Project to ease stacked-up RM 620 to break ground this summer


TxDOT plans to add lanes to RM 2222 and RM 620, and connect the two arteries with a short, new road.

The $18 million, two-phase project should kick off this summer with widening of 1.2 miles of RM 2222.

The second phase, to start about a year later, will include a new segment of road linking the two highways.

Brian Thompto remembers when he first moved to Steiner Ranch and commuting on RM 620 and RM 2222 was a breeze.

“In 2007, things were easy peasy,” said Thompto, a hardware engineer who chairs the Steiner Ranch Neighborhood Association. “I knew eventually it would get worse. But it happened so much faster than I thought.”

Now, on a normal morning and pretty much anytime from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., Thompto said, eastbound traffic backs up from RM 2222 all the way to Quinlan Park Road, a distance of about two miles. On a bad day, that trail of Lake Travis-area commuters can stretch back another mile or so to Mansfield Dam.

Thompto — who works near Braker Lane and Burnet Road and takes RM 2222 to get toward the center of town — said it often takes him 35 minutes or more just to get to McNeil Drive on RM 2222, the heavily used turnoff to Vandegrift High School. He leans on classical music to deal with it all.

“It mellows me out,” he said.

The Texas Department of Transportation and the city of Austin, which already made some tweaks that temporarily improved the situation, are moving toward an $18 million project that engineers say could provide some genuine relief to the congestion.

Work to widen RM 620 and RM 2222, and to thread a shortcut between the two roads, should begin as soon as the summer of 2018, TxDOT area engineer Bobby Ramthun said.

RELATED: TxDOT’s hard look at congestion on RM 620

The city, as part of the huge transportation bond approved in 2016, is covering $7.5 million of the cost. Ramthun said if all goes according to schedule, the project — actually two phases, under two construction contracts — should be done by the end of 2020.

Here’s what TxDOT has in mind:

• In the first phase, RM 2222, which has two main lanes in each direction, would be widened to three lanes each way, with a raised median and left-turn bays cut into the median. This expansion to six lanes would happen on the 1.2-mile stretch from west of River Place Boulevard to Ribelin Ranch Drive, just east of McNeil. The work, including installing curbs and gutters, should take about 18 months, Ramthun said.

• The second phase, which includes the new cut-through road, would begin about mid-2019, while work continues on the first phase. The delay for this phase mostly owes to the need to buy three parcels of land, Ramthun said, and it is likely that some or all would have to be acquired through condemnation. And the federally required environmental review of this section of the project is not yet completed, he said.

• RM 2222, in the half-mile from the west end of the new six-lane section to the RM 620 intersection, would be converted from a five-lane road (with a continuous center-turn lane) into a four-lane road with a raised median, some turn bays, curbs and gutters. While that change would restrict some left turns people currently can make, it will be safer and improve flow, Ramthun said.

• The new cut-through road would run about 2,000 feet, jutting off from the west end of the RM 2222 six-lane section and intersecting RM 620 about a half mile west of the RM 2222 intersection. The new road would parallel a line of metal towers now supporting electric lines. The road would have two westbound lanes and a double-left turn lane at RM 620. Eastbound, it would briefly have two lanes near RM 620, then narrow to one lane. At RM 2222, it would have a right turn eastbound into a lane reserved for that traffic stream.

• RM 620, from about Steiner Ranch Boulevard to the new road (about 4,600 feet), would get an added eastbound lane that would feed directly into the cut-through road. There would be new traffic lights on RM 2222 and RM 620 at each end of the new road.

WATCH: Time lapse video shows growth in Steiner Ranch area

Thompto, through his position with the neighborhood group, has been heavily involved with TxDOT on the project, he said.

Will it make a meaningful difference?

“I’m pretty optimistic,” he said. “The key is that six-lane section on 2222, and the signal timing. If they get that right, this could work out pretty well.”

Until then, for Thompto and others making that daily slog — through what will now have construction thrown into the mix for about three years — look on the left end of the FM dial for 89.5, KMFA. They take classic music requests.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Local

Police: Maine man punches himself in face to avoid sobriety test 
Police: Maine man punches himself in face to avoid sobriety test 

Police have accused a Maine man of punching himself several times in the face to avoid a Breathalyzer test, The Bangor Daily News reported. Police suspected Brian Fogg, 27, of Belfast, to be intoxicated when they were called to a residence on Jan. 13 and found Fogg’s vehicle stuck in a ditch, police said. Belfast police said Fogg and...
FORECAST: Patchy fog in morning followed by sunshine
FORECAST: Patchy fog in morning followed by sunshine

A winter reprieve is finally here. Saturday will bring patchy fog before noon, then sunshine, according to the National Weather Service. The service warns that there may be dense fog, which could decrease visibility. Visibility is still less than a mile for most places along Interstate 35 and areas east and south of there. The day, which will begin...
THE LATEST: Activist Alexei Wood arrested at Austin anti-Trump rally
THE LATEST: Activist Alexei Wood arrested at Austin anti-Trump rally

1 p.m. update: The activist who was arrested during this morning’s rally at Austin City Hall is Alexei Wood, one of the six defendants who were acquitted last month of causing rioting and destroying property during President Donald Trump’s 2017 inauguration. Wood was charged Saturday with theft from a person after a dustup at the Austin...
College student dies after on-campus shooting at Wake Forest
College student dies after on-campus shooting at Wake Forest

A 21-year-old student from Winston-Salem State University was shot and killed early Saturday after a fight broke out during a party at Wake Forest University, police said. The shooting occurred around 1 a.m., WXII reported. It took place on campus during a Delta Sigma Theta sorority party at The Barn, police said. Najee Ali Baker, 21, was...
Pizza shop owner sues when store confused for one where assault occurred
Pizza shop owner sues when store confused for one where assault occurred

A Pennsylvania pizza shop is being targeted, but its owner says it is a case of mistaken identity. Customers upset about a viral video in which a former manager allegedly assaulted a woman have been calling Original Milano's in Oakland -- but the video was taken at Pizza Milano. Ben Sciulli is the owner of the Original Milano's Pizza. He wants to make...
More Stories