A section of the city of Marble Falls’ 2019 thoroughfare plan shows where an alternative route could be built to connect RR 1431 and U.S. 281 apart from the intersection between the two main roads. The route is indicated by the yellow line moving from southwest to northeast. Courtesy image
Doing your own traffic studies costs a bit of money, but the benefits go a long way in attracting businesses to a city and informing future changes to traffic patterns, Christian Fletcher told members of the Marble Falls Economic Development Corp. at its monthly meeting Wednesday, May 4. Fletcher is the EDC’s executive director.
“We pay for it so we can fully understand our market,” he told DailyTrib.com after the meeting. “Traffic counts is a component of updated demographics that we also pay for every year. We get questions every week from interested parties on household income, average ages, migration patterns. It informs retail and restaurant prospects.”
The EDC board voted to continue using Gram Traffic Counting Inc. to conduct its next traffic study, which will cost about $6,000. The company will set up cameras in 16 locations for the count rather than lay cables across select roadways. Cables are often damaged during the process and do not produce reliable results.
Traffic counts are also done by the Texas Department of Transportation, but since the Highland Lakes is in a region with Austin and the Interstate 35 corridor, areas such as Marble Falls get little attention, according to Fletcher.
Also, not only does TxDOT use cables, it usually sets up in fewer than half of the locations that Gram Traffic Counting does.
“We get table scraps at best,” said Fletcher, referring to the time and money TxDOT allocates to traffic studies in the Highland Lakes.
Last year, Gram measured traffic on a Wednesday rather than a Thursday and Friday as it did in past years. What the EDC learned is traffic on Wednesdays is now commiserate with Thursdays and Fridays just a few years ago.
“Traffic counts on the south side of town are the largest growth area,” Fletcher said. “That’s where most of the increases took place. There is a lot more traffic coming out of Horseshoe Bay and Cottonwood Shores on FM 2147 than ever.”
This year, the EDC is requesting that Gram measure on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday for a more “apples-to-apples comparison,” Fletcher said.
The EDC shares the information with the city of Marble Falls. It is used to update the city’s thoroughfare plan and determine possible alternative routes for future growth.
EDC traffic count figures helped bring about one important alternative route in the city in recent years.
“When Mustang Ridge Estates went in, in the Mormon Mill area, the city extended from Park View to RR 1431,” Fletcher said. “It has taken a ton of traffic off 1431 between 281 and Park View. Now, if you want to go to Colt Elementary or (Marble Falls High School), you can avoid the 1431-281 intersection and take the back roads.”
The subdivision developer worked with the city on the route, reducing the traffic burden on major thoroughfares.
Looking into the future, Fletcher said he has his eye on another potential connecting route that would mostly involve city land.
“One that would get me excited would be a connector on the northwest side of town, kind of where Mustang Mobile Home Park is on RR 1431 West,” he said. “It would connect to 281 north around the Lowe’s (Home Improvement store). Traffic from Granite Shoals and Kingsland wanting to go to Walmart or Lowe’s would not have to go through the 281-1431 interchange or cut through neighborhoods.”
That vision won’t become a reality for many years, if ever, but annual traffic counts now will help determine if that route, or any others, could be developed for a growing community.
IN OTHER BUSINESS
The EDC board discussed the 2022-23 budget process, which is conducted in conjunction with the city. The EDC has to make its recommendations to the city by early June.
The board also approved a continued partnership with Workforce Solutions of Central Texas for another round of high-demand job training. This fall, Workforce Solutions will offer classes for plumbing levels 1-4 and electrician license levels 1 and 2.