Bye, stoplights! More overpasses coming to Austin-Houston commute

Bastrop County

CEDAR CREEK, Texas (KXAN) — A busy intersection in Cedar Creek is getting some upgrades. The Texas Department of Transportation has plans to construct a new overpass at the intersection of State Highway 71 and Farm to Market Road 1209. 

“The main goal here is twofold,” Bradley Wheelis with TxDOT said. “We want to improve mobility, keep traffic moving along SH 71 and also safety, [because] anytime you have traffic lights you run the risk of someone running the light, and this is going to eliminate that.”

Wheelis said not only will this new overpass improve safety and mobility, but it will help alleviate some of the added traffic the area has started to experience in the past few years. 

“We have seen tremendous growth in this area and we really need the capacity and improve mobility out there,” he said. 

A nearby homeowner said it’s a needed improvement, and added, “I think that’s a great idea, I am all for it.” 

Michael Openshaw said he travels along SH 71 daily.

“There’s always lots of congestion,” Openshaw said. “You catch those lights quite a bit.”

Wheelis said they hope to reduce the potential crash points along the busy highway by removing the traffic lights.

However, not everyone is looking forward it. 

“I don’t like it,” said Isaac Godinez, an employee at Bastrop Metal Recycling. “It might draw people away from here because they won’t want to make the long turn to get here.”

Godinez worries this will have an impact on his business due to the overpass’ layout and fears those who will travel along the overpass will not stop by.

Wheelis said this project is part of a larger plan. TxDOT’s SH 71 East Corridor project consists of five intersections along the highway where overpasses will be built. 

“When we get these projects done, from Austin down to I-10, you will not have traffic signals,” Wheelis said. “It’ll be a clear shot from here and onto Houston, so it really will improve mobility heading to the east of Texas.”

The SH 71 and FM 1209 project is still in the early stages of the process. It is estimated to cost about $34.5 million and the construction of the project is funded with Category 4 (Statewide Connectivity) and Federal money. 

“Building overpasses as far as construction is concerned it one of least expensive, it’s not cheap, but it’s one of the least expensive things we can do to improve mobility,” Wheelis said. 

TxDOT said it is also proposing to remove signals from the SH 71 mainlanes at Tucker Hill Lane, Pope Bend Road, Ross Road, Kellam Road and FM 1209. An overpass would be built with cross traffic going underneath the bridge. 

Traffic by the Numbers:

In 2015, the average daily traffic on SH 71 just east of SH 130 was more than 50,000 vehicles a day. 

At the intersection of SH 71 at FM 1209, the average daily traffic is just shy of 37,000. Those numbers climb as you head farther east and west. 

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