Virtual grand opening of FM 1626

HAYS COUNTY – While the reopening of FM 1626 would have a ribbon-cutting ceremony with oversized scissors, county officials created a virtual celebration video in light of COVID-19.

Hays County Pct. 2 Commissioner Mark Jones said the completion of the FM 1626 Improvement Project is part of a larger Pass-through Finance Program with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT).

Hays County completed seven projects under the program since 2008. The most recent work is the section of FM 1626 from FM 967 to FM 2770.

“With this project and several others like it, we are improving infrastructure throughout Hays County,” Jones said.

Jones, known as Cowboy Commissioner, spent more than 18 months on the construction site monitoring traffic flow and operating the lights at two major intersections Monday through Friday during morning and afternoon rush hour times. He said he will miss seeing everyone who waved and supported him during that time.

Some of the upgrades and improvements to the roadway included expanding from two lanes to four, adding a center turn lane, shoulders and installing sidewalks to accommodate pedestrians. The project also included adding new or improving existing bridges.

TxDOT Austin District Engineer Tucker Ferguson said FM 1626 is a critical roadway for Kyle and Buda drivers, particularly those commuting into Austin. He said the TxDOT pass-through program was created to accelerate transportation projects and Hays County effectively utilized the funding.

“This project would not have been possible without the leadership of Hays County,” Ferguson said.

By taking advantage of the TxDOT passthrough program, Pct. 1 Commissioner Debbie Ingalsbe said TxDOT will reimburse Hays County about $133 million in construction costs. In the video, she outlined several of the projects in her precinct and in Precinct 3 that were partially funded through the passthrough option.

The Kyle Crossing Overpass at I-35 added turnaround bridges and other safety improvements. Ingalsbe said the County also partnered with the City of Kyle, which contributed $11 million toward the work.

On Highway 290 from Nutty Brown to Trautwein, the pass-through construction funding helped create a four-lane highway.

At the Yarrington Rd. Bridge, Ingalsbe said the TxDOT funding allowed the creation of a six-lane bridge which includes two turnarounds, as well as about 1,000 ft. of improved roadway on Yarrington.

“This and other projects include Gateway design features,” Ingalsbe said.

Under the Pass-through Program, Ingalsbe said FM 110 in San Marcos was extended to a four-lane road from McCarty Lane to SH 123. That project also utilized about $1.9 million in federal funding.

“The construction on FM 110 helped relieve congestion on other roadways and continues to help serve traffic to and from San Marcos High School,” she said.

She added that it also aids in economic development for the area.

Other projects completed under the TxDOT program include:

  • Creating a four-lane divided segment from RM 150 at Center St. in Kyle to FM 150 East, which created a direct connection to that section of the roadway. Ingalsbe said the County received $1.5 in Right-of-Way funding as well as $3 million from the City of Kyle to complete that work.
  • Converting what Ingalsbe called dangerous frontage roads between FM 150 and FM 1626 from two-way to one-way.

“This conversion of frontage roads helps traveler safety and allowed us to complete the conversion of all I-35 frontage roads within Hays County,” she said.

Commissioner Jones said he is proud of all the roadway and infrastructure improvements made under this TxDOT program. He added that he understands the FM 1626 construction seemed to take a long time.

“We all had a long wait, but in the end, it was worth it,” he said. “Safe travels and enjoy the roads.”

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Megan Navarro (Wehring) graduated from Texas State University in May 2020 with a bachelor's degree in journalism and mass communication. In June 2020, she started a summer internship at the Hays Free Press/News-Dispatch through the Dow Jones News Fund and Texas Press Association. She then earned her way to a reporter position later that summer and now, she serves as the editor of the newspaper. Working for a small publication, Navarro wears multiple hats. She has various responsibilities including managing a team of reporters, making editorial decisions, overseeing social media posts, fact checking, writing her own articles and more. Navarro has a heart for storytelling and she believes that journalists are equipped to share the stories that are important to the community.

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