three to five lanes could mean the loss of at least six, if not more, large heritage trees.
Buda citizens aired their concerns about the loss of the trees in order to widen the roads at an Open House in November 2015, with the majority of them strongly opposed to the removal of trees.
“I care about trees. I don’t have any trees because they’re all gone,” Buda citizen Tommy Poer said to council at the Feb. 29 city council meeting.
She also commented on the proposition of two extra lanes saying, “I can’t see that five lanes would be beneficial, what are you going to do at the railroad tracks, create a bottleneck?”
Councilwoman Angela Kennedy mirrored the concerns of citizens.
“In order to maintain the small town feel (of Buda) we should respect the boundaries the trees make,” Kennedy said. “I feel like we could expand pedestrian friendly character to Main Street without destroying what makes that part of town special by bowing to the needs of traffic.”
Kennedy went on to add, “We don’t plan on removing any of the buildings along Main Street to accommodate widening the roadway and the trees should be as important as the buildings.”
The loss of heritage trees in Buda was not the only concern at the city council meeting.
Concerns were raised regarding the safety of Stagecoach Park and Bradfield Village residents, which might be compromised if the road were to be widened.
All other city council members remained opposed to the widening as long as the trees were in danger, stating that the lane expansion and removal of the trees is going against the direct wishes of the citizens.
“Buda just wouldn’t be the same without all the trees; it wouldn’t be home,” Councilman Bobby Lane said.
Buda City Manager Kenneth Williams said in a statement that the city has a “history of saving trees during road construction.”
He referenced the city coordinating with the Texas Department of Transportation and Hays County to preserve trees during the reconstruction of FM 967.
“We (council) feel confident that we can move forward with project while still preserving the trees,” Williams said.
According to the city, the Buda Bond Committee will also weigh in on the issue. Members of the committee have “always been clear in their goal to preserve trees,” according to the city’s release.
Since construction on the project is not slated to begin for another one to two years, Mayor Todd Ruge said he wanted to hear the opinions of the Bond Committee. According to Williams, the next Bond Committee meeting is being moved up from April 7 to sometime in March. An exact date for the meeting would be posted on the city of Buda’s website.
“We like to think outside the box and try and find creative solutions to problems,” Ruge said.