Tuesday, March 31, 2015 by Tyler Whitson

CTRMA stalls proposal to double-deck MoPac

A plan that could transform MoPac Boulevard now appears to be trudging rather than speeding along, though it still may reach its destination in due time.

The Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority announced Monday that it is delaying its proposal to add four tolled express lanes to a stretch of MoPac between Cesar Chavez Street and Slaughter Lane, including two raised lanes across Lady Bird Lake.

In response to pushback after its last open house Feb. 26, the CTRMA has scheduled another open house in August, followed by a public comment period. This will extend the period of the proposal’s federally required environmental study past this fall, when the CTRMA had originally scheduled the final hearing.

In addition, the CTRMA is pulling its proposed amendment to the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization 2035 Regional Transportation Plan, which would have allowed construction of the project — dubbed MoPac South — to begin in 2017.

The $352.8 million project, however, is included in the current draft of the 2040 plan, which the CAMPO Transportation Policy Board will consider at its next meeting April 13. If the board passes the plan as drafted, construction of MoPac South could start as soon as 2020.

Travis County Commissioner Brigid Shea, who sits on the Transportation Policy Board, requested the additional opportunity for public input on MoPac South at the end of the last comment period, which coincided roughly with the March 9 board meeting.

Shea told the Austin Monitor on Monday that she appreciates the efforts of the CTRMA and its board chair, Ray Wilkerson, to respond to delay requests, and added that citizens should take advantage of the additional opportunity to comment on the inclusion of MoPac South in the 2040 plan.

“I don’t want anyone to think that this issue has been taken care of, because it hasn’t,” Shea said. “We just have been given more time for people to understand what’s proposed and for them to weigh in on the proposal.”

The public comment period for the 2040 plan concludes Thursday, and citizens can submit feedback by email, phone, mail, online or in person at the last in a series of CAMPO community workshops. The next workshop takes place at 5:30 p.m. today at the Bastrop Convention and Exhibit Center, and the final one will be held at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at One Texas Center.

Shea, Austin Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo and Austin Independent School District representatives are holding their own independent community workshop, specifically on MoPac South, at 6 p.m. today at the Austin High School cafeteria.

Shea said that among other things, she would like to discuss her concerns about how the new toll lanes will connect with Cesar Chavez and potentially impact traffic to Austin High School, based on conceptual designs the CTRMA has posted online.

“My understanding is even the city staff is not clear about how they would plan to merge the elevated lanes onto eastbound Cesar Chavez,” Shea said.

In the news release, CTRMA Executive Director Mike Heiligenstein acknowledged the desire for a greater understanding of MoPac South.

“It is important to hear from the community on this project, particularly because of the environmental considerations in the corridor, and the importance of providing much-needed mobility improvements on MoPac south of downtown,” said Heiligenstein.

The 2040 plan is due to the federal government by May 24.

Image courtesy of the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority.

 

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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 out to 2035. One of a series of such plans, it also led to Project Connect, and a 2014 City of Austin mobility bond.

Brigid Shea: Currently the Precinct 2 Travis County Commissioner, Shea also co-founded Save Our Springs, is a former Austin City Council member and has been an advisor to LCRA, Seton, and the City of Austin in the past.

Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority: The governing arm of Central Texas transportation. The board of directors is appointed by the governor and the Travis and Williamson County Commissioners Court. 1.5 stars on Yelp.

MoPac: Texas State Highway Loop 1 is also known as "MoPac" after the Missouri Pacific Railroad it was built on. The scenic highway runs from the beginning of the State Highway 45 to US 183.

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