BELTON — Bell County residents have been waiting for a proposed lake-to-lake road for 10 years, and it looks like they might have to wait another decade before it becomes a reality.
“TxDOT said that there isn’t any money to do it,” Belton City Manager Sam Listi said. “They don’t think they’ll have money for planned future projects for 10 to 12 years.”
The lack of government funding for proposed projects means the proposed 7-mile road, which is envisioned as beginning at Farm-to-Market 1670 and ending at FM 2271 and running through Belton roughly parallel to Interstate 35, not only keeps the road in the lines-on-a-map phase for longer than expected, but also requires local governments to step in and pick up more of the funding.
Listi told the Bell County Commissioners Court on Monday that Belton wants to modify the project by removing about three-quarters of a mile of construction from the Texas Department of Transportation’s consideration. This will, essentially, create two projects — a state-funded road and a city- and county-funded road.
“The most responsible path forward at this point is to modify the project by removing the section from U.S. 190 to FM 93 from the TxDOT boundary,” Listi told the commissioners. “The resulting TxDOT boundary will be from FM 93 to FM 439.”
The proposed city- and county-funded road will stretch three-quarters of a mile from U.S. 190 to FM 93 and will be four-lanes with a turn lane in the center, said Richard Cortese, Bell County Precinct 1 commissioner.
The state-funded portion will be about 3 miles long and stretch from FM 93 to FM 439. If and when it gets built, it will be a divided highway with a median.
The decision to remove a portion of the project was made because of concerns regarding road alignment and right-of-way conveyance through the existing Twin Lakes and proposed Chisholm Trail West subdivisions, which are and will be located near the intersections of FM 1670, Boxer Road and U.S. 190.
After the Belton City Council gave a unanimous thumbs-down to the proposed development in April, because there were concerns that it would interfere with the proposed road’s alignment, the developers, Steve Shepherd and Bill Hickman, and the city came to an agreement.
Shepherd and Hickman agreed to convey 118 feet of right of way from about 25 lots, or 4 acres, along the west side of the proposed 195-lot subdivision to the city.
The increase in right of way will allow Belton and Bell County to begin to finalize the road’s alignment near the proposed intersection with U.S. 190.
“This is all about locking down the alignment,” Listi said.
“Once we get the alignment locked down, we can start negotiating for right of way.”
As the population continues to grow and the area continues to develop, securing land for the proposed right of way will only get more difficult, he said.
The decision to “thread the needle” by running the road as neatly between the subdivisions as possible was made to avoid an alignment proposed by TxDOT, which ran along Boxer Road before heading due east and bisecting the proposed subdivision.
TxDOT’s alignment essentially rendered the land unusable for residential development and left many people in county and city government expecting a court battle between the city and the developers.
“It’s about as close as they are going to get and stay out of the courtroom,” Bell County Engineer Bryan Neaves said.
Planners to look at proposal
The proposed alignment will go to Belton’s Planning and Zoning Commission tonight before being taken up by the Belton City Council on June 24.
Listi said it could take “two or three budget years” before Belton has the funds to begin securing rights of way, so despite all the discussion, the lake-to-lake road is expected to remain a line on the map for a while longer.
“It’s not even going to be a local road,” Cortese said. “It’s just going to be an alignment.”