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Travis County’s surface transportation project list heads for CAMPO approval

Wednesday, December 7, 2011 by Michael Kanin

The Travis County Commissioners’ Court approved a list of 10 potential projects Tuesday that would be funded under the Capitol Area Metropolitan Planning Organization’s (CAMPO) Surface Transportation Program – Metropolitan Mobility grant effort. If approved under that program, the county would receive federal dollars to construct sidewalks, buy tracks for the region’s MetroRail, and perform engineering work for a road project, among other projects.


To qualify for the federal dollars, the county will have to fund at least 20 percent of the project totals for the two efforts that fall within the court’s sole jurisdiction. That amounts to $140,000 for designs for road construction along Braker Lane and just more than $552,000 for a bicycle and pedestrian path that will run along Blake-Manor Road.


The projects in question still have one more hurdle to jump before becoming a reality. That will come Monday when CAMPO’s Transportation Policy Board votes on the list of surface transportation projects approved for Travis and the rest of the region under the program. Travis Pct. 2 Commissioner Sarah Eckhardt told her colleagues that, though she voted for the Travis list, her support for the wider collection of projects was not a sure bet. “I do want to say, in full disclosure as this moves forward, that if it should be that the distribution of all of the money does not meet the 2035 long-range plan criteria – the 50 percent set aside for centers and the 15 percent set-aside for bike-ped – I will vote against the ultimate distribution,” she said.


CAMPO voted to distribute the surface transportation funds geographically, through its member counties (a move Eckhardt opposed). That meant that Austin transportation officials had to work with their peers at Travis County to come up with a list of projects that both jurisdictions would favor.


The list includes $4 million for Urban Rail engineering support and environmental studies, $4.3 million for MetroRail tracks in the area of the Plaza Saltillo Station, and $2.7 million for the construction of a Sabine Street Promenade. The City of Austin would be responsible to come up with the match funds for those projects.


In all, CAMPO awarded the Travis County region roughly $20 million. That figure represents the single largest allotment to any of the member counties.


Beth Ann Ray, Vice President of Regional Infrastructure for the Austin Chamber of Commerce did her best to convince the court to include managed lanes on the MoPac Expressway. “Many people—thousands of them—would use that area on a daily basis to commute to and from their job,” she said.


County Judge Sam Biscoe told Ray that not every regional project had to come from CAMPO. “I don’t know that all of our projects should turn on what happens at the CAMPO policy board,” he said. “If we really collaborate as we should, then we could do (the MoPac) project a whole lot faster than we ever could with the CAMPO money.”

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