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Mark Richardson is a multimedia journalist, editor and writer who has worked in digital, print and broadcast media for three decades. He is a nationally recognized editor and reporter who has covered government, politics and the environment. A journalism graduate from the University of Texas at Austin, he was recently awarded a Foundation for Investigative Journalism grant and has three Associated Press Managing Editors awards for excellence in reporting.
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Despite opposition, Daugherty aiming to get SH45SW back on track today
Travis County Commissioner Gerald Daugherty hopes to take a major step today to get his fellow Commissioners to endorse building the controversial SH45 Southwest roadway between
The major issue so far to getting the 3.6-mile toll road built has been that it would cut through the sensitive recharge zone of the Barton Springs segment of the Edwards Aquifer. That has drawn stiff opposition from environmental groups such as the Save Our Springs Alliance and the Sierra Club.
Daugherty, whose Precinct 3 encompasses the area in which the roadway would be built, was an early supporter of SH45 SW when he was first elected to Commissioner’s Court in 2002. After being defeated by Democrat Karen Huber in 2008, he campaigned last year on the issue of reviving the project. His constituents say the roadway, which is likely to be a four-lane toll road, is badly needed to relieve traffic congestion in southern
However, that swing vote is likely to change after the next election in 2014. Both of the major Democratic candidates running to replace Biscoe are on the record as opposing the roadway.
Eckhardt, of course, was part of the coalition that opposed the project in 2010. She said she is not convinced that the roadway can be built and still preserve the caves and other karst features over the aquifer.
“The roadway will mostly benefit
Her opponent, Andy Brown, was also adamant in his opposition.
“I don’t support it,” he said. “It doesn’t solve the problem of traffic in the area, and it’s potential harm to the Edwards Aquifer and Barton Springs. Plus, if they do build it as a toll road, there’s no guarantee that people will not continue to use
The most likely configuration, if the roadway is built beginning in 2015, the year Daugherty is hoping for, would be a four-lane, limited access toll road with entrances and exits at its beginning and end, but no off ramps or cross streets in between. That project is expected to cost about $75 million and would be built by the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority. Another option, though considered less likely, would be to construct a two-lane road with a center turn lane, with funding shared by Travis and Hays counties.
SH45 Southwest has a long and somewhat tortured history over the past 24 years. It was part of the original
But the battle over the final stretch – SH45 SW – is still being fought. TxDOT has deemed the roadway “ready for construction to begin” on several occasions over the past 29 years, as early as 1989 and as recently as 2006. Despite opposition from several quarters, the project is still on the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization’s 2035 Transportation Plan.
A vote to endorse SH45 SW by Travis County Commissioners will not guarantee that the roadway will get built, but it would be one more step for Daugherty’s plan to eventually get the project done.
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Key Players & Topics In This Article
2035 CAMPO Transportation Plan: A regional transportation plan looking at future development in Central Texas through 2035. One of a series of such plans, it also led to Project Connect, and a 2014 City of Austin mobility bond.
CTRMA: The Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority. A governmental agency created, according to its web site, in 2002 to "improve the transportation system in Williamson and Travis counties." The site also notes that the agency's "mission is to implement innovative, multi-modal transportation solutions that reduce congestion and create transportation choices that enhance quality of life and economic vitality." In addition to other responsibilities, the agency oversees a set of toll roads in the region.
Edwards Aquifer: This groundwater region extends from Travis south to Bexar, and then west to Edwards and Kinney counties in Texas.
Save Our Springs Alliance (SOS): An advocacy organization. According to its web site, Save Our Springs "works to protect the Edwards Aquifer, its springs and contributing streams, and the natural and cultural heritage of the Hill Country region and its watersheds, with special emphasis on Barton Springs."
SH45SW: A controversial road project that supporters argue would ease traffic traveling through areas of far Southwest Travis and far Southeastern Hays County. Opponents argue that the environmental impact of the effort, which runs close to sensitive land, is not worth that risk. The debate over the issue goes back as far as the mid-1980s.