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CAMPO committee to wrap work on 2035 transit plan priorities

Thursday, April 1, 2010 by Kimberly Reeves

A Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization committee intended to set out the group’s role and priorities in the CAMPO 2035 plan intends to wrap up its work this morning.


The CAMPO Policies and Resolutions Committee has been working its way through a 33-page document, sometimes rejecting, sometimes reclassifying as an objective, and sometimes reworking the language of a particular resolution.


For instance, the committee, chaired by County Judge Sam Biscoe, was split on how environmentally sensitive areas should be considered in prioritizing projects. Proposed language noted that environmental concerns should be considered, or possibly evaluated, when funding is considered. Existing language in the CAMPO 2030 plan is far less prescriptive.


In the proposal, a lengthy resolution was intended to play out a rationale for the consideration of environmental factors. But in comments presented for the committee’s consideration, retiring Sunset Valley Mayor Jeff Mills suggested the language was unnecessary, that various laws set environmental guidelines.


Travis County Commissioner Sarah Eckhardt, on the other hand, disagreed with the committee’s decision to ultimately delete the new resolution.


“The feds and the state set the floor, we set the ceiling,” Eckhardt offered. “The issue is – do the federal and state standards set the bar appropriately or should the TPB shoot higher? I am not sufficiently knowledgeable about the relative merits of federal and state context-sensitive design criteria to know the answer at this time.”


Much of the discussion, on the environmental guidelines as well as other proposals, was guided by what CAMPO was empowered to do under law. What could be tied specifically to policy? Executive Director Joe Cantalupo walked a fine line, noting that environmental requirements were monitored but that not all environmental factors are known during a broad approval process.


Committee members toyed with word choice changes – evaluate? mitigate? minimize? – but none seemed to capture the balance committee members could agree among the range of environmentalists on the board.


“How are you going to use that as a priority?” asked San Marcos Mayor Susan Narvaiz. “We have very different areas of Central Texas. If all you’re doing is the required process at the federal and state level – making sure federal and state environmental requirements are met – are you saying you’re allowing this group to say they want more?”


With no clear consensus, the committee agreed to retain the original language of the CAMPO 2030 plan. The recommendations will be considered by the full Transportation Policy Board at its meeting in April:


Other topics considered by the committee included the role and priorities of bicycle facilities; increasing efficiency by minimizing additional road construction; and increasing efficiency by supporting mass transit.

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