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Thursday, October 1, 2015 by Jo Clifton

Save Our Springs sues toll road agency again

The Save Our Springs Alliance filed suit on Tuesday against the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority, seeking information that the agency has refused to release concerning a traffic and revenue study on the proposed MoPac South toll lanes.

According to SOS, “The agency refused to release the traffic study, claiming it was ‘draft’ internal policymaking, and thus exempt from public disclosure.” SOS further says that CTRMA has paid “hundreds of thousands of dollars for the data and expert analysis contained in the report and is using the report to justify the proposed switch from building only one toll lane in each direction to building two toll lanes in each direction.”

SOS says the information has nothing to do with internal policymaking and is the exact type of information that should be disclosed to the public under the Texas Public Information Act.

SOS sued CTRMA two years ago when the agency withheld what it called an internal draft policy document, which SOS said is similar to the documents currently being withheld. In that case, after the environmental group filed suit, CTRMA released the traffic and revenue study, and SOS dismissed its suit.

In this instance, SOS says it has received an indication from the agency’s attorney that it will not be turning over the documents and intends to fight the request in court. CTRMA attorney Andy Martin said his agency did not want to release the draft document because it does not represent what the agency will finally decide to build. He said it would release a final document in about a year to 18 months that would be “an investment grade traffic and revenue study.” According to Martin, CTRMA is considering suggestions made by the cities of Austin and Rollingwood as well as Travis County. The agency will also be holding open houses in October to get input from the public, he said.

Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office has sided with the agency, saying that it may withhold the information.

SOS is requesting a writ of mandamus requiring CTRMA to provide the requested records. In addition, SOS is asking for an expedited interim order directing the agency to provide the requested records to SOS under a protective order until the lawsuit is finally resolved. Well-known environmental attorney Renea Hicks is representing the SOS Alliance.

Hicks said Wednesday he expects the litigation to move along fairly quickly, so the parties could be in court by the end of October or early November.

Photo courtesy Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority © 2015

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Key Players & Topics In This Article

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.

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."