These are just a few of the words used during the Lakeway City Council meeting on January 16, where a proposed expansion plan for 620 was the topic of discussion.
The picture of your beloved Hill Country’s future is being painted with a gloomy brush.
Are your complaints about congested roadways overshadowing your love of life in the Lake Travis area?
Have you become one of those residents?
The grumpy ones who complain about apartment complexes and avoid traffic by cutting through neighborhood streets?
Well, according to the TxDOT RM 620 Feasibility Study, uhm…yes.
If traffic is the name of the game in Lake Travis, are “hooded lefts” the inevitable solution?
As Lake Travis Lifestyle reported in September 2015, TxDOT is in the infant stages of creating a multi-faceted plan for the 18.8-mile segment of 620 that stretches from SH 71W in Bee Cave to US 183N.
The goal is to identify problems and investigate the feasibility of short-term and long-term solutions that will handle the projected growth in the Lake Travis area.
The proposed $73 million in improvements for 620 include a 6-lane divided roadway between SH 71 and Lakeway Blvd. (with a raised median). And a 4-four lane divided roadway between Lakeway Blvd. and Mansfield Dam (with a raised median).
The long term plans for the stretch of 620 from 2222 to 183 probably involves an elevated highway.
Let’s break down the findings from TxDOT’s reports (RM 620 Feasibility Report and RM 620 Improvement Study) and highlight some of the interesting tidbits we gleaned along the way.
“F” is for failing in 2035
According to the results of the study, the current thoroughfares just can’t handle the impending growth in the Lake Travis area. Period.
This means nearly all of the intersections along 620 will get failing grades of Ds and Fs by 2035 because they won’t properly handle the number of drivers during peak traffic times.
Intersections at 620/2222, 620/River Place Blvd., 620/Debba, 620/Cavalier-Aria and 620/Lohmans Crossing are already failing.
The nature of 620 accidents
What’s interesting about the crash data in the feasibility report is not necessarily the number of crashes on 620, but the type of crashes. Most of them don’t occur at intersections. They are linear in nature and unfortunately head-on.
In other words, drivers are jumping to the center lane when traffic gets congested. If a collision occurs in the center lane, all lanes of traffic are typically shut down as a result.
Why not lower speed limits?
If aggressive drivers diving to the center lanes are causing problems, why not drop the speed limit and slow ‘em down, right?
TxDOT performs speed studies in the Lake Travis area, especially near 620 and 2222.
Based on their findings — and human nature — lowering the limit would probably increase incidences.
Because drivers expect other drivers to follow the posted speed limit.
This isn’t happening because motorists consistently violate these limits by either speeding or driving much slower than the posted limits.
Medians + hooded left turns = safer roads
Building a “divided” highway means there will be a median or a barrier in the center, which is really about controlling access points.
Medians prevent people from making legal/illegal turns across traffic.
That being said, one of the safety advantages of the preliminary design of 620 will be “hooded lefts” and u-turn bays that channelize movements and decrease potentially dangerous turns and conflict points.
71% live along the 620 corridor
The feasibility report contains pages of data submitted by 2,835 survey respondents. Keep in mind, however, that of the 2,835 respondents, 2,012 actually live along the 620 corridor.
If you look at the study, you’ll see most of the people who answered the survey live in Lakeway zip codes 78738 and 78734, followed by 78726 (east of 2222/Bullick Hollow Rd.).
It’s also worth noting that of the 2,835 respondents, 58% say they travel on 620 multiple times per day. That’s a total of 1,644 respondents.
Based on our estimates, there are about 8000 residents in the Lake Travis area that are over 20 years of age. Just sayin’.
What you really care about. Or do you?
Interestingly enough, safety on 620 is not the overwhelming concern.
The majority of respondents are more concerned about congestion and traffic back-ups at certain intersections than overall safety.
But in all fairness, 7.3% of respondents say that traffic on 620 doesn’t even affect their neighborhood directly.
In fact, out of all of the posted survey responses, 29.7% of answers are listed as “Other.” Hmm.
Phases in motion
Don’t lose your mind about impending construction quite yet.
After the current feasibility phase is finalized, then comes the environmental phase, which could take 1-2 years. Then add a year for engineering and so on.
If the proposed improvement plan works, the Lake Travis area could get back to A and B traffic ratings in 5-10 years.
But there is one other small detail.
Currently no funding is available for any improvements.
We’re all going to be stuck in Lake Travis traffic for a little longer. Let’s try to keep it Texas-friendly out there!
C. George says
What is a “hooded left” and a “u-turn bay”? I tried googling these terms and wound up looking at websites related to Ft. Hood traffic.
Cathy Hale says
Hi! These turns are located in the center of the highway where there are openings in the medians. Think of a hooded left like a left-only turn built into the median. Drivers would have a protected area in the median (in center lane where median opens) to turn left across traffic. A u-turn bay is where drivers from either direction can safely make a u-turn at the opening of the median. If you search these terms on Google and click on “Images,” you can see various examples (sketches) of how these types of medians look.
Jerry Stevens says
I think that the road pains we feel are from TXDOT not planning ahead and looking at major growth areas when the growth reports come out. Yes, the area is beautiful, and 620 has been in need of widening for over 15 years.
Do we want our LTISD High School Football Team to suffer an enormous drought? Widen the roads for stacks of big money to keep the area bustling with jobs, housing and more kids to fill the spots under the Friday Night Lights!
Maybe a bridge near Spicewood would answer the prayers of most? TXDOT better buy the cheap land now to make it easier to get to the offices in Cedar Park, Round Rock and North Austin.