Relief route update rekindles passion

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Funding would be required to get loop project moving

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A representative with the Texas Department of Transportation presented Fredericksburg City Council members and Gillespie County Commissioners with an update on the potential relief route on Tuesday, Sept. 1.

During a 6 p.m. Zoom meeting, Andy Atlas, CP&Y environmental manager, presented TxDOT’s Relief Route feasibility study.

Atlas noted that through three public workshops, two open houses, a meeting with local merchants and an access workshop, the Relief Route process was largely driven by local input.

Based on local route suggestions, TxDOT settled on a “technically preferred” Relief Route.

This 8.6-mile route would displace 19 residences and three commercial establishments. It was the third-most suggested route by locals.

There was a slight change in the route after local input at a Jan. 14 open house meeting.

“The modification only affects the northernmost portion of the route where, in the vicinity of the intersection with U.S. 87, the route shifts slightly to the east to avoid what is believed to be a potential rural Historic District,” Atlas said.

 

Feasibility

Based on TxDOT’s study, the route would take one to two years to complete, after an environmental study, obtainment of right-of-way and other factors are completed.

The environmental study and schematic design is currently pending a local decision and funding, while the final design, obtaining of right-of-ways and construction aren’t currently funded.

 

Things to consider

Atlas also asked local officials to consider a few factors.

Should the community decide to continue with development, officials would need to work with TxDOT to secure funding and to initiate required environmental studies. The technically preferred route would then become TxDOT’s starting point for the environmental study process.

During that process, there would be more opportunities for locals to provide input, which would be considered as the route is refined and the schematic design is developed. Until this process is complete, the route is subject to change.

Kory Keller, chairman of the task force, said while the technically preferred route still has wiggle-room for historic properties and environmental factors, it gives the task force a chance to look at factors such as costs, the construction process and TxDOT participation.

“When we get this report, then we will go to work on what a negotiation looks like with TxDOT, so that we can continue to answer questions we have as a community,” Keller said.

 

Local input

Citizens for an Informed Relief Route founder Gary Saucier said he still feels like residents aren’t getting the answers to their questions.

“We don’t understand, nor do most of the citizens understand why it takes (an Interstate-10 sized) road to solve the traffic problems in Gillespie County,” Saucier said. “We were never told an answer, only that it’s the only road being offered.”

He noted the technically preferred route doesn’t help the citizens of Fredericksburg, as they have to leave the city just to use the road.

“It’s really not being built for the citizens of Fredericksburg, or even the citizens of Gillespie County, it’s being built for a larger purpose,” Saucier said. “In which case, the question is, why are the Gillespie County citizens funding this road?”

He also said based on TxDOT data, the amount of truck traffic on Main Street won’t change much over the years with this route.

“Some additional trucks will use the relief route, but the 2040 data for truck traffic doesn’t show the data going down, which was supposedly one of the initial goals,” Saucier said.

He also noted the 4,218 signatures his group received in a petition against the relief route, and advised local officials to stop work on the relief route.

“We think that local traffic can flow with much more cost-effective improvements as Fredericksburg’s own city transportation guys have looked at improvements to Main Street and the street extensions,” he added.