CONNIE SWINNEY • PICAYUNE STAFF
SPICEWOOD — Growth and safety issues prompted Texas Department of Transportation officials to launch a bridge replacement project and the installation of a traffic light on a busy stretch of Texas 71 between Austin and Marble Falls.
One project involves replacing the bridge over Cypress Creek on Spur 191 near the intersection of county roads 404 and 410 at a cost of almost $400,000.
The second, estimated to be about $180,000, involves the installation of a traffic light at the intersection of Spur 191 and Texas 71. Both projects, less than a mile apart, are in the unincorporated area of Spicewood.
“The new bridge will be constructed in the footprint of the original bridge,” said Burnet County Precinct 4 Commissioner Joe Don Dockery about the structure built in the early 1970s. “(Raising the elevation of the new bridge) will allow for more flood flow through that area. The signifcant change is going to be in the roadway bed itself, and that’s where the public will see the major improvement.”
During construction, travelers into and outside of the heart of the community will use alternate routes such as county roads 408, 406 and 413 to access Old Town Spicewood, Spicewood Beach and Lakeside Beach. An elementary school is also located adjacent to the bridge.
Along with increasing the elevation of the new structure by two feet, workers will build a wider bridge to accomodate five-foot shoulders in each direction and a single six-foot sidewalk, according to TxDOT.
Work is anticipated to begin in late fall of 2015 and estimated to be complete in the summer of 2016.
The traffic light installation at the 191-71 intersection south of the bridge, considered the entryway to Old Town Spicewood, is expected to get under way about the same time.
Traffic entering or leaving Spur 191 to and from Texas 71 currently yields to a blinking yellow light.
“We’ve advocated for several years to get a full-blown traffic signal in that area. We’re starting to see an increase in traffic. … There has been an accident history in that intersection and, obviously, some near misses,” Dockery said. “(The light) will be doing what we think will be a better job of public safety on ingress and egress and the turning actions they’re trying to achieve.”
The Spicewood community, which extends into Travis County as well, is considered a main east-west corridor between several Austin-area communities and the Hill Country.
The area also provides access to a number of recreation areas, including the Lower Colorado River Authority’s the Narrows, the Grelle and Muleshoe Bend.
“One of the things that’s driving some of that traffic is the transitional growth moving back and forth from Austin,” he said. “As we’ve seen the growth from Austin move farther out west with West Cypress Hills and others on the western edge of Travis County, instead of going back towards Austin to fight that traffic to do their shopping, they’re actually coming out west and coming into the Marble Falls area, which we always welcome.”