New name, same problem: Road to Tesla still needs improving as area booms

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — More than 25,000 drivers make their way through a section of Farm to Market Road 973 near the formerly named Harold Green Road, according to the latest data from TxDOT from 2020. It’s a growing number for the growing area with traffic, increasing 136% in three years.

Just this week, Travis County Commissioners approved a name change for the road going from Harold Green Road to Tesla Road. Despite the name change, the congestion surrounding the area remains with the first batch of workers, an estimated 5,000, expected to begin work at the new Tesla Giga Texas factory soon. Thousands more are expected to come in the months and years to come, and county and transportation leaders are working to make improvements.

“If you look at that area, it is considered an east Austin area,” explained Travis County Commissioner for Precinct 1 Jeff Travillion. “One thing we know about east Austin is it was underinvested in and undeveloped.”

Travillion, who represents that section of the county, said infrastructure is lacking in areas along FM 973.

“If you look there between FM 973 and the Giga factory, there is a huge gap, the road goes to a certain place, stops, and starts at another place,” he said.

And with the influx of new people, he wants to see an evacuation route be built to be used in case of a natural disaster, like flooding or tornadoes, or even incorporating for a safe schools route.

“What we are trying to do is build an alternative,” he said. “We are trying to make sure that the existing part of Harold Green Road is effective as an evacuation route.”

The commissioner said county leaders have an idea of where it could go.

“We know that it will roughly be on the south side of Austin’s colony and we know that it will take us to State Highway 130,” he explained, but at this time this is still to be determined. Currently, they are working on a design for the evacuation route and he estimates they should have a better idea of what that could look like in about six months.

TxDOT also has some projects it’s working on. Transportations leaders have plans to add an additional lane in each direction with a continuous center turn lane on FM 973 between Farm to Market Road 969 and Thyone Drive. That will get started this fall.

In a few weeks, crews will begin work on some turn lanes from FM 973 onto Tesla Road. TxDOT recently installed a traffic signal at the intersection of FM 973 and Tesla Road in an effort to help mitigate the traffic.

“We see it continuing to grow and we want it to grow smart,” Travillion said.

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