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Daugherty set to ruffle feathers with Reimers-Peacock push

Tuesday, August 8, 2017 by Caleb Pritchard

Tuesday could be a bumpy ride for Reimers-Peacock Road.

The long-planned connector between Hamilton Pool Road and State Highway 71 is set to play a featured role in the Travis County Commissioners Court’s expected final discussion of project recommendations for a November bond vote.

The staff-endorsed list of recommendations – which includes roadway, bicycle, sidewalk, park and drainage projects – has reached $185 million. Notably absent from that list, however, is Reimers-Peacock Road.

Nonetheless, the project’s champion, Commissioner Gerald Daugherty, has pledged to fight for its inclusion before the court takes its ultimate vote.

“I’m an infrastructure guy,” Daugherty told the Austin Monitor on Monday evening, explaining his support for the road proposal that has also long enjoyed support from the Lake Travis Independent School District, two emergency services districts in the area and the Travis County Sheriff’s Office.

Indeed, county voters also approved funds to plan the project in 2005’s bond election. Progress on it stalled after Daugherty was temporarily replaced by former Commissioner Karen Huber from 2009 to 2013. Since his return and subsequent re-election, Daugherty has made Reimers-Peacock Road one of his priorities.

The Precinct 3 commissioner told the Monitor that the estimated $15.5 million price tag for the project could be drastically reduced. LTISD itself has plans to finance a large stretch of the road to connect SH 71 to land it owns and is planning to build a new campus on. Furthermore, approximately two-thirds of the right of way would be donated by two large property owners.

Its cost aside, the road is opposed by a band of residents along Hamilton Pool Road who are worried about what it could mean for a large swath of mostly virginal Hill Country land.

“From a community standpoint, we strongly continue to oppose Reimers-Peacock Road because the only purpose for it is large high-density development,” Jim Koerner of the nonprofit Hamilton Pool Road Matters, flanked by a handful of allies, told the court last week. “And that’s not speculation, that’s reality.”

Other speakers from that meeting, including Bike Austin Executive Director Mercedes Feris, said they would oppose any bond proposition entirely if it included money for Reimers-Peacock. On Monday, Daugherty called that position “ridiculous” and pledged that it would not make him stand down.

“I’m not going be put in a position where I’m pushed around like that,” he insisted.

Daugherty faces tough headwinds, however. County Judge Sarah Eckhardt and Commissioner Brigid Shea have each positioned themselves against adding the project to the current bond referendum recommendations. Commissioner Margaret Gómez, however, has supported Daugherty on the project the past, leaving Commissioner Jeff Travillion as the potential swing vote.

Notwithstanding the obligatory vote counting, Daugherty insisted on his right to deliver promises to his voters.

“I want the Precinct 3 commissioner to be the one to make that call,” he said.

Photo by Han Kim made available through a Creative Commons license.

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