Ex­ten­sion of Won­der World Drive set to open

road link­ing Hill coun­try, i-35 to ease San mar­cos traf­fic

Austin American-Statesman - - METRO & STATE - By Pa­trick Ge­orge

SAN MAR­COS — Traf­fic will be flow­ing Satur­day on San Mar­cos’ largest and most am­bi­tious trans­porta­tion project to date as the $26 mil­lion Won­der World Drive ex­pan­sion opens to the pub­lic.

The four-lane road, to be open at 6 p.m., is billed as a con­nec­tor be­tween the Hill Coun­try and In­ter­state 35, join­ing RM 12, which leads to Wim­ber­ley, with the high­way. City of­fi­cials say the road will ease traf­fic con­ges­tion down­town and in his­tor­i­cal neigh­bor­hoods while pro­vid­ing bet­ter emer­gency ve­hi­cle ac­cess to the Cen­tral Texas Med­i­cal Cen­ter down the road.

Bor­dered by nat­u­ral ar­eas and hike-and­bike trails and sport­ing ded­i­cated bi­cy­cle lanes, the road also has an em­pha­sis on green trans­porta­tion.

Vot­ers ap­proved the 3.5-mile ex­pan­sion of Won­der World Drive in a 1998 bond ref­er­en­dum. The Texas Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion will re­im­burse the city $3 mil­lion to $6 mil­lion a year for 10 to 20 years, depend­ing on traf­fic vol­ume. The fed­eral govern­ment also kicked in $10 mil­lion for en­gi­neer­ing.

“This is one of those projects where we have a lot of peo­ple to thank,” Mayor Su­san Nar-

vaiz said Thurs­day. “This will pri­mar­ily reroute the traf­fic that has been so hard on our her­itage neigh­bor­hoods and down­town.”

One of the road’s ben­e­fits is that it will help keep large trucks from driv­ing through down­town to ac­cess roads to the Hill Coun­try, Nar­vaiz said. It also by­passes the many rail­road cross­ings that fa­mously gum up traf­fic in San Mar­cos.

The road fea­tures a bridge over Pur­ga­tory Creek, which ne­ces­si­tated a curvy and some­what wind­ing Won­der World Drive.

“We couldn’t find a more en­vi­ron­men­tally sen­si­tive area to go through,” said Sabas Avila, the city’s as­sis­tant di­rec­tor of pub­lic ser­vices. The area in­cludes a flood con­trol dam, caves, en­dan­gered species such as the golden-cheeked war­bler and black-capped vireo, aquifer recharge zones and a Na­tive Amer­i­can burial site, Avila said.

En­gi­neers at­tempted to save as many trees and plants as pos­si­ble, of­fi­cials said, and they put in hik­ing trails and added 10-foot bike lanes on ei­ther side of the road.

“It’s a model project for con­ser­va­tion,” Avila said.

Nar­vaiz said there are no in­ter­sec­tions along the new stretch ex­cept for an ex­ten­sion of Craddock Av­enue that’s due to be com­pleted in Au­gust. This lim­its devel­op­ment along the road and puts the fo­cus on mo­bil­ity, she said.

The city will host a grand open­ing fes­ti­val on the ex­ten­sion at 10 a.m. Satur­day, in­clud­ing live mu­sic and free bar­be­cue. A Run2Pur­ga­tory 5K will be held at 7 a.m.

City of­fi­cials es­ti­mate that once the road­way opens, it will see 16,000 cars a day.

Rodolfo Gon­za­lez pho­tos

San Mar­cos Mayor Su­san Nar­vaiz said the ex­panded Won­der World Drive will help keep trucks from driv­ing through down­town as they head to cities in the Hill Coun­try.

The Won­der World Drive ex­ten­sion is set to open to driv­ers at 6 p.m. Satur­day af­ter a day­long cel­e­bra­tion fea­tur­ing live mu­sic and bar­be­cue. City worker Kristy Stark takes pic­tures of the new road Thurs­day.

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