82° F Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Rachel Rice

Staff Writer

West Lake Hills is inching closer to acquiring all of the needed right of way to expand Bee Cave Road, which is currently an avenue for traffic jams and accidents. The city hopes to see right of way acquired on many properties by the end of the summer, said city manager Robert Woods.

The city has been working with property owners of both private residences and businesses along Bee Cave Road to gain the rights to the first 20 feet of property abutting the road. Once the land is acquired, the Texas Department of Transportation can expand Bee Cave Road to include a center turn lane.

“We have about a third of it already; we’re making good progress getting a third of it donated; and there’s a third or a little less we have to acquire through a negotiated sale price,” Mayor David Claunch said. “Once we line up all our ducks in a row, I’ll bring this before City Council.”

Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization confirmed in a 2010 study that stretches of Bee Cave Road were some of the most congested roadways in Central Texas. Due to the current lack of a center-turn lane, vehicles wishing to turn left off of Bee Cave Road have to stop in the main roadway, stalling traffic behind them.

“The road is highly congested in the morning and the afternoon, and it’s highly inconvenient for West Lake Hills residents and everyone else,” said Wood, “Most council members agree that if we could improve the flow (of Bee Cave Road) instead of starting and stopping all the time, it takes away the incentive to cut through neighborhoods.”

The expansion would include a sidewalk along Bee Cave Road. Many businesses, Mayor Dave Claunch said, see the benefits of improving the roadway in front of their establishment.

“I’m very pleased with the level of support we’re seeing from most commercial property owners who recognize that a center turn lane will add a lot of value to their property,” Claunch said. “There are some residential properties that we need to acquire right of way from, and those are a bit trickier.”

Property owners can donate their land, or they can sell it to the city for a fair price. For every property wishing to sell, the city has to get the property appraised and assure the asking price is a fair one. Those property owners who don’t agree with either of those options may face imminent domain or condemnation by the city, whereby the owner will be forced to give up the right of way, but the city will still pay them for the land. The city is still in the negotiation process with many property owners.

“In order to encourage [land donation], Council approved some incentives,” Wood said. “If you donate your right of way, you can use the original property line to figure out setbacks and impervious cover. If the city has to pay for it, then they don’t get those incentives.”

The city is focusing on the acquisition of right of way in two chunks – from Walsh Tarlton to Westhaven, and from Westhaven to Redbud Trail. The first section from Walsh Tarleton to Westhaven is priority number one, as TxDOT already has most of that stretch of road planned out already, Wood said.

“We’re glad things are speeding up,” he said. “This is something that might get done in the near future.”
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