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Mike Kanin is the Publisher of the Austin Monitor. As such, he doesn't report on much--aside from the workings of the Monitor--any more. In his previous life as a freelance journalist, Kanin has written for the Washington City Paper, the Washington Post's Express, the Boston Herald, Boston's Weekly Dig, the Austin Chronicle, and the Texas Observer.
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Travis Commissioners approve design study for delayed Arterial A
Travis County Commissioners have authorized a study that could bring about the long-delayed construction of a four-mile connector road in the eastern portion of their jurisdiction. When finished, the project will bring the county a complete design for the road, known for now as Arterial A.
If completed, Arterial A would stretch from Parmer Lane to US290 near Walnut Creek.
Beyond the plan, however, obstacles remain. Early estimates put costs for the project at between $20 and $50 million. In addition, a potentially cheaper route –which would carry the road through right of way that belongs to a landfill – could be complicated by ongoing litigation.
Still, the court, minus absent Pct. 4 Commissioner Margaret Gomez, voted unanimously to move forward. As they voted, however, Pct. 1 Commissioner Ron Davis reminded his colleagues that there were still other eastern Travis County road projects that needed funding.
“We haven’t forgotten about those,” he said. “In my opinion, they’re going to be brought up.”
During the hearing, Travis’ Public Works Director Steve Manila told the court why the road would be essential. “There are…things going on in that part of the county that really compel us to want to get started on this,” he said.
He listed the construction of US 290 East toll road as “first and foremost” among these developments. “There are only five points along the stretch of US290 between (US) 183 and (SH) 130 that you can go north-south,” he said. “Arterial A is one of those (and) it doesn’t exist today. In order to allow for that mobility to continue, we really feel like we need to get started on this project.”
Manila added that the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority – the organization that is designing US 290 East – had begun to wonder if the Arterial A project was ever going to get built. “(They) are asking ‘Are you guys going to build this thing or not, and, if not, it could save us millions of dollars for the cost of an interchange,’ ” he said.
After the hearing, Manila told In Fact Daily that the total cost of the project would be nailed down as a design for the project emerged. “That’s why we want to get this engineering done. Let’s tie that down and find out what we need in terms of right of way, and if it’s feasible,” he said. “It may not be economically feasible (but) we won’t know that until we start laying stuff out.”
He further noted that the region’s growing population made the project something of a necessity. Should the county conclude that Arterial A is too expensive, however, Manila said that there would be other options.
“We have other roads in the area that could be upgraded, like Dessau Road,” he continued. “There’s Braker Lane, there’s Johnny Morris Road. (Those) could be improved upon. But I’m really hoping Arterial A (gets built) because it’s such a direct route from 290 up to Parmer Lane where all of that activity is going on.”
Manila noted that roughly half of the route is within the City of Austin’s jurisdiction and that, as a sign of support, the city had included an option for some Arterial A work in its just-passed transportation bond election.”
Portions of the road could be constructed through what is now a Waste Management Inc. landfill. Though that could provide the county with a more cost effective option, pending litigation between the company and the county could well sour any such arrangement.
With its action, the court selected multi-national design firm AECOM to produce the Arterial A plan. The road has been part of county discussions since at least the mid-2000s.
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