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Former mayors, activists sue TxDOT, CTRMA

Friday, February 26, 2016 by Jo Clifton

Former mayors Frank Cooksey and Carole Keeton joined with environmental, neighborhood and civic activists to file suit in federal court Thursday to try to derail the extension and expansion of MoPac South until there is what they call “a comprehensive environmental analysis” on the project. The plaintiffs also include 100-year-old environmental activist Shudde Fath, Jerry Jeff and Susan Walker, conservation biologist and endangered-salamander expert Laurie Dries, the Save Barton Creek Association, the Save Our Springs Alliance, the Friendship Alliance of Northern Hays County, the MoPac Corridor Neighbors’ Alliance and Clean Water Action. The lead attorney on the case, Renea Hicks, said, “By chopping up the project into three smaller pieces, (the Texas Department of Transportation) and (the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority) have failed to examine the cumulative impacts of their project on the environment. This means there is no meaningful analysis of likely impacts on the Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer, on endangered species, or on flooding and erosion downstream in the Onion Creek watershed.” According to the lawsuit, “The current configuration of MoPac South was pieced together sporadically over two decades. Using a phased approach, the state transportation agency has never conducted a comprehensive environmental evaluation of its actions across the full expanse of current MoPac South.” Environmentalists have been complaining for years about the potential detrimental impacts the highway would have. “The latest effort to expand, improve, and ‘enhance’ MoPac South, and to link it with other major roadways crossing other environmentally sensitive territory, has taken the environmental threat to a new level and is the focus of the legal claims in this lawsuit,” the suit explains. The transportation agencies have done piecemeal environmental studies, which the plaintiffs say is a dishonest approach. Hicks told the Austin Monitor, “We haven’t asked for emergency relief” because the ground is not being disturbed at this time. He said he expects the agencies to answer in mid- to late March. They can agree to do the comprehensive environmental study required by federal law or they can fight the lawsuit, he said.

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