Hays about to hit the road on transportation plan

Hays County may soon be seeking public input on its updated Transportation Plan.

Pct. 2 Commissioner Mark Jones said last week that commissioners will soon want to look at details of the plan.

Jones’ statement to the Hays Free Press came just days after County Judge Ruben Becerra’s proposal to ask that CAMPO (Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization) delay a vote on its 2045 Transportation Plan failed to gain court approval. Becerra’s proposal also asked CAMPO to consider removing some future roadways from the plan.

Jones said those same roadways will still come under scrutiny as the county updates its own plan. CAMPO, he said, does not add planned roads on its own but takes those from plans developed by the county and its municipalities.

Jones is Hays County’s representative on the Transportation Policy Board, which voted to approve the 2045 plan on May 4.

“CAMPO does not put in roads, they adopt our transportation plans,” Jones said.

The process to formulate the county’s 2020 plan, which will be submitted to CAMPO, began April 8 when commissioners agreed to hire K Friese and Associates, Inc. to revise it.

Public comment and virtual town halls will be scheduled over the coming weeks and months during which residents can offer their views on various projects, including an extension of Jacob’s Well Road, the future of FM 150 and the Rutherford Bypass Project, which was designed to alleviate traffic on FM 150.

Some environmentalists, including Bill Bunch of Austin’s Save Our Springs Alliance, urged commissioners to ask CAMPO to remove the roadway.

Noting that some planned roadways would be over the Edwards Aquifer, Bunch reminded the court that the Edwards is more vulnerable to pollution than any other aquifer in the state.

“How we build over and around this incredible water resource will determine the future of the county and the cities along the way,” he said, adding that he though plans were being rushed. “We need an actual completed draft and we need it to be correct,” he said. Specifically he asked that the Escarpment Boulevard Extension, the loop around western San Marcos, and the Jacob’s Well extension be removed from plans.

Some commissioners indicated not all those roads are still considered a priority. Pct. 3 Commissioner Lon Shell singled out the Jacob’s Well Road extension.

“I don’t know why the Jacob’s Well extension south exists. I don’t have the historical knowledge of where that came from,” he said. “I don’t see why it should ever exist.” Shell said his focus has always been on safety improvements like safer shoulders and turn lanes going into major intersections that keep the “character” of
existing roadways.

Jones said the Rutherford Bypass was put in the plan because at the time, development was expected in the vicinity, but that has changed. “At this point it doesn’t look like it will be developed anytime soon.”

While the COVID-19 pandemic will likely influence public comment in that town halls will be virtual for a while, Jones said he doesn’t think the presence of the virus will impact population growth or transportation planning. If anything, he said, it might “slow down the ability” to build some roads.

Jones said he was against asking CAMPO for the delay because no other Metropolitan Planning Organization has asked for one, and also it might jeopardize federal funding.

During the April 29 meeting, Jones pointed to several “shovel ready” projects near the Interstate 35 corridor, including the 2001 extension and the Buda bypass, both of which he said are “ready to go,” along with the Dacy Lane project, which is about to be let for bids.

He stressed that roads included in future planning are just that – plans that have not yet been funded.

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