LEANDER, Texas (KXAN) — Leander city council is considering permanently closing a low-water crossing on County Road 177 after a history of crashes and accidents, including the time a school bus was swept by flood waters after the driver tried to cross, but neighbors in the area are asking the city to pump the brakes.
City council discussed the closure during an Oct. 10 city council meeting. The ordinance that was introduced said the road is “narrow” and in “poor condition.” The fire and police departments both said it would not disrupt services if the road was closed.
Gina Ellison, the public works director for Leander, said there were 24 crashes on this area of the road. That’s because it is only wide enough for one car to cross, but traffic moves in both directions along CR 177.
In 2018, a school bus tried to cross the road during a storm when water was rushing over it. Dashcam video of the bus showed it being swept away. One child and the driver were on board at the time.
The city placed metal gates on either side of the crossing that it could close and lock during flooding events, but that did not stop everyone.
“What we found is folks get impatient and they have started cutting the locks on those gates, and opening kind of prematurely,” Ellison explained.
Residents ask to keep the road open… for now
Residents who live in the area voiced their reasonings at the meeting to keep the road open for just a little while longer. Many people who spoke said they understand the crossing can be unsafe, but it does provide a vital path to a second exit out of the neighborhood.
If the crossing were to be closed, the residents living west of the crossing would have to exit out of the neighborhood using Ronald Reagan boulevard, which can be extremely busy. The intersection of Ronald Reagan and CR 177 does not have a traffic light.
Naomi Voyer, a resident who has lived in the area for decades, said that intersection is a nightmare.
“I doubt if any of you have been on those roads at 7:30 in the morning trying to get out of 177,” Voyer said.
RockPointe church is located on CR 177. The pastor of that church, Shayne O’Brien, spoke to council on Tuesday night as well. He said the crossing is vital to alleviate traffic in the area on Sundays when his congregation is coming and going. He fears for their safety if the crossing is closed and an emergency happens.
“On many Sundays of the year right now we are often backed up all the way past our own exits now,” O’Brien said.
Some neighbors said they would like to see an alternate route constructed in the neighborhood before the crossing is officially closed.
What happens now?
The council decided to take no action on Tuesday night. They asked Ellison to come back with more traffic data in the area to make a better decision.
Two housing developments are planned in the area and will bring a lot more local traffic.
The city council will most likely take up this item again in November.