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Transportation Improvement Program costs continue to rise

Wednesday, April 12, 2017 by Sommer Brugal

The Transportation Policy Board discussed amendments made to the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization 2017-2020 Transportation Improvement Plan at its meeting Monday night. Among the top concerns mentioned were the continuous cost increases such amendments entail.

Resident Kelly Davis cited an amendment that referenced the grade separation of main lanes north of Slaughter Lane and south of La Crosse Avenue to support her concerns. According to Davis, the new estimate is nearly 200 percent more than what was initially presented to the public, increasing from $62.9 million to an estimated $85.97 million. She said it was the fourth cost increase she’d seen for the project, with the original cost estimated around $40 million.

Davis wasn’t the only person troubled by the increase, though. CAMPO board member and Travis County Commissioner Brigid Shea said she was “shocked to learn of the doubling of the cost.” She went on to request a more complete briefing of the project before the committee voted next month.

Of the amendments included in the Transportation Improvement Program, six of those show price estimate increases. Still, though, the number doesn’t include the improvements or changes recently added to the 2017-20 Transportation Improvement Program.

Without explanation or reason for such increases, some board members expressed concern with the lack of transparency they were providing to the public. They also discussed whether or not cost estimates should be presented during a project’s initial phases. Members said presenting the public with unrealistic cost estimates might lead to the community’s lack of trust and confidence for future CAMPO plans.

Will Conley, CAMPO board chair, said regardless of a project’s infancy, “it’s supposed to be a living, breathing thing.”

The Transportation Improvement Program is CAMPO’s four-year planning document. The plan details transportation improvement projects slated to begin or complete construction within the four-year timeframe. Twice a year, local jurisdictions and governments can submit amendments to these documents, which can include changes in funding, project lengths or limits, or the project description.

CAMPO is currently working with regional agencies and local governments on those amendments to the four-year Transportation Improvement Program. While the opportunity to attend an open house has passed, public comments on amendments will be accepted until 5 p.m. on Friday, April 14.

The board will vote on the amendments at its meeting next month.

Photo by Teddy Wade, U.S. Army [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

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