The Manor Expressway opens a new gateway for the north and northeast quadrants of our region and will continue to have a positive impact on our economy.
Drivers – automobile and freight truck – in the Georgetown and Round Rock areas can avoid much of the congestion on Interstate 35 by taking Texas 130 to U.S. 290 and then taking the Manor Expressway into Austin. Once you get to U.S. 183, you’re just 6.3 miles from the Capitol Building in downtown Austin. The U.S. 183 highway interchange and the first 1.4 miles of the Manor Expressway are open now; the rest of the Manor Expressway to near SH 130 will be open in 2014, providing drivers the option to travel from Georgetown to downtown Austin without stopping.
This is good news for an area that has grown rapidly. What was once a rural area in the north-northeast corner of our region have sprouted subdivisions; small towns with cotton gins like Hutto have become small cities; and small cities have become part of a metropolis area. This region is very important to our economy. Elgin is the home of a 60,000-square foot Austin Community College branch being built on a 98-acre campus. The world’s largest retailer, Wal-Mart, plans stores in both Elgin and Manor.
Construction of the $426 million Manor Expressway has put hundreds of people to work. The short-term economic impact has been substantial. But it’s the long-term impact that really excites me. Commerce, of course, hates congestion. It’s not just inconvenience, but the lack of reliability that grows as traffic backs up. Along with the loss of mobility comes late deliveries, higher fuel consumption, longer hours of operation and customer complaints.
Though we don’t always think of it, freight distribution companies are greatly affected by roadway congestion. The most recent study of freight in our region (2008) showed 76 million tons of truck freight in our region in 2003 – and that does not include pass-through truck traffic. That’s 95 percent of freight; the other five percent moves by rail and air.
Central Freight Lines, Southwestern Motor Transport — even the U.S. Postal Service – all maintain large facilities along the Manor Expressway corridor. They keep parts coming in and products moving out to market. They are essential to the economy and should experience significant benefit from the Manor Expressway.
At the Mobility Authority, we know that a poor roadway system has many negative impacts – delays, time wasted in traffic, wear and tear on vehicles and a general loss of connectedness. The positive impact of roads, such as the Manor Expressway, on the economy of our region cannot be overstated. Whether it’s getting commuting employees to and from work, getting to the Elgin Branch of ACC for day and evening classes or moving tons of the things we build in Central Texas, mobility is the critical factor in our economy and its continued growth.
Mike Heiligenstein is Executive Director of the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority.