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Watson unveils safety plan for area roadways

Thursday, April 3, 2008 by Austin Monitor

State Senator Kirk Watson on Wednesday unveiled a plan to get the CTRMA and CAMPO to help fund safety improvements on some area roads. At the top of Watson’s list for improvements is State Highway 71 in southwest Travis County, which has seen several deadly wrecks during the past year. He made his proposal at the same time he announced plans for a concrete divider along a one-mile stretch of the median of the road that has been the scene of several head-on collisions.


While TxDOT plans to modify the bids for an existing re-paving project to include the construction of that concrete divider, Watson said widening other sections of the road to create a center turn-lane could cost approximately $45 million. With no state funding for that project, Watson said it was the duty of CAMPO to provide financial assistance.


“I am proposing that CAMPO create something that it has never had before, which is a safety fund. We would initially capitalize that safety fund to address two parts of Highway 71, and we would capitalize it in such a way so in the future, we would have a renewing source of money,” Watson said. “We’re working with the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority to help us be able to fund that.”


Watson plans to ask both the CTRMA and Travis County to contribute to the safety fund.


“If the CAMPO board approves it, it will initially be capitalized by up to $30 million in discretionary state funding that previous CAMPO boards have set aside for Central Texas toll roads. Those funds will be made up partly through savings from toll road projects in Travis County,” he said. “The CTRMA…pending approval by its own board…is also expected to commit to replacing up to $10 million of that discretionary funding…either through revenues from the Travis County toll roads once they’re constructed, as part of financing for those roads, or through some other approach.”


Travis County will be asked to contribute $10 million to the fund, some of which could come from developers or landowners along SH 71. Money from the fund would be available as matching funds for cities tackling road projects to improve safety. The exact details of the program and the percentage match, Watson said on Wednesday, had yet to be worked out.


The creation of the fund would require approval by CAMPO, the CTRMA, and Travis County officials. CTRMA Executive Director Mike Heiligenstein and Travis County Commissioner Gerald Daugherty were at Wednesday’s announcement by Watson.

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