Hays and Travis Counties decided at a Sept. 10 meeting to wait for renewed data on the proposed expansion of State Highway 45 before making a decision on whether to move forward.
The Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization presented data to county commissioners and residents showing the effects the proposed construction would have on the surrounding areas. The proposed expansion of Highway 45, estimated to cost $17 to $20 million, would connect Loop 1, also known as MoPac Expressway, to FM 1626. The connection will use a two to three lane county road.
Precinct 2 Commissioner Mark Jones said Travis County will decide whether to take Hays County’s $5 million offer and proposal for the highway expansion based on the planning organization’s research.
The traffic model presented by officials compared the current number of households to the predicted number of future households, as well as the trips generated from those households.
Texas Department of Transportation officials said the data was not demographically diverse enough to accurately depict the full effects of the expansion.
Terry McCoy, director of the Austin district transportation planning and development for TxDOT, said the demographics error was just a glitch in the system. TxDot will continue to work on the research with the planning organization, and more accurate demographics will be presented within the next two months.
Although Austin City Council removed the Highway 45 expansion proposal from the Imagine Austin plan earlier this year, Hays County is still in talks with Travis County about the project. TxDOT will pursue a separate plan to build a six-lane toll road in the area, regardless of the counties’ decisions.
McCoy said the road expansion would complement TxDOT’s toll facility plans.
“We still have to look at the (board model) to determine how it would impact traffic,” McCoy said. “But there’s no question in my mind, and that’s why I fully support the project. It would be a significant enhancement to our system.”
Jones said the expansion of Highway 45 is necessary to improve public safety.
“If we don’t start doing these things, things are just going to get worse,” Jones said. “It’s not the roads that are bringing the growth. (The growth) is coming anyway. We need to start getting caught up on these issues.”
Lucas Short, TxDot project manager, said he will help coordinate between different agencies as they go through the environmental process for the toll facility, which takes approximately four years.
The environmental process involves Travis and Hays counties, homeowners associations, Parks and Wildlife and Texas Commissions of Environmental Quality. This process exists so all environmental aspects and impacts of a project are considered.
“We have a detailed schedule lined out over the next few years,” Short said. “We want to ensure the (environmental coordination process) is followed.”
Voting on the proposed Highway 45 expansion is scheduled for October.