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Outlying counties anxious to participate in process

Tuesday, November 19, 2002 by

Members of CAMPO’s Policy Advisory Committee Monday night decided to put off any decision on expanding CAMPO’s boundaries for at least a month. New census data means the transportation group will be required to include part of Williamson County just east of Round Rock. (See In Fact Daily, Sept. 12, 2002.) And CAMPO members are also considering proposals to expand to include all of Williamson and Hays Counties, and another proposal to add Caldwell and Bastrop Counties.

Representatives from Caldwell and Bastrop Counties spoke in favor of expanding CAMPO to include all five counties sooner rather than later. “I urge you to consider the five-county area tonight and really make us a regional partner for this area,” said Lockhart Mayor Ray Sanders. Bastrop County Judge Ronnie McDonald agreed. “Transportation is a major issue in Bastrop County,” said McDonald. “We need to deal with that issue now . . . we want to be visionary. We are in support of moving to a five-county region for planning for transportation.” He also said that a proposal to phase in representation from Caldwell and Bastrop Counties over the course of two years was a positive gesture, but wouldn’t be his first choice. “I really enjoy having a seat at the table . . . but when I go to eat, I don’t want to just sit at the table. I want to partake in the meal.”

Travis County Commissioner Karen Sonleitner cautioned against enlarging CAMPO too quickly. Instead, she urged PAC members to consider adding all of Williamson and Hays Counties first, while pledging to add Bastrop and Caldwell Counties later. “It’s going to be an adjustment going from where we are right now to adding on two full counties. That’s a lot of territory,” she said. “That’s a lot of transportation plans to get familiar with. To then add two more counties . . . that’s where we want to be . . .but I think we could make some very big mistakes if we go too fast.” State Senator Gonzalo Barrientos told his colleagues that if they chose the three-county option, they should lay out a timetable for adding the remaining two counties. “I predict to you . . . as we’ve seen the corridor growth on I-35, the next growth in the coming 10 to 20 years is going to be west to east along the Colorado River area . . . following the jurisdiction of the LCRA,” he said. “I would only ask . . . to include a definite time certain for full membership so that we can have real regionalism.”

While most members of the committee seemed interested in discussing how to expand quickly, some members had questions about the impact of adding any extra territory to the planning group. Hays County Commissioner Bill Burnett noted that if a local project were not listed in CAMPO’s long-term transportation plan, it could be cut off from important sources of funding. “I don’t want to include all of Hays or Williamson or any other county where that actually can act as a detriment to some of the projects that may not be included in the plan,” he said. CAMPO Executive Director Michael Aulick attempted to reassure Burnett. “I would recommend to this board that if they expand our area, then every project being planned by TxDOT be automatically included in our plan,” he said. “I would recommend that no area lose anything coming in to CAMPO.” But Burnett said he still had questions about the impact on Hays County, and told PAC members he would be uncomfortable voting on an expansion proposal without more information.

The committee voted unanimously to postpone any action on an expansion plan until its next meeting in December. In the meantime, CAMPO staff is being asked to work with TxDOT and the Federal Highway Administration to come up with a list of pros and cons for each county with an emphasis on the funding impact for individual county road projects.

UTC wants sidewalks from Ben White to Pfluger Bridge

An Urban Transportation Commission subcommittee is floating new ideas to improve pedestrian and bicycle safety on South Lamar. The efforts are likely to be less controversial, but more complicated, than similar efforts on Shoal Creek Boulevard.

Tommy Eden, chair of the Bicycle and Pedestrian Subcommittee, presented an initial set of recommendations for improvements to South Lamar at last night’s UTC meeting. The goal, according to the subcommittee, is to link South Lamar to the Pfluger Pedestrian Bridge, decrease hazards along the road and anticipate new access needs for a proposed library at West Mary Street and South Lamar.

Seven proposals, based on suggestions by bicyclist Celia Mulder, were presented at last night’s meeting and discussed by both commissioners and staff:

• Complete the sidewalk network on South Lamar from Ben White to the Pfluger Pedestrian Bridge on Town Lake without any major gaps or obstructions;

• Add wheelchair ramps to all major intersections on both sides of the street;

• Add a bicycle lane along the west side of South Lamar—the uphill side—from Ben White to Town Lake and the Pfluger Pedestrian Bridge; • Add crosswalks to the north side of the intersections on South Lamar at West Mary Street and Oltorf Streets;

• Add a signaled crosswalk to the intersection of Dickson and South Lamar for safer access to the bus stops along South Lamar; and, • Remove barriers to pedestrian travel at the South Lamar/Ben White interchange.

Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator Linda DuPriest fielded most of the questions on the proposal. DuPriest said the city had never considered a “one-way one-side” bike lane on South Lamar. The concept would need to be studied. DuPriest did agree that wheelchair access needs to be, and is being, added to major intersections along South Lamar. That’s a special concern of the disabled because of the location of an apartment complex along South Lamar that specifically caters to residents with limited physical abilities.

DuPriest told commissioners that sidewalks were being added along large sections of South Lamar this year, specifically between Barton Skyway and Panther, West Mary to Evergreen on the east side of the street and on the east side between Barton Springs and Evergreen.

A wide gap without sidewalks still remains on South Lamar between Brodie Oaks and Ben White because of the turn lanes onto Loop 360, DuPriest said. Putting the time and effort into adding sidewalks along that section of South Lamar would mean pushing other projects further down on the city’s sidewalk priority list.

The crosswalks at West Mary and Oltorf are difficult to add because of the configuration of the intersections, DuPriest said. Those projects, and the signaled crosswalk at Dickson, would have to be turned over to the city’s traffic division for evaluation. Engineer Richard Kroger said he would not support a second crosswalk at South Lamar and Oltorf because it would likely slow down traffic flow on what is already a heavily congested intersection.

The removal of pedestrian barriers at the South Lamar/Ben White intersection was considered a serious problem by both the subcommittee and city staff. Tom Forest, assistant director of the Transportation Planning and Sustainability Department told the committee that the city had recommended—and the Texas Department of Transportation had rejected—a proposal to remove the barriers. That was in spite of the city offering to pay for the barrier removal, Forest said.

TxDOT’s response to the city was to ask pedestrians to walk another mile south, down to Packsaddle, to get across the roadway, Forest said. He said the city did not consider that answer acceptable and is looking for other alternatives, as well as a recommendation to TxDOT that the agency do a better job of future design to avoid barrier issues on other upcoming projects.

DuPriest agreed to bring back some research on the suggestions and Eden moved to put the South Lamar project back on the agenda in January. Barton Hills Neighborhood Association President Robin McKeever, who was in the audience at the meeting, asked that local neighborhood groups be consulted in the evaluation of recommendations.

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

Where is Pct. 3 commissioner ? . . . Although he was elected on Nov. 5 and the vote was canvassed last Tuesday confirming his election, Gerald Daugherty has not chosen to take the oath of office for his new post. In Fact Daily has heard that Daugherty will attend today’s meeting as a member of the audience and be sworn in on Friday. Daugherty’s name appears on today’s agenda only in connection with approval of his bond as a County Commissioner. Daugherty was elected to serve out the term of former commissioner—now State Rep.-elect Todd Baxter—so Daugherty’s term begins as soon as he takes the oath. Democrat Margaret Moore, who was appointed to succeed Baxter but lost an uphill battle against Daugherty, said she had expected the new commissioner to be sworn in before today. Her final meeting was last week . . . The Legislature is coming . . . Both the Travis County Commissioners Court and the City Council legislative subcommittee are scheduled to talk about their positions in the upcoming session today. Travis County’s agenda says the court will consider appointment of a court liaison, although that matter may be postponed since Daugherty will not be participating today. Commissioners may also want to postpone the thorny subjects of pipeline regulation and siting of landfills until they have a full court . . . New road should be scenic . . . The CAMPO Policy Advisory Committee voted unanimously Tuesday night to support a resolution sponsored by Austin City Council Member Will Wynn regarding SH 130. Wynn wants CAMPO to ask the Texas Legislature to add SH 130 to a list of roadways on which billboards are banned. “I think there’s strong support for this,” Wynn said. “I visited with some of the folks at the TTA (Texas Turnpike Authority) . . . in terms of making SH 130 a successful toll road, they seem to be quite amenable to the idea of having it be as scenic as possible” . . . Watson returns . . . Former Mayor Kirk Watson, looking relaxed and rested, came by City Hall yesterday to say hello to his old friends. Watson said he’s doing some fun things these days, like playing football with his son . . . City money talks . . . One thing Kirk Watson probably is happy to miss out on is meetings of the City Council Audit and Finance Committee. The panel will meet at 10am today in room 304 of City Hall. The Zoning and Platting Commission is scheduled to meet at One Texas Center at 6pm tonight. Jim Wittliff is scheduled to return with more information on the possible uses for Onion Creek flood plain property he wants to be zoned LI. Wittliff said last week that the property is one of two finalists being considered by the major drug company for “Project Atlantis.” (See In Fact Daily Nov. 14, 2002.) The ZAP will also consider a number of proposed rezoning cases for the historic Fairview Park Neighborhood Conservation Combining District . . . Officer hearing continues . . . Lawyers for former Officer Timothy Enlow presented witnesses who worked with Enlow at APD. Each testified to Enlow’s competence as a police officer and said they did not believe he would engage in racial profiling. Enlow is expected to take the stand today to present his side of the case before Hearing Examiner Harold Moore.

© 2002 In Fact News, Inc.

All rights reserved.

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