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Public briefed on Hwy. 71, Main Street construction

Author: 
By Terry Hagerty – Contributing writer/photographer

Local residents gathered in Bastrop on Sept. 28 for a presentation by TxDOT and City of Bastrop officials on current and future construction on Hwy. 71 east of the Colorado River, as well as downtown street re-construction.

During the public information meeting at the Bastrop Convention & Exhibit Center, officials gave briefings on construction centered on two new overpasses for Hwy. 71 – one now under construction near the Tahitian Village (Loop 150 East) intersection; and a second overpass planned for Hwy. 71 at Hwy. 95, which gets underway in the spring of 2016. Bastrop officials also gave updates on parking concerns in downtown and the schedule for extensive work slated for Main Street.

Panelists included Roy Dill (TxDOT), Melissa McCollum and Wes Brandon (City of Bastrop) and Jack Ladd (Prop. 7). The officials at the meeting included: Roy Dill, TxDOT’s Bastrop-based engineer; City Planning & Development Director Melissa McCollum and City Engineer Wesley Brandon; Jack Ladd, speaking on Proposition 7, a  proposal for ensuring adequate future funding of Texas highways; and State Representative John Cyrier (House District 17). The briefings were followed by a Q&A with the audience.

During the Q&A the audience listed concerns – through submitted written questions – which centered on several issues including: How long will construction take?; Will Hwy. 71 “become a toll road” at some point?; and Will traffic (going either way on Hwy. 71) be reduced to one lane at any time? City representatives also fielded questions on planned construction for downtown Main Street and if parking there will be eliminated – the quick answer is “No.”

Phase 1 of the Tahitian Village overpass is approximately 95% complete, with the entire project expected to take about 2 years.Dill said the overpass project near Tahitian Village (from Industrial Blvd. to ½ mile east of Tahitian Drive) will take about 2 years – Phase 1 is 95 percent complete – and that the Hwy. 95 overpass work will get underway “about March or April” and should also finish in two years. Dill said there is “no plan at this time” for Hwy. 71 to become a toll road, adding “a current ‘free road’ (to the public) can’t become a toll road”, but that it is possible a toll (fast) lane could be added in the future, but the main lanes would still remain free.  There will also be upgrades to highway infrastructure involving the Colorado River and Union Pacific crossings, and providing an overpass for both frontage roads at those points.

Bastrop City Manager Mike Talbot, reached after the meeting, said that the Main Street project is still in the “preliminary planning and design phase” and that city officials are analyzing some additional issues concerning the project, which is funded by the Bastrop Economic Development Corporation. McCollum assured the audience at the meeting that “parking will remain on Main Street.”

The project involves reconstruction of Main Street, from Pine to Farm streets. There will also be new sidewalks (Pine to Spring) and water line replacement (Pine to Chestnut). Work, done at night, will occur in four phases. A listing of current/upcoming City street improvement projects was also given: Church Street (underway now); Tahitian Village Drive and other streets to be announced. It will involve “full-depth” repairs, including seal coating.Frontage roads were installed in preparation for the overpass construction at Hwy 71 and Tahitian Village.

Talbot had previously informed the public that the city was delaying the Main Street project – at least for a while – in order not to add to an expected increase in downtown traffic as some motorists detour through downtown on Chestnut Street in an attempt to avoid any Hwy. 71 traffic jams.

Ladd, speaking about the situation with Texas roads and their funding, said that by 2035 almost all of the road pavements in Texas will be rated as “fair, poor or very poor.” Last year’s inspection revealed only 13 percent of road miles in that condition. If transportation officials decided in 2035 to restore the pavement condition to “current levels,” Texans would pay about $54 billion, just to bring the pavement to 2010 levels.