Roads are being built or rebuilt near Taylor, and Williamson County recently updated the city on its progress thus far and into the distant future.
On Oct. 22, the Taylor City Council heard from a Williamson County official on the status of capital improvement projects (CIPs) considered to be in the immediate vicinity of the city. Projects include County Road 101, Chandler Road, and an interchange of Farm to Market Road 3349 and U.S. 79.
“Williamson County, right now, we’re the fifth fastest growing county in the state,” said Jeff Jenkins, deputy city manager. “Due to this growth, our county had been heavily focusing on infrastructure projects and keeping us ahead of the growth curve.”
Jenkins also referenced a 2019 county bond of $477 million approved by voters for road improvements and quality of life projects.
Robert Daigh, Williamson County senior director of infrastructure, recapped the projects for the council. The Williamson County Expo Center project is complete, so roads have been the next focus for the county.
Among the biggest projects for the county at the moment is the U.S. 79 and FM 3349 interchange. The project calls for two bridges to be built over Hwy 79 near the planned RCR Taylor Logistics Park, a planned 750-acre rail park announced earlier this year.
“This is a very, very expensive project. It’s over $40 million total project cost,” said Daigh. “We are seeking federal dollars to try to leverage our precious Williamson County dollars to see if we can’t make our dollars go farther.”
The project is in the design stages with plans to start construction within the next two years.
During citizen communications, Travis and Jennifer Betak submitted an email regarding disappointment they had with Williamson County government. They had concerns that they and others affected by the interchange project were not informed adequately enough, with one effect they said included the condemnation of their home in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I urge the city of Taylor and its residents to request Williamson County to be more upfront and transparent regarding its future road projects,” said the Betaks. “At this late stage in the game, we realize there’s little we can do to stop the project taking our home from proceeding, but hopefully we can change how similar situations are handled in the future.”
Their full letter can be heard in the video below.
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Daigh acknowledged that there is no greater suffering than from someone whose property is absorbed into a public project. He also touched on the Betaks’ concerns regarding maps and their way to relay data.
“It is painful,” said Daigh, “It is unfortunate and we will seek to improve, always, our public information outreach effort. The challenge is everybody wants to know exactly where that blue line is, but until we do the study, I can’t tell them.”
A CIP road already in progress is CR 101, located between Taylor and Hutto. The county has worked on reconstruction of a segment between U.S. 79 and Chandler Road. Work on 101 has been sometimes confused with the interchange project due their proximity to each other.
“(CR 101) was in horrific shape. It was a substandard-width road,” said Daigh. “There were barely two 11-foot lanes out, no shoulders, and the gravel trucks had totally destroyed the little pavement structure that was there.”
Of the total expected price for the CR 101 project of $13,092,842, approximately $2.78 million has been spent. Reconstruction is slated to be complete in the spring of 2022.
Closer to Taylor, the county is working on designs to widen County Road 366 between Carlos G. Parker Boulevard NW and Chandler Road. The street is also referred to as Old Georgetown Road.
“It’ll end up being a five-lane section … , which is two lanes each way with a center-left turn lane,” said Daigh, “and we will also improve the intersection at 397 (Carlos G. Parker Boulevard NW).”
A light would be added to the intersection as well.
Construction is expected to begin this summer and take 12-18 months to complete. The county will fund the relocation of the city’s waterlines.
In decades to come
Looking into the distant future, Daigh announced a planned project to study how to create a northwest corner and complete what’s considered Taylor’s loop route. The project would entail an extension of Chandler Road east across State Highway 95 and adjacent railroad tracks before turning south to connect with U.S. 79 at the eastern edge of Taylor facing Thrall.
“This will provide a way for freeway traffic who isn’t interested in stopping Taylor to go ahead and get around Taylor and proceed to the north,” said Daigh. “That way, you will not destroy historic downtown Taylor trying to get freeway traffic through it.”
However, citizens might have to wait decades before they see this project come to pass.
“That won’t happen for 50 years,” cautioned Daigh, “but it is important to go ahead and do the planning now.”
For more on Williamson County's road projects, Daigh's extended response to residents' concerns and questions from the City Council, click on the video below.