County commissioners unanimously adopted a plan that could potentially result in changes such as a freeway loop around San Marcos in coming years during their Tuesday meeting.
The Hays County Transportation Plan will serve as a guide to expanding the area’s roads for the next 22 years. The plan will outline county road projects through 2035 and establish Farm-to-Market 110, a new four-lane freeway in San Marcos. The freeway, known as San Marcos Loop, will extend from the Texas Highway 123 exit of Interstate 35 to the north side of the city near Yarrington Road. The plan will include upgrades to San Marcos roads. The expansion of Wonder World Drive from four to six lanes is slated under the transportation plan, as well as dividing Aquarena Springs Drive and expanding Texas Highway 21 to six lanes.
The population of Hays County is expected to reach 371,000 residents by 2035, an increase from the current 157,000. Commissioners said the guidelines to expand and upgrade major roads in the county will suit the needs of its booming population.
However, Judge Bert Cobb said the plan wasn’t “etched in stone,” but rather “etched in sand.”
“This is a plan. Therefore, it is changeable,” Cobb said. “It can be changed to fit the needs of the current time when the need arises.”
Commissioner Mark Jones, Precinct 2, said plans may not be carried out immediately, but county officials will be prepared for transportation needs before they arise.
“The big advantage to this is that we’re not piecemealing our road systems together as things come up,” Jones said. “This is a plan to do it in a comprehensive way. This is a guidepost, not a hitching post, on how we move forward.”
Joe Cantalupo, project manager and transportation planner for Parsons Brinckerhoff, called Hays County the “most engaged community” he has worked with. Cantalupo has previously worked on a number of road projects, including plans in Delaware, Illinois, Kansas and Texas.
“We could probably find somebody, if we looked hard enough, who didn’t know about this, but I’m extremely happy with the amount of activity and public input we’ve had,” Cantalupo said. “I’ve had my hand at different levels in different places.”
However, the transportation plan did not come without some protest. During public comment, Sam Brannon, San Marcos resident and former commissioners court candidate, said the way a project begins “sets the tone” for how it will be implemented.
“This process started off with two convicted felons on the citizens advisory board,” Brannon said, echoing sentiments he had previously made during his 2012 campaign against Commissioner Will Conley, Precinct 3. “One was convicted of bribery and corruption in an official office, and the other was a sexual predator.”
Conley dismissed the claims, saying the comment had “nothing positive to offer whatsoever” to what he called a “community process.”
“We have hundreds, if not thousands, of people here lined up to speak in support of the plan,” Conley said. “I know that because I’ve been part of that public process for a year, as have all members of this court. We have some of the strongest consensus I’ve ever seen with going through a planning process.”