City officials anticipate a roundabout proposed to begin construction next year will ease traffic, but some local business and homeowners are worried about the effects of the addition.
A roundabout near San Antonio Street and Hunter Road is expected to break ground March 2014, according to the project proposal on the city’s website. The project will add a left turn lane in the center of the two-way Hunter Road from Wonder World Drive to Bishop Street, according to the proposal. Dixon Street will be moved to align with San Antonio Street and the roundabout will be built where the streets intersect with Hunter Road, also known as FM 2439.
Construction on the roundabout is projected to be complete by September 2014, according to the project’s webpage.
“That intersection, the way it is right now, is very dangerous,” said Councilwoman Kim Porterfield, Place 1. “It’s not working. And so I think the idea of the roundabout came along as the city’s engineers and planning staff looked at different solutions for that intersection.”
Porterfield said the roundabout will be a “traffic calmer.” She said it will help with congestion near Hunter Road and improve mobility for cars and pedestrians alike.
However, local business owner Bill Taylor, owner of Bill’s Trading Place, said the intersection will be an obstacle.Taylor said he is concerned the roundabout will create traffic on Hopkins Street, backing cars up from the roundabout to Wonder World and on the northern side of the intersection.
“I think we’re going to see a lot of back-ups,” Taylor said. “They talk about a roundabout as being a ‘traffic calming’ solution. My problem with that is we don’t really need ‘traffic calming’ when we have a road that’s getting 1,300 cars a day. What we need to do is expedite those cars through the center section, not slow them down.”
One of the biggest disputes concerning the roundabout’s construction stems from a local family and their land. In a Sept. 4 University Star article, land owner Catalina Lara said her family originally agreed to let the city use some of their land for an intersection. They were surprised to learn the city was going to be using 10,380-square-feet of their land for the roundabout, according to the same article.
The additional land required to build a roundabout instead of a four-way intersection will demolish historic pecan trees that are about 150 years old, according to the article.
Porterfield said a new tree will be planted for every one removed from the site.
“It’s not the same as having a 100-year-old tree, but you’re replacing it,” Porterfield said. “The deal is that the trees would be affected whether it was a roundabout or not.”
Lara’s family has decided they do not want to sell the land where the trees are rooted to the city, but councilmembers could decide to acquire it under eminent domain. Porterfield said eminent domain, the ability to take private property for public use while paying market price, would only be used because the project is for the good of the community.
“We are hoping to come to some kind of resolution,” Lara said. “If we don’t have to sell, we don’t want to.”
The construction of the roundabout will include a new bridge to help with future flooding of the road. It will provide a path beneath it for pedestrians to safely cross, according to the plans. The city will negotiate a settlement with the landowners, and they will be paid market value for the land, Porterfield said.