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CAPCOG gets federal funds to plan Central Texas regional growth

Friday, October 15, 2010 by Michael Kanin

The City of Austin and 10 area counties have received a $3.7 million grant from a trio of federal agencies, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of Transportation. The funds will be used by the Capital Area Council of Governments to develop so called “activity centers” as part of CAMPO’s 2035 Long-Range Transportation Plan.


Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell and U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Austin) made the announcement Thursday during a break in Council action. They talked about the region’s sustainable mobility future and how that would be helped with the new source of funds.


Doggett called the federal tax-payer funded investment wise. “It is an investment in regional collaboration,” he said. “I represent…everything across the river and to the east of Congress Avenue, plus Hays, Caldwell, and Bastrop counties, except for Elgin. As I travel to those areas…the challenges that we face in mobility, in reaching other communities, are very great. This is an investment in how we are going to deal with another million people and their cars and their places of work and homes—how we’ll deal with that over the next few years in this community.”


Leffingwell explored what the funds would mean for the Austin area. “Central Texas is growing and, as I’ve said before, it’s not if we’ll grow, it is how we grow,” he said. “This grant requires our community’s innovative capabilities. We’ll bring IBM and the University of Texas together to create modeling programs for our long-range planning efforts. By using these supercomputers, we’ll be able to analyze the effects of transportation, the economy, the environment, and various different scenarios. This information will allow us to plan for our future wisely.”


After the news conference, he elaborated on how CAPCOG would use the funds. “The money is going to go towards a planning effort, basically, to implement the CAMPO 2035 plan,” he said. “It is a recognition on the part of the Obama administration that in order to build a sustainable community, you have to have—in different population centers…people living where they work and play.”


According to a statement from the city, the activity centers are “locations which will serve as hubs that connect housing to diverse employment and education, regionally, at the transit-linked locations.”


The grant, which is formally known as the Sustainable Communities Grant, is one of 45 that will be awarded nationwide. Austin is one of two Texas cities that will benefit. The other is in the Houston region.


The $3.7 million collected by Austin and its partners is a small slice of a $98 million program.

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