Cottonwood Shores City Councilor Michael Hibdon (left) and Burnet County Judge James Oakley hold a drawing of the planned Wirtz Dam bridge. Staff photo by Jennifer Fierro
The bidding process for a new bridge crossing Lake Marble Falls just below and parallel to Wirtz Dam and connecting RR 1431 and FM 2147 will begin in 2024, Burnet County Judge James Oakley told the Cottonwood Shores City Council at its regular meeting Thursday, Nov. 18.
“I’ve got assurances funding will be in place,” he said. “It’s a very synced project, it’s got a lot of notoriety, and I have no doubt things will keep moving forward at the pace we’re on.”
A Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization public outreach campaign revealed strong public support for the project, Oakley said. He described the public response as one of the largest CAMPO has ever experienced, about triple any previous outreach response.
“It came back with 87 percent of folks saying that they would utilize the bridge and are in favor of it,” Oakley said. “That’s a pretty strong number indicator.”
Input from Cottonwood Shores leaders is welcome as the project continues to move forward, he continued.
“I would say that, as an elected body, you certainly have a seat at the table as we all sit at the table to try to develop plans to address growth,” he said. “That’s our responsibility.”
Cottonwood Shores councilors greeted the presentation with concerns about increased traffic and noise.
A traffic study of FM 2147 two years ago showed 12,000 vehicles used the two-lane roadway through Cottonwood Shores daily, Mayor Donald Orr said. He believes that number will double once the bridge is completed.
“You can’t stick your head in the sand. You have to do something, and I’m open to suggestions,” Oakley said. “My view is (widening 2147) won’t be looked into.”
Orr pressed a bit more on the traffic issue.
“This section of 2147 out here already exists, and so you’re building roads with more traffic to run into this section,” Orr said. “And, you’re saying that it’s still Cottonwood Shores’ responsibility to go widen that road? I don’t believe so.”
Oakley said he didn’t anticipate an increase in traffic through Cottonwood Shores due to the proposed bridge and said studies back that up.
“I really don’t think it’s going to cause new traffic,” he said. “I believe it’s folks who are going from Cottonwood Shores to go to H-E-B to take that highway instead of going through Marble Falls. I really do believe that, and that’s what the traffic studies indicate. Same thing with the Horseshoe Bay folks. So, that will keep them off your Dutch Leming Lane intersection (with 2147) down there.”
Councilor Roger Wayson inquired about the additional noise pollution that traffic on the bridge would cause. He noted the city’s nature preserve located on the western edge is listed as a “quiet please” area. His concern is the noise could negatively impact bald eagles, hawks, and other wildlife that come to Cottonwood Shores.
“I actually ran the noise state model,” he said. “It does really impact the area unless you keep trucks off the bridge, which I understand that’s not going to happen.”
Texas Department of Transportation Assistant Area Engineer Joe Muck, who attended the meeting at Oakley’s invitation, told councilors it was his understanding that a noise impact analysis will be required. Muck said the project also would probably require public hearings, and he would look into those concerns and get answers for the City Council members.
Currently, the only link connecting northern and southern Burnet County is the U.S. 281 bridge that crosses Lake Marble Falls into the heart of that city. An alternate route is to drive about 15 miles to the RM 2900 bridge in Kingsland and Llano County, crossing the Colorado River arm of Lake LBJ.
Based on the current bidding and construction timeline, the estimated cost of the bridge is approximately $30 million. CAMPO estimates that if the bridge was built closer to 2045, it would cost about $52.1 million.