San Marcos discusses Craddock Avenue extension as environmental concerns loom
A 13-year-old project to connect Craddock Avenue to I-35 in San Marcos is drawing environmental concerns from some residents who want the project removed from the city’s transportation master plan.
The proposal, presented to City Council on Tuesday during an ongoing update to the city’s transportation master plan, seeks to extend Craddock beyond North LBJ Drive where it currently ends. The city’s transportation master plan, created in 2004, calls for the road to be extended to Lime Kiln Road and on to I-35. At the time of the plan’s development, the extension to Lime Kiln Road would have cost $15.1 million.
The proposal has caused concern among some who say the road’s extension would have a negative impact on the San Marcos springs, which feed Spring Lake and the San Marcos River.
“There is blasting and drilling and mega-damage when you build a road,” said Dianne Wassenich, executive director of the San Marcos River Foundation. “We just can’t do that right above the springs. We need to stay further away from it.”
Hays County removed the Craddock extension from its transportation plan, which was approved in 2013. Now some San Marcos residents are calling for the city to follow suit.
At an open house to gather feedback on the updated plan earlier this year, 17 of 33 attendees listed as a priority the removal of the Craddock extension from the city’s plan.
“If you want the springs to remain clear and flowing, you have to allow some room for recharge, and you have to allow some vegetation to filter runoff,” Wassenich said. “None of that is accomplished by building a highway.”
The area where the road could be built is especially environmentally sensitive, Wassenich said. The river foundation has been working to purchase land near the proposed extension for creation of conservation easements to ensure development does not occur in certain areas.
On Tuesday, the river foundation announced it had secured a conservation easement for 210 acres known as the Dreamcatcher Ranch between Craddock Avenue’s current terminus and I-35 to the east. Under the agreement, the easement will be managed by the Guadalupe Blanco River Trust, a conservation and preservation group, but the property will remain under private ownership.
The Craddock extension is intended to provide better access between I-35 and the western portion of the city and Hays County, San Marcos Engineering Director Laurie Moyer said.
“It provides connectivity for the northwest side,” said Rashed Islam, a traffic engineer with HDR, Inc., the firm assisting the city in updating its transportation master plan. “Right now their options are to go through downtown, which is already congested. So it provides a little bit of a bypass … to travel to I-35 on the north side.”
The Craddock extension could help lessen the effect that increasing downtown traffic has on the city’s mobility, he said.
Islam said HDR examined the expected delays that will occur by 2035 at the intersections of Hopkins and Guadalupe streets and Hopkins and LBJ Drive. Without the Craddock extension, drivers can expect to see a 39 percent increase in the amount of time at the intersection of Hopkins and Guadalupe, Islam said. Drivers passing through the intersection of Hopkins and LBJ can expect a 47 percent increase, he said.
“If the Craddock extension was not there then the additional traffic [would] have to go through downtown and enter Wonder World and other options,” Islam said. “If that additional traffic comes in, it will overburden the intersections in downtown that will already be congested.”
The project is part of the city’s proposed thoroughfare plan, which is intended to identify corridors that could contain future roadways, so the city can purchase right of way in the event the roadway ever gets built, Moyer said.
The project’s inclusion in the transportation master plan and proposed thoroughfare plan does not mean it will be built.
“The main purpose of the thoroughfare map is to plan for the future,” Islam said. “[The proposed thoroughfare plan] gets you so that in the future if it’s needed, you have the right of way there.”
Assistant City Manager Collette Jamison said the cost of the project would be “quite extensive,” as it would include environmental mitigation features and at least one bridge.