Thursday, October 13, 2005

"The only project more controversial than toll roads is TTC-35."


Austin Chronicle
Copyright 2005

Independent Review "highjacked" by pro-toll stakeholders.

• An agreement creating an independent review into controversial proposed "Phase 2" toll roads included in the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization's "Mobility 2030" transportation plan is slated for Austin City Council approval next week, but not without further uproar. In creating the review's steering committee, an agreement between the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority, Austin, and other stakeholders, including the city of Round Rock, and Travis, Williamson, and Hays counties, cites a June CAMPO decision calling for re-review of the proposed toll roads. "Phase 2" tolls would affect stretches of US 183, 290, and Loop 360, among other roads. Sal Costello and fellow toll opposers in the Austin Toll Party fear the independent study is anything but. Though most of the study is being financed by the city, Costello said its steering committee has been "hijacked" by pro-toll stakeholders, who have the votes to overpower the city. Council Member Brewster McCracken, who led the council toll revolt, called the steering committee a voteless administrative body. He said it was created so "everyone has confidence that information they feel important is considered." Himself suspicious of the financial need for tolls, McCracken said, "We are all going to agree on what the numbers are." – Wells Dunbar

Resolution supporting TTC-35 is tabled at CAMPO meeting

• A resolution in support of the I-35 segment of the Trans-Texas Corridor stalled at Monday night's meeting of the CAMPO Transportation Policy Board. Executive Director Michael Aulick, whose staff has been in talks with the TxDOT, drew up a list of conditions CAMPO might like to see on the Central Texas portion of the corridor, such as the use of SH 130 as a section of TTC-35, a commitment to relocate the Union Pacific freight rail, and comprehensive land planning in tandem with the corridor's construction planning. The North Texas region has passed its own list of conditions, but Central Texas leaders balked. Commissioner Gerald Daugherty said the only project more controversial than toll roads was TTC-35, and Rep. Mark Strama, D-Austin, said he has strong reservations about supporting a resolution in support of the corridor given his constituents' opposition, although he might consider a letter to TxDOT that included some of the conditions outlined by Aulick. The resolution was tabled until CAMPO's December meeting. – K.R.

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