5 things to know about Austin's Spicewood Springs Road project

Preliminary engineering is underway to improve a portion of Spicewood Springs Road in Northwest Austin using $17 million in funds from the 2016 mobility bond.

City staffers hosted the first meeting Tuesday night for residents to ask questions about the project and provide feedback on the issues they experience when driving on the roadway.

The city is targeting the portion of the road that is two lanes from Loop 360 to west of Mesa Drive. Construction on improvements could begin in fall 2019 and be complete in 2020.

Carolyn Wright, president of the Stillhouse Canyon Condos—a community of about 250 residents and 180 condo units on Spicewood Springs Road—said it is a challenge for residents to access the site.

“Many people want sidewalks or bike lanes, and we see the value of a median turn lane,” said Wright, who has lived at Stillhouse since 1997.

Barak Benaryeh, who owns the Spicewood Springs Animal Hospital that has been open since 1970, said his patients also report difficulty turning into and out of the property.

“I just want to make sure that it is built in a way that is beneficial to the residents and the property owners and not just the drivers [passing through],” he said.

Here are five things to know about the project:

1. No plans have been finalized for what improvements the city will make.
Staffers are still working on preliminary engineering and gathering input from residents, collecting traffic data and analyzing crash reports. Preliminary engineering is slated to wrap up in the spring, and staffers will come back to residents with the final design and construction plan for feedback.

With the exception of 2015, which had 13 crashes, the number of crashes on the roadway has been declining since 2012. In 2016, there were six crashes.

2. Improvements may include multimodal options.
As part of its complete streets policy, city staffers aim to see what options for bicyclists and pedestrians might also be appropriate to add. Sidewalks, bike lanes and a shared-use path are options the city is considering.

3. Public comment will help shape the plan.
Cheyenne Krause, public information officer for the Austin Transportation Department, said staffers need to know what issues to address.

“We don’t know what’s needed,” she said. “That’s why we’re doing preliminary engineering and asking you all about your experience. If four lanes are not needed, we won’t do it.”

Staffers gathered feedback Tuesday night, but residents still have time to submit comments through Oct. 31 by emailing 2016bond@austintexas.gov or cheyenne.krause@austintexas.gov.

Residents may also plot their comments online through an interactive map. Additional information is available at www.austintexas.gov/spicewoodspringsrd.

4. The city is coordinating with other agencies and departments.
The Texas Department of Transportation is also planning improvements to Loop 360 at Spicewood Springs Road. The city’s Watershed Protection Department is looking at ways to improve the low-water crossing on Old Spicewood Springs Road that travels underneath Loop 360 and connects the two legs of Spicewood Springs Road.

5. If the project costs exceed $17 million, the city would look at other funding options.
Krause said the transportation department can apply for grants and has other department funds for safety concerns.

“Just because it’s not funded from the 2016 mobility bond doesn’t mean we don’t have other funding sources,” she said.

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From FOX 7's reporting partner, Community Impact.

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