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US 290 intersection upgrade receives federal dollars

Just over $1 million in federal funds is projected to help Hays County front the cost of proposed improvements at the U.S. 290 and Trautwein Road intersection in Dripping Springs.

Those monies were allocated May 7 by the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization’s (CAMPO) Transportation Policy Board, which included the intersection in a list of area projects recommended for funding.

Originally, Hays County had planned to finance improvements at U.S. 290 and Trautwein Road through Proposition 2 of its $250 million bond package, which was approved by voters in November 2016.

Mark Jones, Hays County Pct. 2 Commissioner and a member of the CAMPO TPB, said the county could be able to use federal dollars to pay for the majority of the $1.5 million intersection improvement project.

Jones said the current intersection is “under designed” and is not able to handle the amount of traffic that goes through the area. The county plans to conduct a study on the intersection, which will measure traffic counts and other factors, before recommending improvements.

“Whatever they recommend when they do the study, then we’ll see what the best option is to make it more efficient and safer,” Jones said. “It could be more turn lanes, or wider shoulders.”

Jones said it could also allow the county to avoid selling the bonds entirely, or utilize those bond dollars toward another county road project.

However, Hays County could only utilize dollars from U.S. 290 and Trautwein Road on another project included in the 2016 bond.

While the county wouldn’t have to go back to voters, Jones said officials plan to discuss any use of cost savings from the U.S. 290 project with its bond counsel before moving forward.

“They’ll be giving guidance on when we can sell and the best time to do that,” Jones said.

County officials are also keeping an eye on two Travis County projects, which also were approved for federal dollars, that could have an impact on area residents.

One project includes the widening of FM 1826 from the Travis County line to U.S. 290 west near Oak Hill. That project calls for widening the road to a four-lane, divided arterial with bike lane and pedestrian facilities.

CAMPO approved $4.32 million in federal monies for the project, which has a proposed price tag of $49.2 million.

Officials are also looking at Travis County’s proposed improvements of FM 1626 from Brodie Lane to Manchaca Road. Those improvements, which have a projected cost of $16.8 million, would turn the current two-lane road into five lanes with a continuous turn lane. Those improvements would mirror Hays County’s improvements to FM 1626, which stretch from FM 967 to Brodie Lane.

CAMPO allocated roughly $11.2 million for the FM 1626 north improvements. Jones said Travis County is also eyeing possibly improving FM 1626 from Manchaca Road to Interstate 35, which would create a loop through Hays County.

Jones said Hays County residents use FM 1626 and FM 1826 “a lot more than Travis County does.”

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