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Steiner Ranch evacuation route could improve low water crossing

The funeral is Wednesday for a Travis County deputy, swept away in the flood waters last week.

TRAVIS COUNTY -- The funeral is Wednesday for a Travis County deputy, swept away in the flood waters last week.

Senior Deputy Jessica Hollis went to check on a low water crossing near Mansfield Dam in west Travis County early Thursday morning.

That low water crossing could see some changes following Deputy Hollis' death. It has warning signs and a flood gauge, people who live nearby told KVUE they want to see more done to keep people safe.

With each day that passes, a roadside memorial grows at the low water crossing on Fritz Hughes Park Road. American flags, crosses and pictures sit where Deputy Hollis' watch ended.

"Are the signs adequate? Can they be made larger?" asked Steve Manilla with the Travis County Traffic and Natural Resources Department.

County officials will be paying a visit to the crossing to see if more warnings need to be in place.

"The sheriff's department deputies will go out and drive the low water crossings and see if water is over them then they will call our emergency response team and they will actually go set the barriers. I think that's what the deputy probably was doing," he said.

Manilla showed us a study done in 2009 when the county prioritized the low water crossings that flood the most, the one on Fritz Hughes Park Road did not make the list since it has low traffic volume.

"And there's not much development that's going to happen back in that area that's going to increase the amount of traffic. It's built out to as much as it's going to get," he explained.

However, they still plan to take a second look. Manilla said Deputy Hollis' death might make the need for changes at the crossing more pressing, they already had plans in the works, and it's not because of the flood

"We're working on a project to try and find an evacuation route for Steiner Ranch," he said.

Anyone leaving Steiner Ranch exits onto FM 620 and in 2011 a wildfire had traffic backed up for miles. Manilla said Fritz Hughes Park Road might be the solution.

"This piece of road where this low water crossing is is the most viable route that we've found," he explained.

The project would elevate the road and extend it to Steiner Ranch. In turn, eliminating some of the dangers at the low water crossings

"Hopefully that will reduce the risk of that ever happening again."

The project to extend this road would cost an estimated $3 million. Manilla said it would likely require a bond referendum that wouldn't come until 2016 or even as late as 2017.