Numerous projects approved by Hays County voters in 2008 have come in under budget, resulting in an extra $34 million for the county to spend on additional road projects.
Commissioner Debbie Ingalsbe, Precinct 1, said nine road projects have been completed so far, and all have come in under budget except one. She said State Highway 21 at FM 2001 came in over budget by more than $18,000. Commissioner Will Conley, Precinct 3, said other projects including I-35, Ranch Road 12, Highway 21 and FM 1626 are anticipated to come in under budget.
He said this is because said commissioners were able to take advantage of low interest rates and financing costs.
Hays County is also expected to receive an extra $8 million from the state because commissioners agreed to take benefits if the projects came in under budget, Conley said. Under this agreement, the state will reimburse 14 cents on average for every vehicle per mile traveling on the improved roads. While reimbursement on some roads such as Hwy 290 has already begun to pay off quicker than expected, others on the payment plan have not been opened to the public yet, he said.
Commissioners met with Texas Department of Transportation executives Oct. 12 to discuss how to spend the $34 million in extra funds. While Ingalsbe said the county has not yet made a decision on how the extra funds will be spent, commissioners are working toward choosing a project they can submit to TxDOT.
Greg Malatek, TxDOT Austin district engineer, said commissioners discussed some areas of concern that were priorities to the county during their meeting. He said the commissioners want to pinpoint certain areas instead of a broad list of projects.
“Our focus would be along the (Interstate) 35 corridor and how we can invest that money to help improve safety, mobility and create economic development opportunities along the corridor,” Conley said.
Malatek said the extra money could possibly go toward just one project, but ideally would help fund several. He said commissioners will look at what the needs are around the county and what can be addressed by local, state and federal funds.
Malatek said he plans to schedule a meeting with the commissioners and TxDOT staff to look at the situation from the district and county level. He said the commissioners and TxDOT will meet again around mid-November to discuss their options.
“We want to submit something that would help spur economic development, ease our traffic congestion and improve our mobility,” Ingalsbe said. “So we want to really take a look at what project may do that.”
Timing played a role in the projects coming in under budget, Conley said. Due to the recession, contractors were “hungry for work,” which lead to project bids being competitive, he said.
Ingalsbe said studies done at Lime Kiln at Sink Creek and Post Road at Blanco River both came in under budget.