Construction coming to Aquarena Springs

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Construction coming to Aquarena Springs

This spring the Texas Department of Transportation will begin a $20.73-million construction project on Aquarena Springs Drive in San Marcos that officials hope will improve mobility, safety and the aesthetics of the area.

The Loop 82/Aquarena Springs overpass project will construct an overpass above the train tracks that currently cross Aquarena Springs near Bobcat Stadium. Construction is expected to take about 2 1/2 years, TxDOT spokeswoman Kelli Reyna said.

City officials said construction could begin as soon as April.

The project is intended to improve mobility in the area, she said. According to city of San Marcos estimates, more than 30 trains travel through the city each day. According to TxDOT estimates, there were about 31,000 vehicle trips on Aquarena Springs each day in 2012.

“Mobility and safety are number one so we don’t have [Texas State University] students trying to zoom across [the railroad tracks], because they know that whenever the train comes, it’s not a two-minute train,” Reyna said. “It could be a 10-minute train.”

Reyna said the department is not anticipating any major lane closures except for a one-month period when the road, which normally features a center turn lane as well as two lanes traveling east and two traveling west, will be reduced to one lane in each direction.

“Construction is a pain no matter what,” Reyna said. “This particular project is a 2 1/2 year project, so ... there is nothing we can do as far as certain delays.”

Project scope

Rey Garcia, project engineer for the city of San Marcos, said the overpass will begin its elevation near Charles Austin Drive west of Strahan Coliseum, span the railroad tracks and level off near Mill Street, east of the stadium.

Garcia said the city is incorporating a hike and bike trail on the north side of Aquarena Springs to the plan as well. When completed, the project will feature 4-foot-wide bike lanes, 12-foot-wide vehicle lanes and sidewalks of varying widths.

At its widest point, the project will include eight vehicle lanes, with two in either direction on the bridge and two in either direction on access roads parallel to the bridge in some parts.

Laurie Moyer, director of capital improvements and engineering with the city, said although the Union Pacific line may eventually be relocated east of I-35 to make way for a potential commuter rail line, the city still believes the project is an important one.

“The project itself and the topic of railroad overpasses overall has been an issue with the city for over 20 years,” Moyer said.

Moyer said when the overpass on Wonder World Drive was built in the early 2000s many city officials and residents anticipated more would be built. But TxDOT studies revealed major streets such as Hopkins Street, LBJ Drive and Guadalupe Street, which all intersect train tracks, cannot accommodate overpasses.

Moyer said the city envisions the Aquarena Springs overpass as a gateway to San Marcos.

In January, city officials declined spending $149,785 on an aesthetic lighting master plan that would have included design for creative illumination to be included on the Aquarena Springs overpass.

Moyer said she anticipates bringing a new aesthetic lighting proposal to council in the future.

Right of way

Before construction on the overpass can begin, TxDOT must acquire the necessary right of way.

Dave Bisett, real estate specialist with Texas State, said he first began having conversations with TxDOT about right of way acquisition in May. The two sides have yet to agree to exact terms, he said. But the university has signed possession and use agreements, which will allow construction to begin while the two sides negotiate terms of the sale of the six parcels TxDOT needs from the university.

The six parcels account for about 4 acres of ROW, Bisett said.

The university completed a renovation of Bobcat Stadium in 2012 that almost doubled its capacity to 30,000.

“Texas State was not necessarily excited to have an overpass in front of the brand-new, renovated, expanded football stadium,” Bisett said. “But the city and TxDOT have both worked really well in the design of the project and what it’s going to look like and where it’s going to have an impact.”

Vance J. Elliott, a San Marcos real estate investor, owns Stadium Plaza, a retail center on Aquarena Springs within the project area.

In late 2014, TxDOT began proceedings to exercise its eminent domain authority in order to acquire part of Elliott’s property, said Corbin Snow, an attorney representing Elliott.

Elliott has hired a group of real estate experts to help him determine the effect the project will have on his property, Snow said.

The two sides have yet to agree on the value of the property TxDOT will be taking, Snow said.

“We are still evaluating the damage, but we do feel that it will be a substantial negative impact,” Snow said. “By reducing the size of his property it’s going to have a substantial negative impact on the property as a whole.”