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TxDOT responds to SH45 SW letter

Tuesday, April 21, 2015 by Tyler Whitson

The Texas Department of Transportation provided the Austin Monitor with its response Monday to a letter that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service sent to Mayor Steve Adler, Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt and others April 15. The letter expressed concerns about the environmental impact that the proposed State Highway 45 Southwest may have on the city and county’s Balcones Canyonlands Conservation Plan. “As a responsible steward of the environment, TxDOT conducted extensive environmental and technical studies in preparing the impact statement for the project. TxDOT also coordinated extensively with Travis County, specific to the Balcones Canyonlands Conservation Plan,” wrote TxDOT Director of Environmental Affairs Carlos Swonke. “Based on the technical studies discussed in the Final Environmental Impact Statement, we expect the project to have a positive impact on water quality in the Barton Springs segment of the Edwards Aquifer. It will move traffic off local streets that have little or no stormwater controls, to a new road with state-of-the-art stormwater controls. Based on the technical studies discussed in the Final Environmental Impact Statement, we do not anticipate any negative impacts to the resources described in the letter.” TxDOT approved the Final Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed 3.6-mile, four-lane tolled highway in January and cleared it for construction in March. The city has been a longtime opponent of the project, with Watershed Protection Department Environmental Officer Chuck Lesniak recently calling the associated environmental study unsound. After receiving last week’s letter, Eckhardt asked Mike Heiligenstein, executive director of TxDOT’s partner on the project, the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority, to postpone further design plans until the environmental concerns have been resolved.


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