Note: Success doesn’t happen by accident. For the City of Round Rock, it’s been a decades-long process of strategic planning and methodical execution. The Future Forward series highlights our efforts to manage Round Rock’s rapid growth.
It should surprise absolutely no one who’s lived here more than 5 minutes the issue most vexing to Round Rock residents is traffic. We get it. We drive in it every day, too.
The problem, in a nutshell, is too many vehicles for not enough lanes of pavement. Duh, right? So how do you solve that problem? Simple: Create new connections and expand the road network. Duh, again. (And, yes, there are solutions other than laying down more asphalt, like transit and such. Patience, dear reader.)
Of course, the create-new-connections and expand-the-roadway-network solution is complicated by the fact that we have an interstate highway and major state roads running through the community over which we have limited to no control.
And then there’s paying for those new connections and roadway expansions. That’s not complicated, it’s just expensive.
Back to complicated: Where do those connections/expansions need to be added, and when?
Those questions are answered the Transportation Master Plan approved by the City Council in October 2017. The Master Plan’s vision is to improve all forms of connectivity, including roads and public transportation, through planning and policy choices, partnerships, dedicated funding and targeted construction so that quality of life, economic opportunity and public safety are enhanced.
Easier said than done, of course. The plan’s price tag is $1.2 billion. That’s a huge number but bear in mind that gets us to Round Rock’s ultimate build-out, when our population will be 250,000. To put that number into perspective: Since Round Rock’s half-cent sales tax for transportation went into effect in 1998, more than $533 million worth of projects have been completed. Of that, $203 million in funding came from the half-cent sales tax. The City used the sales tax revenue to leverage county, state and federal funds, as well as tapped private development contributions, to get to the total. (More perspective: Round Rock’s population was 61,212 in 1998.) So $1.2 billion is doable, over the long haul.
Back to the question of precisely where the new roads need to go and when to build them. The Master Plan features a list of projects, ranked from 1 to 55, that are also segmented into short-term (2017-2020), mid-term (2020-2030) and long-term (2030-2040). The rankings are prioritized by the following measures: Safety and mobility (45%), connectivity (25%), environment (15%) and cost (15%).
Work is currently under way on 8 of the top ten projects. Why not all 10? That brings us back to limited resources. We only have so much funding at the present time. There’s $53 million allocated in the City’s current budget for all things transportation. That total includes a mix of General Fund revenue, Type B revenue (that’s the sales tax we referenced two paragraphs ago) and our General Self Financed Construction Fund, which is fueled by excess General Fund revenues or unspent General Fund budget.
The City has also submitted nearly $40 million in grant applications to CAMPO earlier this year for transportation funding.
The Master Plan calls for finding new, sustainable sources of funding. A new method the City is considering is Roadway Impact Fees on new development. Roadway Impact Fees are one-time costs assessed to developers in order to improve roadway capacity. Public input is scheduled to occur this summer, and a draft ordinance is expected to be presented to City Council this fall.
The City Council has had early discussions about a possible bond election for road projects, something it is likely to discuss in more detail at its budget retreat on July 12.
Yes, dear and patient reader, we are also working on public transportation solutions. You can learn more about current transit services here, which grew from the Transit Master Plan we completed in 2015.
We didn’t even get into other transportation options, like hike and bike trails, but we’ve got a plan for those as well, along with $21.6 million in bond funds targeted for four trail projects that will make staying off those frustrating roads a lot easier.
Throw all those plans and options together, and you can see Round Rock is built for less stop and more go.