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CAMPO board OKs list of future transit projects

Wednesday, December 10, 2014 by Gene Davis

The Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization Transportation Policy Board approved a recommended list of regional transit projects Monday, including a commuter rail line from Elgin to Austin and multiple new MetroRapid Bus routes, to prioritize for potential funding under its draft long-range plan.

The board also approved a recommended list of roadway projects in Travis, Hays, Caldwell, Williamson and Bastrop Counties to potentially fund with $605 million in remaining federal and state dollars.

The CAMPO Technical Advisory Committee discussed the list of urban transit and roadway projects at a meeting earlier in the day, which Committee Vice Chair Rachel Clampffer described as “one of the harder things we have been through.” She said the committee dug into the modeling and graphics that helped determine which projects the CAMPO 2040 Plan should prioritize for funding.

“In the end, I think we came up with the best thing we could come up with at this point,” she said. “They reflect the general feeling of TAC that they represent the region and they will help with mobility.”

Before casting one of two votes in opposition to the recommended list of projects, Travis County Commissioner Gerald Daugherty gave a five-minute speech on why he believes municipalities and CAMPO shouldn’t invest money in urban transit projects that “don’t meet the mark when it comes to how many people use those projects.” Daugherty was an outspoken force against the rail bond that voters rejected in November.

“If we don’t get serious about taking the limited amount of dollars in this region and applying to it where we get the biggest bang for the buck, then we are not doing ourselves any good,” he said.

In response, Leander City Council Member David Siebold told Daugherty the 2040 Plan must explore alternatives such as mass transportation options because of the expected population growth of Central Texas.

Austin Council Member Chris Riley joined Daugherty in voting against the list of recommended projects, though for different reasons. Riley voted against the so-called Draft Preferred Scenario because of Council’s long-standing objection to the proposed State Highway 45 Southwest toll road, which is contained in other parts of the 2040 Plan. The toll road would connect northern Hays County to southwest Austin.

The fact that Riley and Daugherty, two public officials who disagree on a majority of issues, joined together to vote against the recommended list of projects elicited good-natured laughs and a few cheers from fellow board members and the audience. In response, Riley and Daugherty joined in a mock celebratory fist-bump.

“Let’s get a picture of that, please,” joked CAMPO Board Chair Will Conley.

Conley reiterated several times during the CAMPO meeting that the 2040 plan is meant to serve as an amendable guide and not a definitive plan. He said the CAMPO board would more heavily vet any of the proposed roadway or urban transit projects when it comes time to potentially move forward with them.

CAMPO adopts a new long-range plan every five years.

“This plan will continue to be changed,” Conley said.


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