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County belongs to CARTPO as well as CAMPO

Tuesday, October 22, 2002 by

Some county commissioners worry that Travis County’s dual membership in urban and rural transportation planning groups may dilute the county’s ability to push priority projects.

Most who follow Central Texas transportation issues recognize Travis County as an active member of CAMPO, the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization. But Travis County also holds membership in the 10-county CARTPO, the Capital Area Regional Transportation Planning Organization. The “R” in CARTPO might as well stand for “rural,” because CARTPO represents the transportation interests of Central Texas’ more rural counties.

Those counties include Bastrop, Blanco, Burnet, Caldwell, Fayette, Hays, Lee, Llano, Travis and Williamson. The participation of Hays and Williamson counties, however, has been minimal. Commissioner Margaret Moore represents Travis County on the board.

It was Moore who brought it to the court’s attention that CARTPO’s road priorities were not likely to be ones that aligned completely with CAMPO’s. CARTPO leaders will pare a list of 16 proposed road projects down to three priority projects at the CARTPO meeting on Nov. 8. The finalist list of six includes the improvement of State Highway 71 west of US 290 to the Travis County line.

Moore’s concern was the lack of a formal process for identifying and reviewing projects. Instead, the process had the feel of “making it up as they go along,” Moore said. She believes that over the last 18 months CARTPO has turned from a formal organization into one “where people just show up.”

Picking the final list of three projects will require a vote. CARTPO members have agreed to give three votes to all counties, regardless of population. The top three vote-getters will be presented to the Texas Transportation Commission by CARTPO next April.

“I do think this identification of three people will be for just this one scoring,” Moore said of the process to narrow down the list of recommended road projects. “I do think, in the future, that CARTPO membership will have to be much more formalized if they are going to enjoy any kind of success at all.”

Moore did agree with some of the proposed CARTPO projects, including a loop around Marble Falls and some improvements to US 290 East outside of Travis County, as well as improvements to Highway 71 East through Bastrop County. The Mayor of Lakeway proposed improvements of Highway 71 to the Travis County line. Many of these projects, Moore said, have an indirect impact on Travis County because of the regional nature of transportation.

Commissioner Ron Davis expressed concern that CARTPO may be competing for the same state discretionary dollars as CAMPO. Commissioner Karen Sonleitner said CAMPO should be Travis County’s first priority. Travis County should be present and working with CARTPO, but CARTPO clearly serves as the group for rural county projects. Let the rural counties bring forward their own priority projects, Sonleitner said.

“We are part of the region, but I don’t think we ought to be sending mixed signals,” Sonleitner said. “This ought to be their opportunity for a voice in those small counties.”

County Judge Sam Biscoe asked that Joe Gieselman, executive director of Transportation and Natural Resources touch base with Executive Director Michael Aulick of CAMPO and Hays and Williamson counties about their reaction to the CARTPO projects. County commissioners will take another look at those projects and decide whether or not to express their support.

Airport managers want to

Eliminate free parking time

Commission disagrees with plan

The management of Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (ABIA) is recommending that the city eliminate free parking for those who are picking up and dropping off passengers at the airport. But the Airport Advisory Commission has voted to oppose the Aviation Department’s plan, saying the department should look elsewhere to make up for lost revenues.

The department recommended fee increases at ABIA in the wake of 9-11, which has “severely impacted” air travel and revenues at the airport, according to a recommendation to be presented to the City Council. The Aviation Department estimates that charging for that first half-hour of parking would generate another $434,000 in annual revenues. According to figures released yesterday, passenger traffic through September of this year is down nearly 10 percent as compared to 2001. Air cargo traffic through September 30 is down 16 percent from last year.

Charles Gates, director of finance and administration at ABIA, said the “first half-hour free” policy started at Mueller Airport back in 1991, when roadway limitations and the resulting traffic were becoming an issue. That policy was carried over to ABIA; but now the airport is faced with a need to generate more revenue.

“Yes, we have to make money. The budgets need to balance, but I think there are other ways,” Commissioner Michael Voticky told Gates at last week’s commission meeting, suggesting that holiday rate hikes, automated pay stations and raising employee parking fees could replace revenue equal to the half-hour-free policy.

Late last year, off-site parking lot competitors were worried that lower rates and advertising made the ABIA lots too attractive to compete against. Now the airport claims those lots are taking a bite out of its revenues.

The Aviation Department has suggested a number of fee changes beyond the elimination of that first half-hour of parking. Those changes include adjusting the incremental rates in the parking garage from $1 per half-hour to $2 per hour, up to a maximum of $18 per day. That would generate an additional $190,000 annually in new revenue.

And the Aviation Department is proposing a flat daily rate on all surface parking lots. The close-in surface lot, Lot A, would be $9 per day, or any part of a day, which is less than the current $12 daily rate. The long-term parking lot would be $6 for per day, or any part of a day, equal to the current maximum daily rate. The fee changes would generate an additional $154,000 in revenue.

Much of the revenue would go to additional new security measures. Commissioners agreed to the other fee increases, but balked at the elimination of the free half-hour. Chair Hannah Riddering said the free half-hour improved traffic flow in and out of the airport as people tried to “beat the clock.” Voticky suggested that the policy decreased the number of vehicles circling the airport, trying to avoid parking lots altogether.

The Airport Advisory Commission adopted a motion to support the recommended fee increases, while keeping the first half-hour free policy in place.

The City Council is scheduled to consider the amended fee schedule at its Nov. 21 meeting. Fee changes, if approved, would go into effect 10 days later, in time for December travel.



© 2002 In Fact News, Inc. All rights reserved.

Caucus complains about Cornyn . . . The Mexican American Legislative Caucus complained yesterday that Attorney General John Cornyn is wasting money paying for appeals when he should simply “do the right thing,” in the redistricting battle. Rep. Pete Gallego, the chair of the caucus, pointed out that a three-judge panel has twice ordered the state to pay the organization for winning the battle. However, Cornyn refuses to do so. Cornyn was chair of the Legislative Redistricting Board that redrew the House map, giving Latinos fewer seats for the first time in 30 years, said Gallego . . . A message from the Libertarians . . . Congressman Lloyd Doggett’ s only opponent in the Nov. 5 election is Libertarian Michele Messina, who does not like Doggett’s record on budget measures. Messina declares, “After I am elected, I plan to vote in a manner similar to Representative Ron Paul who received the National Taxpayers Union’ s highest score.” However, the Libertarian agrees with Doggett’s opposition to war with Iraq. “I applaud Mr. Doggett for his brave stance against the war. While I oppose this undeclared war, I would never cede authority in this matter to the United Nations. For those opposing the war, consider that electing me to office will resonate much more loudly in Washington than simply reelecting an incumbent” . . . Farmers’ Market coming . . . The city will allow Republic Square Park at 4th and Guadalupe to be used as a Farmers’ Market beginning next June. The market is expected to attract Central Texas farmers, many of whom grow organic produce. Mayor Gus Garcia says the market, which will be open from June through November, will help revitalize the southwest corner of downtown. “This whole square will redevelop and be more user-friendly,” said Garcia. “And I hope the people that live here will come down and buy some fresh produce.” The market is a project of the Sustainable Food Center, and it still needs donations. Information is available at . . . Changes ahead for historic filing . . . City staff members are working on improvements to the paperwork used by people requesting permission to modify structures that are city-designated historic landmarks. One of those changes is an earlier deadline, allowing time for staff to meet face-to-face with the applicant before sending the requests on to the Historic Landmark Commission . . . ZAP tonight . . . The Austin Zoning and Platting Commission is scheduled to consider another conundrum concerning building along Lake Austin, as well as whether to recommend that the City Council grant historic zoning, and the attendant tax breaks, for the Gatewood House.

© 2002 In Fact News, Inc. All rights reserved.

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