CONNIE SWINNEY • STAFF WRITER
AUSTIN— A proposal for an $18.3 million bridge connecting an area west of Marble Falls to Horseshoe Bay gained steam as a state agency approved funding for public outreach and surveys for the project, officials said.
On Nov. 16, the Capitol-Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) approved $75,000 for the Texas Department of Transportation to launch the effort.
Burnet County has a seat on the CAMPO board along with Bastrop, Caldwell, Hays, Travis and Williamson counties.
The proposed bridge would span about 100 yards over an area that currently has a slab crossing beneath the water’s surface directly below Wirtz Dam.
Motorists would be able to access the bridge on RR 1431 West of Marble Falls on CR 426 (Sunset Point). The other side of the bridge connects with Wirtz Dam Road on RR 2147 West (near LBJ Yacht Club and Marina) in Cottonwood Shores adjacent to Horseshoe Bay.
In essence, motorists could bypass the city of Marble Falls to travel from an unincorporated Tobyville area to the Horseshoe Bay area.
“This project has been on the Burnet County transportation plan since 1974,” Burnet County Judge James Oakley said. This would be a full-fledged bridge similar to the one over the Colorado River below Mansfield Dam.
“The existing slab road, located on the upper end of Lake Marble Falls below Wirtz Dam, is used to transport heavy equipment to LCRA’s Thomas Ferguson Power Plant, which is located in Horseshoe Bay on Lake LBJ.
“The road and right-of-way are already there on each side. You just need a connector bridge and some enhancements,” Oakley added. “It’s an (alternative) route into Marble Falls. It would take 22 minutes off (emergency) response time in that area.”
As a Burnet County commissioner in 1999, Oakley attempted to bolster support for the bridge; however, funding became an issue.
Work included studies on hydrology and transporation from the Lower Colorado River Authority and TxDOT.
“It just didn’t gel, but I vowed whenever I came back as Burnet County judge that I was going to really get behind that project,” he said. “This is a step in the process.”
Oakley believes the recent passage of Proposition 7 has cleared the way for more funding for road and bridge projects across the state.
The amendment passed in November will dedicate certain sales and use tax revenue, including motor vehicle sales and rental tax, to the state highway fund to reduce construction debt.
“It all goes to transporation projects. Projects like this are one are the reason why I was happy to endorse the passage of Prop 7 in this most recent constitutional amendment election,” Oakley said.
TxDOT will use the most recent funding from CAMPO to host public meetings, work with local leaders, assemble studies and promote and solicit public input on the proposed project.
“This is the first official baby foot step of the TxDOT process,” Oakley said.
The public input sessions are expected to begin in the spring of 2016.