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CAMPO puts $28 million in transportation funding up for grabs

Thursday, November 21, 2013 by Andy Sevilla

The City of Austin will have to battle six counties and the cities within them for a chance at a chunk of more than $28 million up for grabs for transportation projects in the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization’s service area.


Local governments in the region have been scrambling for cash to fund projects geared toward improving mobility and relieving traffic gridlock within their boundaries, and the organization’s announcement Monday night of available funds was met with excitement.


“I need to go back to our transportation director and make sure that he knows that – he may already know it – and ask him to identify some projects that we can put forth by the next (CAMPO) meeting,” Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell said. “Because we want to be competitive too, I understand there’s probably going to be a lot more demand for those dollars than there is availability, but we want to be in that mix.”


And the demand for the available dollars has already poured in, even before Monday night’s announcement at CAMPO’s policy board meeting.


“Over the past several weeks, staff has received inquiries as to the availability of additional funds,” CAMPO staff said in written materials for Monday night’s agenda.


CAMPO Director Maureen McCoy said the organization has a total $64 million available for transportation projects in fiscal year 2014, though she cautioned that more than half of those dollars have already been committed to projects the board approved in 2011 and 2013. McCoy also said the organization expects another $10 to $15 million to trickle in for transportation projects once the Texas Department of Transportation finishes reconciling its funded 2013 projects.


The CAMPO board, which divvies out federal transportation dollars in Bastrop, Burnet, Caldwell, Hays, Travis and Williamson counties, counts on $7 million of Category 3 SH 130 Concession Fund monies and $57 million in federal Category 7 Surface Transportation Program Metropolitan Mobility dollars, though $35.6 million of the latter fund have already been dedicated to previously approved proposals.


The City of Austin will receive the largest portion of the committed dollars: $13 million for North Lamar sidewalks, Braker Lane north design and engineering, Loop 275/Congress and Phase 1 of a MoPac bicycle and pedestrian bridge.


The $7 million available from the SH 130 Concession Fund can, for the most part, only be used for project construction, but the $21.4 million available in federal dollars can be used for a plethora of items, according to CAMPO officials.


“The stipulations on these particular funds don’t have to be ‘shovel ready’ (projects),” CAMPO Chair and Hays County Commissioner Will Conley said. “They can be used for programming, they can be used for construction, they can be used for research and development, and they have a lot looser conditions than some other dollars that apply sometimes on these monies.”


Once local government representatives on the CAMPO board heard of available dollars, one-by-one they began chiming in on their city and county wish lists.


McCoy said her office has heard requests from Caldwell County; the City of Georgetown is looking for money to help fund improvements to FM 1460 and TxDOT has a laundry list of projects ready to hit the ground running.


The planning organization’s policy board could allocate the funds to a single project, a set of projects or it could conduct a call for project applications.


The City of Kyle was the first to throw its hat in the ring. Tuesday night, Kyle Council members approved engineering contracts for two of their deteriorated roads in hopes of pushing both projects ahead of the pack.


Kyle Mayor Lucy Johnson said in a text message Monday night that her city would be competing for some of the money after learning of the attainable transportation funds.


Putting on his commissioner hat, Conley said the Hays County Commissioners Court would also seek transportation dollars.


“It’s a funding opportunity that could help toward furthering transportation improvements in Hays County or in the municipalities within Hays County,” Conley said, adding that his county has plenty of propositions to choose “from project development to projects that are shovel ready that have not be let yet.”


CAMPO’s policy board will take the matter up again at its Dec. 9 meeting where government transportation wish lists will be discussed and the winners potentially selected.

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