November 1, 2012
Jon A. White
Director, Natural Resources & Environmental Quality Division
Travis County Transportation & Natural Resources Department
411 West 13th Street, P.O. Box 1748
Austin, TX 78767
Re: Proposed changes to alignment of Steiner Ranch Blvd. intersection with RM620
Dear Mr. White:
Thank you for the analysis you provided in response to our proposal for realignment of Steiner Ranch Boulevard with the signalized intersection at RM 620 and Comanche Trail. We appreciate the time you and your team have taken in evaluating this proposal. We believe that the proposed project would address significant and growing concerns with both the safety and utility of the existing intersection at Steiner Ranch Boulevard and RM 620. As your response highlights, the large estimated cost projection for this project posses a significant challenge. We would appreciate it very much if you were able to provide more detail behind the estimate of $5 million expense for this project. We realize that there may be significant engineered reinforcements required to accommodate the initial turn from RM 620 headed southbound on the proposed connector, but we were not anticipating such a high total estimated cost. Specifically cost savings may be realized if the connector is able to generally follow the natural slope of subject area to minimize the amount of cut or fill required.
Regarding safety, the existing intersection at Steiner Ranch Boulevard and RM 620 poses very significant safety concerns for vehicles turning left in both directions due to the line of sight concerns that exist over the crest of the hill on RM 620. Safety issues are exacerbated in the current configuration given that there is no signaling at the intersection despite having such a significant combination of high speeds and limited visibility. In a discussion held at the office of the TxDOT District Engineer, then Carlos Lopez, with county and city representatives present on June 18th, we discussed the safety issues with the current intersection as well as those with various potential reconfigurations. At the meeting, it was tentatively concluded that the proposed realignment option presented the safest potential option available at first look. We agree that further investigation and analysis is warranted to fully consider the line of sight and safety issues in comparison with the current configuration.
Residential development is continuing along Steiner Ranch Boulevard, including an additional 300 unit apartment complex and two additional housing projects east of Quinlan Park Road in the near future. These will add to the approximately 5000 households within the Steiner Ranch peninsula for which today there is only a single controlled intersection providing access to the area. The additional residential load being added directly along Steiner Ranch Boulevard will add further stress to the current intersection; this additional load will not only exacerbate the existing safety concerns, but will also stress the utility of the intersection as more drivers seek to utilize this uncontrolled intersection for access to the neighborhood.
Regarding the issue you raised pertaining to any potential operational improvements in the event of an emergency, we agree that for events such as an evacuation that no significant improvement would be expected from a reconfiguration. However, general emergency response times to areas within the Steiner Ranch “peninsula” and along Steiner Ranch Boulevard may be improved with the proposed realignment due in part to the location of an emergency response station just north of RM 620 off of Comanche Trail.
Regarding the issue of mitigating for any loss of BCCP bird habitat, we understand that while this would require complex coordination, these issues do not appear insurmountable. Specifically, an “in-kind” off-setting trade for suitable land in an adjacent or near by area may be possible and has been favorably discussed with a representative from Taylor Morrison, the primary developer for Steiner Ranch. We would look forward to assisting with the coordination of further discussions to address endangered species concerns if we are able to clear the basic issue of the cost vs. benefit for the proposed project.
Thank you again for your assistance in evaluating the proposed realignment. We believe that the benefits and concerns described above in support of the proposed reconfiguration including those for improved safety and utility are significant. That said, we agree that the current cost estimate challenges a favorable cost/benefit ratio, and we look forward to any additional detail that can be provided for the estimate, or options for reducing the cost.
Chairman, Steiner Ranch Neighborhood Association
cc: Commissioner Sarah Eckhardt, Travis County Precinct 2
Steven M. Manilla, Travis County Executive, TNR
D. Greear, TNR
R. Farmer, TNR
R. Carruthers, WCID 17