City officials plan impact study to analyze needs
A spike in traffic counts on Toll 130 is prompting developers and other stakeholders to plan for new commercial and industrial growth at several sites along the corridor, while Pflugerville aims to study the impact of traffic growth citywide.
The Texas Department of Transportation reports increased Toll 130 traffic counts in Pflugerville at Mainline Plaza 6 toll, between highways 79 and 290, just south of Toll 45. Weekday numbers increased in the past year, with traffic rising by more than 8,000 cars. In August 2011, average weekday traffic counts at Mainline Plaza 6 were 40,277. By August of this year, the count was up to 48,461.
Plans for Commerce Park
Floyd Akers, Pflugerville Community Development Corp. executive director, said the numbers help the economic development organization market new and existing projects, such as the 130 Commerce Center, a mixed-use development located at Toll 130 and Pecan Street.
“What [the numbers] essentially mean is we can expect more development along the corridor,” Akers said.
On Oct. 17, the PCDC announced the start of construction on a 120,000-square-foot light industrial building at the 160-acre mixed-use development. According to a statement from the PCDC, Renewable Resource Consultants LLC, a civil engineering firm, plans to break ground this fall on a new 6,000-square-foot office/flex building at 130 Commerce Center. The PCDC plans to lease 2,000 square feet of space within the new building for its own offices. The building is expected to be complete and ready for move-in during summer 2013.
Renewable Resource Consultants also plans to build two to three additional office/flex buildings on its 5.5-acre tract, with space available for lease; however, no timeline has been established for the project.
For commercial developers such as David Meyers, director of leasing and a development partner for real estate company NewQuest Properties, which developed the Stone Hill Town Center on Toll 130, the numbers are promising.
“It completely validates what we’ve felt like all along, which was people would become accustomed to paying tolls,” Meyers said. “Once people see their commutes are cut dramatically, it becomes second nature, and the thought of driving the toll road becomes part of everyday life.”
Meyers said traffic count increases are encouraging to developers, who recognize their properties are in areas of increasing visibility and attention to potential shoppers.
“We’re seeing [the benefits] first hand,” Meyers said. “Our [tenants] have opened very strong and have continued to do well above expectation.”
As for the future, Meyers said NewQuest Properties plans to capitalize on the increase in Toll 130 traffic.
At Stone Hill, Meyers said plans are already under way to develop more than 20 acres of additional space for new tenants. While new retailers have not been formally announced, Meyers said shoppers would see more than 100,000 square feet of additional retail space open within the next year.
“Those increased patterns only validate what we’re trying to sell,” Meyers said. “In terms of being active, we want to continue to grow our project and continue to plan for future development within the project.”
City plans traffic study
It’s not just developers and builders who are motivated when traffic counts rise in key areas. For city officials, increased traffic counts on thoroughfares such as Toll 130 could mean an impact on infrastructure.
Akers said increased traffic counts also mean the city has an opportunity to capitalize on existing resources. He said for most commuters traveling on Toll 130, Pflugerville offers one of the only stops for food, fuel and other services along the route.
“There’s nothing for miles before you get to Pflugerville. There’s no hotels, no gas stations, no rest stops. We’re the only city that has substantial infrastructure,” Akers said. “A lot of that traffic has needs. It’s an excellent opportunity for us to provide services to those that are passing through.”
City Manager Brandon Wade said the increased traffic from commuters looking for services off the highway could impact the city in numerous ways.
“It can result in traffic congestion,” Wade said. “We are taking a proactive stance [because] growing suburbs like this can get overwhelmed by traffic. We’re going to have to work on and keep an eye on it.”
One of the proactive measures the city has undertaken is a citywide traffic impact and thoroughfare study planned for the current fiscal year.
Wade said the city, which currently does not have a citywide traffic model, plans to start conducting the study Jan. 1 and could complete it by June 2013.
“That will provide us with a traffic model,” Wade said. “This study will give us that and allow us to work with developers, and to work towards planning our own capital improvement plans utilizing this model.”
Wade said the study will give the city an idea of certain roadway needs, such as size or number of lanes, in specific areas of Pflugerville.
“We’ve made some educated guesses so far on the sizes of our roadways,” Wade said. “This will give us a little more information on what sort of capacity these roadways will need to have for our developments in the future.”
Akers said with the Oct. 24 opening of Phase 2 on Toll 130, traffic counts are only expected to rise.
“That’s going to greatly increase the traffic we’re already seeing,” Akers said. “We still don’t know what the impact could be.”
Wade said initiatives such as the traffic impact study are only the beginning of what the city could do as more is learned about the impact of traffic from the growth of Toll 130.
“As these roadways continue to grow and become more popular, I think we’ll see even more and more traffic,” Wade said. “Pflugerville will continue to grow and continue to benefit from all that traffic.”