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Travis County seeks Cap Metro funds for road projects

Wednesday, December 10, 2008 by Kimberly Reeves

Travis County Commissioners drew up the list of road projects Tuesday they would like to see Capital Metro fund out of sales tax dollars, but one commissioner warned that the transportation agency’s piggy bank may be running low soon. Capital Metro collects a one percent sales tax in Austin and the other communities in its service area.

Capital Metro has traditionally used most of the revenue to keep its buses running and a portion of its sales tax dollars on smaller capital projects in member cities. However, as Commissioner Margaret Gomez suggested, the time may come soon when Capital Metro’s funding of others’ transportation projects will come to an end, given the cost of its upcoming rail service.

Gomez is Travis County’s representative to the Capital Metro board of directors, and serves as its chair. In addition, she is well aware that an impending peer review by the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization may recommend that extra Capital Metro funds go to back up rail service.

County Judge Sam Biscoe sits on the peer review committee. He agreed that the report was imminent.

“Although I don’t anticipate that CAMPO will be making any kind of recommendations like that,” Biscoe said. “I think CAMPO’s intention is to leave it with the Capital Metro board to grapple with.”

Gomez said all she wanted to do was make sure everyone’s intentions were on the table. “All I ask is don’t punish us partners with the rest of the players in the service area,” Gomez said. “You know, say, ‘Well, you are spending money that you could have spent on rail,’ but since you’re not doing that, I would like to work with you all on that.”

Commissioner Sarah Eckhardt noted that many of the projects requested by Travis County related directly to the support of the rail system, such as sidewalks up to a particular Capital Metro service site. That is particularly important for wheelchair bound patrons, Eckhardt said.

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