The Marble Falls City Council talked traffic during a workshop Tuesday, Sept. 20, including possible changes to the Mormon Mill-Mission Hill intersection with U.S. 281, speed limits, and an electric scooter business ordinance.
During the workshop, City Manager Mike Hodge presented a study conducted by engineering students from the University of Texas as a class project on ways to improve the Mormon Mill-Mission Hill intersection with the highway.
“They’ve really done a good job,” he said about the proposed upgrades. “They actually drafted modeling of the intersection and how it would flow using a tool that’s pretty common in the industry.”
The intersection has been lamented as confusing and congested. The UT team presented three alternatives for Marble Falls to consider, all under the city’s $171,700 budget for the project.
The first suggestion is two separate barriers to better direct traffic through the intersection. Along with the addition of barriers, the group proposed adding another lane via re-striping. The overall cost of the proposal is about $52,000.
The second option is to close westbound lanes on the connecting road to The Home Depot, costing roughly $47,100.
“This is the one I thought was very interesting,” Hodge said. “It makes it where the only thing you can do is enter. It takes away a lot of conflict from the intersection.”
If the council were to move forward with this option, drivers could still enter The Home Depot via Mission Hills Drive but would exit via a connecting street to Max Copeland Drive.
The most inexpensive of the three options is for the city to redo signage and road paint to clarify traffic rules for drivers, which would cost the city about $7,850.
That proposed change also would have a shorter completion time than the other recommendations in the study; however, the suggestion still would not address traffic volume.
After lengthy discussion, Councilor Bryan Walker suggested combining options one and two by using barriers and closing westbound traffic near The Home Depot.
Walker also would like to see barriers on Mormon Mill, effectively eliminating southbound traffic concerns, and a stop sign at the Max Copeland intersection.
“That way, everyone coming from Max Copeland doesn’t get bottlenecked coming out of Home Depot,” he said.
Mayor Pro-Tem Dave Rhodes agreed with Walker’s assessment.
“There’s a lot of merit to where he’s going,” he said.
SPEED LIMIT REDUCTIONS
Police Chief Glenn Hanson presented the council with speed limit recommendations for residential areas based on a lengthy survey done by the Marble Falls Police Department with guidance from Marble Falls Fire Rescue and the Marble Falls Area EMS.
Several councilors had privately lobbied to lower limits on certain streets, while leaving others unchanged. After going through the survey’s results and speaking with city staff, Hanson came to a different conclusion.
“We’re looking at making categories of changes,” he said.
The current plan is to decrease speed limits on residential streets from 30 mph to 25 mph.
“We’ll leave our feeder streets where they are so it doesn’t slow emergency response,” Hanson said. “We’ll also leave our commercial streets where they are so it doesn’t affect traffic in the commercial areas.”
Speed limits on highways such as RR 1431 and U.S. 281 also will remain the same since the state, not the city, sets those.
Outliers in the survey included parts of Pecan Valley Drive, Avenue J, and Peruna Drive.
“On the map, it shows the possibility we could (raise the limits on those streets),” Hanson said. “Again, I think it’s prudent to do it by categories of streets so it’s not just a one-off thing here and there to make it a clearer process.”
The city will need to change roughly 65 signs if it decreases the speed limits in residential areas. Excluding labor, the overall cost is estimated to be about $3,900.
Council members also discussed a preemptive ordinance to prevent electric scooter companies from opening up shop in the city without notice. Electric scooter providers such as Lime, Bird, LINK, and Wheels have gone into cities like Austin, Houston, and Corpus Christi and inundated city streets with their scooters.
“We’d like to prevent these companies from coming out here with a load of (scooters) and dumping them out on the streets,” Hanson said. “It’s kind of an eyesore.”
Along with having them scattered haphazardly across town, the scooters also present a danger, Hanson said.
“Every time you turn around, somebody in Austin is getting run over and killed on them,” he said. “If that’s something we can prevent from happening here, my recommendation is we prevent it from happening.”
The proposed electric scooter ordinance will not outlaw scooters but rather force companies to work with the city on safety issues and regulations before opening operations in Marble Falls.
While nothing discussed at the workshop is official, the City Council plans to revisit proposed intersection changes, speed limits, and an electric scooter ordinance at a later date.