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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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Watson: Shorting Texas transportation needs hurts state’s future
State Senator Kirk Watson offered attendees at Wednesday’s Austin Chamber of Commerce’s State of
Watson framed the issue in terms of spending – or lack thereof. “It seems to me like we have two choices: Like our grandparents and parents before us, we can invest and help Texas grow – even if we are not in the generation that will directly benefit the most from all of that growth,” he said. “Or…we can let
Austin City Council Member Mike Martinez also serves as chair of the Capital Metro board. After Watson’s speech, Martinez told In Fact Daily that, as a state senator, Watson was “looking heavily at it from a TxDOT perspective—and TxDOT is mostly roads.”
Project Connect is the regional transportation planning effort currently underway. Partners in that effort include representatives of Cap Metro, the Austin City Council, and area stakeholders.
Watson began with notes on the rapid growth of
He quickly pivoted to the traffic that comes with growth. Watson also reserved a hefty amount of criticism for the underfunding of the agency responsible for road infrastructure in the state.
He continued on to discuss Rider 42, the colloquialism reserved for a piece of legislation that funneled $300 million to various urban areas around Texas, and though he cited work set to begin on MoPac Boulevard next week, Watson reserved the biggest bang for I-35.
Watson called the scope of the I-35 traffic issue “massive,” then brought out statistics to support the idea that much of the region’s traffic – including tractor trailer loads – originates and ends locally. “We’ve met the problem and the problem is us,” he said.
Local architect Sinclair Black’s idea to “cut and cap” a portion of I-35 that runs from
Watson compared Black’s plans to an alternate capacity-adding effort for I-35. The bill for that project would be $1.25 billion.
He added that a group had formed to look at I-35 options, and that TxDOT was an eager participant in that effort.
After Watson finished, Community Impact Publisher John Garrett hosted a quick Q&A session with State Rep. Jason Isaac (R-Dripping Springs) and State Rep. Donna Howard (D-Austin).
Isaac pointed to the fact that the legislature “increased (transportation) appropriations this biennium by 14.5 percent.”
Howard countered that the funding was just the surface of what was needed. “It’s not a good answer, in my opinion. It’s a start,” she said, noting that TxDOT officials have said that the funding would only cover 25 percent of infrastructure projects designed to keep congestion at current levels.
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Key Players & Topics In This Article
CapMetro: Capital Metro provides bus and MetroRail (Red Line) service for the Austin region. It's governed by a seven-member board appointed by various governing entities, including City Council members. CapMetro is also governed by a President and CEO.
Donna Howard: Texas State Rep. Donna Howard is a Democrat who was elected in 2006 to serve District 48 in the Texas House of Representatives.
Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce: The Austin Chamber of Commerce is a private, membership-driven organization that includes 3,000 businesses, civic organizations, educational institutions, and individuals. According to the chamber's website, "Its mission is to provide leadership that facilitates the creation of a prosperous regional economy and effective advocacy for its members."
Kirk Watson: State Senator Kirk Watson represents District 14 and was first elected to the Texas Senate in 2006, as a democrat. He is a former mayor of Austin.