WAITINGON THE ROADS TO CHANGE In order to funnel $633 million into planned improvements on I-35, the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization has to push back some local projects. A draft list of project deferrals was released April 6, but CAMPO will not make any final decisions on which projects to defer and which to maintain until June 8.
Local political leaders to free up $633million for I-35 upgrade by delaying local projects
BY JACK FLAGLER
360 PROJECTS ON DRAFT DEFERRAL LIST 1 Metro Rail Cost: $5.87 million Project: grade separation of MetroRail line and North Lamar Boulevard 2 Colorado River scenic byway Cost: $5.68 million Project: construct a bicycle and pedestrian path on US 183 over the Colorado River 3 SH 71 Cost: $29 million Project: construct frontage road and connector lanes
When the Texas Transportation Commission secured $4.3 billion in February for a project to add lanes to I-35 through Central Austin, the commission gave the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization the task of coming up with a piece of that pie—a slice worth more than $600 million. “The commission feels like they have given us a great gift, and they probably have,” Travis County Precinct 3 Commissioner Gerald Daugherty said at the board’s April 6 meeting. But while the local political leaders who make up the transportation plan- ning organization agree improving I-35 through Austin is badly needed, that gift comes at a cost—finding which already-funded projects to punt down the road in order to funnel money to I-35. Austin Mayor Steve Adler said the process to choose some projects to
defer and others to keep on schedule harkened back to the way CAMPO used to operate in years past, when decisions were made “on purely political considerations.” “We’re about to make decisions with respect to many hundreds of millions of dollars, and we’re making a decision that doesn’t seem to be based on any objective criteria,” Adler said during the April 6 meeting. The compressed timeline is based on the Texas Transportation Commis- sion’s process to approve the entire $4.3 billion for the project in its 2020 Unified Transportation Plan—which outlines which state projects will get funding over the next 10 years. The commission could vote on the update as early as April 30. “It’s certainly not my choice or anybody’s choice to make these decisions in the short time frame we have, but we are there,” CAMPO board
Chair Cynthia Long said. On April 20, CAMPO’s board bought itself some time. The board voted to commit to the $633 million price tag.
However, it did not select individual projects to defer. Instead, it will wait on those decisions until its June 8 meeting.
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CENTRAL AUSTIN EDITION • APRIL 2020
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