CONNIE SWINNEY • STAFF WRITER
COTTONWOOD SHORES — When restaurant manager Rosie Ribera got word of a potential new bridge connecting her community to other cities across nearby Lake Marble Falls, she felt the outcome would be good for business.
“It’s good because you don’t have to go all the way around. I don’t think it would take business away from us,” said Ribera, who manages the family business Julie’s Cocina, 4119 W. FM 2147 in Cottonwood Shores.
“We have a lot of people that come out from Highland Haven and Kingsland,” Ribera said. “It’s closer for them instead of having to go through all the traffic in Marble Falls.”
The potential bridge project just below Wirtz Dam has gained steam as officials launch a Community Outreach Program to gather public input.
Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) is hosting two public meetings in an open house format.
The meetings are from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Oct. 26 at Quail Point, 107 Twilight Ln. in Horseshoe Bay, and Nov. 3 at Marble Falls Lakeside Pavilion, 305 Buena Vista Dr.
Local CAMPO representative Burnet County Judge James Oakley said the meetings are part of a four-month process.
“You’re able to come in, look at the proposals, ask any questions,” Oakley said. “We want to get your input about the potential of having a crossing below Wirtz Dam.”
Representatives scheduled to attend the open houses will include CAMPO representatives, as well as officials from the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT); potentially the funding source if approved.
Officials launched the process about a month ago when community leaders, emergency service personnel and government officials met at Marble Falls city hall to set forth groundwork for upcoming outreach.
First responders, who expressed support for the proposed project, have said that in certain scenarios response time could be reduced from 30 minutes to five if the bridge existed.
“It means that our crews are on scene quickly,” Marble Falls Area EMS Operations Director Kevin Naumann said. “When time is critical it could result in a significant life save.”
Oakley said an existing submerged low-water crossing has laid some of the groundwork for the project.
“The beauty is you’re connecting two existing roads and right-of-ways just with a structure,” Oakley said. “With some enhancements on the intersections on each side, it will make for better connectivity within our region.”
Such a structure is touted as potentially easing congestion for the city of Marble Falls, since motorists west of the city or south of the city would by-pass the community to travel from the Cottonwood Shores and Horseshoe Bay area to the Granite Shoals, Highland Haven and Kingsland area.
“From my personal perspective it’s a good thing because from what I understand from the research, there’s a large percentage of the traffic that’s on 281 that is just going that way because that’s the only way to get to and from their job,” said Marble Falls/Lake LBJ Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Patti Zinsmeyer. “Then by removing that congestion from the roadways, to me you’re allowing more room for the ones who are here for the shopping and the dining and the entertainment.”
She added she has not heard any resistance from her members about the bridge.
“I don’t see Marble Falls losing its customers because of the Wirtz Dam bridge,” Zinsmeyer said. “Marble Falls is the economic hub for the Highland Lakes, customers (who want to shop in Marble Falls) are going to go the long way to get what they need.”
Those interested in providing feedback can also take part in an online survey at www.campotexas.org/wirtzdam or call 512-234-0204.
“The survey is out there as another form of getting feedback, what you see as the benefits or why you don’t want it,” Oakley said. “The whole purpose of this process is to gage what the public feels about this project.”
Officials are expected to share the findings in December.