STAFF WRITER CONNIE SWINNEY
BURNET — From more turn lanes on well-traveled thoroughfares to a new bridge project connecting two communities, Burnet County officials have released a list of roadway projects competing with five other counties for federal funding.
The Burnet County road upgrade proposals primarily include different sections of Texas 29, U.S. 281, Texas 71, and RR 1431 East. If all requests were to be funded, the projects would total $109,369,000.
One of the more notable project funding requests is the Wirtz Dam Bridge proposal, which would improve an existing road to include a bridge below Wirtz Dam, or Wirtz Dam Road from RR 1431 east of Granite Shoals to RR 2147 near Cottonwood Shores.
“What’s unique about the Wirtz Dam project is that it is new infrastructure as opposed to the other projects, which are improvements to existing infrastructure that are mainly aimed at safety enhancement,” said Burnet County Judge James Oakley, who is a board member of the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO).
For the local region, CAMPO is comprised of six counties — Bastrop, Burnet, Caldwell, Hays, Williamson, and Travis — which have submitted lists to be considered by the board directors, prioritized, then sent for consideration to the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) and, eventually, the Federal Highway Administration for funding.
The counties are vying for $400 million in federal dollars derived from a gas tax to fund roadway projects.
“For (highways) 29, 281, and 71, factors included (mining) truck traffic, increased traffic, and accident and fatality data — all of it goes into the mix,” Oakley said. “The goal is to achieve a footprint or profile that has already been established in other areas: center turn lanes, two-travel lanes, and a shoulder.”
The following is a summary of projects and costs submitted by Burnet County:
• Wirtz Dam Road from RR 1431 east of Granite Shoals to RR 2147 near Cottonwood Shores, costing $18,600,000 to improve an existing road to include a bridge below Wirtz Dam;
• Texas 29 from Longhorn Railroad east of Burnet to FM 243 North in Bertram, costing $12,077,000 to add a continuous left-turn lane and paved shoulders;
• Texas 71 from U.S. 281 south of Marble Falls to Spur 191 in Spicewood, costing $15,873,000 to add a continuous left-turn lane and paved shoulders;
• U.S. 281 from Park Road 4 south of Burnet to FM 1855 north of Marble Falls, costing $14,640,000 to add a continuous left-turn lane and paved shoulders;
• RR 1431 from Manzano Mile to 4.9 miles east of Marble Falls, costing $19,274,000 to realign segments of the highway and add paved shoulders;
• Texas 29 from FM 243 North in Bertram to the Burnet-Williamson county line, costing $5,854,000 to add a continuous left-turn lane and paved shoulders;
• U.S. 281 from Texas 71 south of Marble Falls to the Burnet-Blanco county line, costing $6,381,000 to add a continuous left-turn lane and paved shoulders;
• U.S. 281 at the intersection of RR 1431 in Marble Falls, costing $4,370,000 for intersection improvements to right-turn movements and traffic signals;
• U.S. 281 from Nature Heights Drive to Lantana Drive in Marble Falls, costing $1,265,000 to add a concrete curb and gutter and sidewalks along each side;
• and Texas 71 from Spur 191 in Spicewood east to the Burnet-Blanco county line, costing $11,035,000 to add a continuous left-turn lane and paved shoulders;
To contrast projects in Burnet County from the heavily populated counties east of the Highland Lakes, local officials have focused on the safety and efficiency aspect of their proposals.
“The urban (counties with metropolitan centers) aspects of CAMPO are looking at hike-and-bike trails, non-traditional transportation projects that include bussing, commuting rail,” Oakley said. “We’re looking at blacktops, turn lanes.
“Our list is not a comprehensive list of all of Burnet County needs but based on the amount available and working with TxDOT to prioritize projects,” he added of the requests, which are made every two years.
The CAMPO board is expected to meet in May to prioritize and make recommendations to be submitted to TxDOT for consideration in August.