County identifies preliminary road project list for possible bond

Staff report

 

Hays County Commissioners last month took their initial look at its preliminary list of road projects that could make their way into a proposed November bond. 

A total of 20 projects made their way onto the list, which has an estimated cost of roughly $352 million. 

According to a Hays County press release, commissioners looked at projects deemed “vital in the coming years to accommodate the growing population with safer roads that promote mobility throughout the county.”

The list is preliminary, with county officials continuing to finalize their list before asking voters to approve road bond funds. 

Mark Jones, Hays County Pct. 2 Commissioner, said the county’s goal is to ensure they are ready to partner with federal, state and local entities and “take advantage of outside funding” to accomplish their “critical road projects.” 

“Being ready to start with shovel-ready projects when other money becomes available – and we know it will – is one of the ways we leveraged the 2008 road bonds to fund more roadways than the bonds alone could pay for,” Jones said in a statement. 

Jones added that he is already discussing partnerships and funding with TxDOT. 

“TxDOT has very limited funds, and we want to make sure we are ready to work with them when our share of road dollars is available,” Jones said.

Hays County’s preliminary project list include intersection improvements, right-of-way acquisition for anticipated future need and drainage and low-water crossing improvements. 

Several of the major projects identified by Hays County in the Dripping Springs area includes the RM 150 Far West Extension project, which is projected to cost roughly $34.1 million. 

The estimated cost of the project, which would extend FM 150 from Ranch to Market Road (RM) 12 to U.S. 290 east, would include planning, design, right-of-way acquisition and construction of a 4-lane divided roadway. 

The county also identified its RM 150 West Realignment in the list of projects, which is projected to cost $11.8 million. 

The realignment project is projected to connect Interstate 35 at Yarrington Road to Arroyo Ranch Road. 

As the county continues to push forward toward the bond, county leaders formed an ad hoc committee to assist in dividing preliminary road project costs. 

Hays County’s ad hoc committee comprises of staff and road consultants. Those include Hays County Director of Transportation Jerry Borcherding, Allen Crozier of HDR Engineering, Inc. and Mike Weaver, president of Prime Strategies, Inc. and the county’s road consultant. 

Weaver said in a statement the soft costs, such as right-of-way acquisition and design, along with construction costs can “vary considerably.” 

He said the soft costs could be more than actual construction costs, and vice versa. 

“Since we would want to get the most for taxpayers’ money by using state, federal, partnership and private funds to complement any voter-approved bond funds, it’s important to know what those different costs could be and how they could be funded with money other than from bonds,” Weaver said. 

Hays County must also determine how funding could be requested, if a bond election is held. 

That could include asking voters to approve a large bond package that includes all projects on the final list, or to phase-in funding by offering smaller amounts. 

Those amounts could be done on a three, five or ten year voting schedule. 

“Either way, as we always do with any bond package, approved bonds would only be sold as needed for each project or group of projects,” Hays County Judge Bert Cobb said in a statement. “Pay as we go is less expensive, especially when combined with our ability to refinance bonds for better interest rates.” 

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