Residents share input at TxDot RM 150 open house

A proposed Ranch-to-Market 150 alignment has driven neighbors apart over the best way to handle growth and development from Kyle to Dripping Springs.

On Thursday evening at Wallace Middle school, the cafeteria was full of residents poring over maps of a potential revised RM 150, which currently exists as a two-lane roadway that stretches from Kyle to Dripping Springs, serving much of the cross-county traffic by connecting RM 12 to I-35. The event, hosted by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), drew more than 200 people.

RM 150 was never intended to serve the population as it is now, according to TxDOT. It has not been expanded since it was changed in 1956 from a smaller FM to an RM road. Since then, the growth in Hays County has exploded, and outpaces most of the state.

Hays County officials saw trouble brewing on the road nearly a decade ago, Commissioner Ray Whisenant said at the meeting. Plans to align FM 150 were first brought up before he took over the office in 2011. Even then, county officials knew the congestion in Kyle needed a solution as the area grew, he said. In 2013, the Hays County Transportation Plan identified the need for RM 150 to be expanded to a four-lane road with dividers. The following year, an official study was done to identify a location for the aligned road.

“With the rapid growth in Kyle, if we don’t find some method of moving traffic better in this area, there won’t be an ability that will exist very soon. The development in this area, it’s almost crazy,” he said.

But today, TxDOT just hopes to receive community feedback. As her neighbors made notes on maps of potential roadways, one woman declined the offer of a marker and resigned herself to the will of the state.

“It doesn’t matter – they’ll do what they wanna do,” she sighed.

TxDOT spokesperson Brad Wheelis said that idea is widely shared, but inaccurate.

“A lot of people don’t know they can really affect a project with TxDOT,” he said. “Part of our mission is to build roads that not only get people from point A to point B faster and safer, but roadways that are going to be most accepted by the community.”

The proposed corridor for the road alignment was even developed with the help of residents back in 2015, Wheelis said. Of four potential corridors, Corridor C, as it is called, was determined to be the one that would affect the fewest number of people.

The next step after collecting this latest round of community feedback is to compile it into a report and to evaluate alternatives, Wheelis said. Then, the department will prepare a technical analysis and a report, an environmental impact study, on how the project would affect the area around it. TxDOT aims to have the environmental decision complete by summer 2020.

There are still a lot of details up in the air, Wheelis said. It is too early to determine what the project would cost, and a source of funding has not been identified. Those decisions will come later, he said.

During the Thursday meeting, Wheelis said TxDOT received feedback that some residents fear developments will follow road improvements. But more think Kyle needs the congestion relief the road would bring, especially downtown.

“We could walk away from it all. That’s an option on the table. If we hear from the community that they want nothing done, we will do that. The fact of the matter is, traffic is going to get worse,” he said.

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