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CAMPO offers the region a TIP

Monday, April 2, 2018 by Caleb Pritchard

The Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization is taking a draft proposal for more than $400 million worth of transportation projects out for public feedback.

CAMPO assembled this latest iteration of the four-year Transportation Improvement Program, or TIP, from a list of projects submitted by governments and agencies across its six-county jurisdiction. Just over half of the recommended projects would happen inside Travis County, a figure that’s roughly proportionate to the county’s share of CAMPO’s residential population, though undoubtedly less than its share of traffic and activity.

The 60 projects recommended for inclusion are divided into seven categories: Roadway, ITS/Operations, Transit, Active Transportation, Travel Demand Management, Studies, and Other. The 36 roadway projects combine for $347 million, or approximately 87 percent of the entire tranche of proposed funding.

Staff included funding for only one transit-related project on the list, a proposed bus plaza at Cesar Chavez Street and Shady Lane submitted by the Capital Area Rural Transportation System. The draft TIP would provide $3 million to the $5 million project.

The lack of transit projects that made the cut can be blamed in no small part on the number that were submitted for review. The Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority only submitted two under that category – the proposed extension of MetroRail station platforms and a the installation of a regional fare system – while the city of Round Rock also requested funding for bus stop lighting improvements.

However, Capital Metro successfully requested funding for other projects under other categories, including preliminary engineering on a grade-separated MetroRail crossing of N. Lamar Boulevard near the Crestview Station. According to CAMPO short-range planning manager Ryan Collins, that roadway project scored the highest among all the others evaluated by staff.

CAMPO spokesperson Doise Miers told the Austin Monitor that the outsize proportion of money recommended for roadway projects belies the cross-mode benefits contained in the draft TIP. Many of the road-widening proposals contain sidewalk and bike lane improvements as well, she said. Those include expansions of segments of Slaughter Lane and William Cannon Drive, a pair of projects informed by the recent studies of those corridors commissioned by the city’s 2016 mobility bond.

Likewise, the $960,000 recommended for a city of Austin-proposed feasibility study of the Bergstrom Spur could explore the transit potential of that abandoned freight track just south of Ben White Boulevard.

As for Travel Demand Management (TDM) proposals, staff considered four but advanced none of them to the draft TIP.

“As we went through this evaluation process, the criteria were problematic and didn’t really capture the impact of the projects,” Collins explained, adding that predicting the effectiveness of a given TDM initiative is not so simple. “With an infrastructure project, we can put that into the model and understand how it impacts the whole system. With TDM, we’re talking about advertising and whatnot, and how that impacts the roadways is very difficult to measure.”

The TIP does include $300,000 for a regional TDM study that could produce better criteria with which to evaluate TDM submissions in future TIPs.

In addition to a public hearing set for CAMPO’s April 9 board meeting, the agency has scheduled six public meetings across the region this month including one in Austin that will be held at Yarborough Library on April 18. Residents can also submit feedback online via CAMPO’s website.

The organization’s board is scheduled to take a final vote on the TIP at its May 7 board meeting.

This story has been changed since publication to clarify Capital Metro’s previous request for funding.

Photo by Tampasteve, CC BY-SA 3.0.

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