SH 45 Connecting FM 1626 And Loop 1

SH 45 Connecting FM 1626 And Loop 1

Running north-to-south through Shady Hollow Austin is Brodie Lane, the primary artery for traffic within the community. Unfortunately, it’s also heavily traveled by commuters traveling from Hays County into Austin. A study by the Texas Workforce Commission estimated that in 2008, 40% of workers in Hays County were actually employed in Travis County.

Back in 1996, Brodie Lane was connected to FM 1626 to relieve congestion created by Austin’s amazing growth during the dot-com boom years. The assumption at that time was that the construction of State Highway 45, a loop around Austin, would take the pressure off Brodie Lane and the Shady Hollow community. An environmental impact study completed in 1989 had already approved the construction of SH 45 SW (southwest) as a six-lane highway connecting FM 1626 to MoPac.

However, some felt the environmental impact study hadn’t been rigorous enough, considering the road will pass over an aquifer zone. This has led some to oppose the construction of the highway on environmental grounds. The bigger issue, however, is the cost. The original, six-lane plan would have cost $76 million, just to traverse 3.6 miles. Even the cheapest plan, a simple road with one lane in either direction, could cost as much as $52 million.

Then there is the question of toll roads versus freeways. A toll road could defer a lot of the construction costs, but are traditionally a hard sell in Texas. Early plans to include two free lanes along with four toll lanes on the original six-lane plan also discouraged investors. “There would be no appetite,” says Mike Heiligenstein, Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority director last year. “A greenfield would be hard enough, but a greenfield with a competing non-tolled option: there would be no interest on the market.” Various plans have been floated to overcome this issue, including changing the rules to allow fees from toll roads in one part of the area overseen by CAMPO (Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization) to support toll roads in another part.

Because CAMPO oversees projects in five different counties, sometimes competing interests clash. Most recently, in May 2010, Travis County officials attempted to remove SH 45 SW from the 2035 master plan. A last-minute flurry of activity, spurred primarily by residents who organized petition drives and other means to get the word out at the Shady Hollow Community Center, and Hays County officials, saved SH 45 SW, which is now slated to open in 2022. The current plan involves a four-lane toll road with free frontage roads, though the details are still under consideration. “I’m not in favor of toll roads,” says Jim Mann, SH 45 SW Committee neighborhood representative. “But if it’s the only option, I’d say it’s better than nothing. There isn’t another alternative other than SH 45 SW to get people from Hays County to Travis County along that path.”

Saving SH 45 SW was vital, not just for Shady Hollow, but for Hays County as well. Between 2000 and 2040, the city of Kyle alone is expected to grow from just over 8.5 thousand residents to over 73 thousand, an expansion of 780%.

“When you come to Kyle now and see a lot of open space, you better take a picture,” says Kyle City Manager Tom Mattis, “because it won’t stay that way for long.”

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SH 45 - FM 1626 - Loop 1

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