In the midst of this crisis, do we need another transportation turkey?
Update: May 5
From Save Our Springs Alliance:
The unfortunate truth about CAMPO is that it tends to operate too much along tribal, R v. D, Austin v. surrounding county, lines. However, the approved CAMPO 2045 plan is an equal opportunity, bipartisan failure. Traffic gets worse; our air and water get more polluted, natural areas that should be protected get fragmented and paved over.
The so-called “saving grace” that we can’t afford the CAMPO 2045 price tag should have been been reason enough to vote “no.” Yet, somehow, 15 Austin-area elected officials (plus 2 appointed) from all political stripes joined in voting “yes” on a plan they will be telling voters they really don’t support. Will voters believe them? Will the non-plan, plan get fixed in the months ahead? Stay tuned!! — Save Our Springs Alliance, May 5, 2020
Pandemic Pilfering Case Number 1: TxDOT & CAMPO Ram IH-35 Expansion
TxDOT and the 21-member Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO), held a specially called meeting on April 22, just twelve days before their regular meeting, May 4. The rush? To ram through $633 million in “clawbacks” for a massively expensive IH-35 expansion plan in Austin. The clawback set in motion a scramble by other projects facing cuts.
If you get this newsletter in time, we suggest you watch the meeting on May 4, starting at 2 pm.
Travis County Commissioner, Brigid Shea, did not join the stampede at the April 22 meeting. Instead, she asked why not wait to find a way to continue some of the telecommuting necessitated by the COVID crisis that has drastically eased traffic. Only Bastrop County Commissioner, Clara Beckett, agreed, but then she proceeded to vote for the $633 million clawback.
What really captured our attention was CAMPO and TxDOT’s decision to thwart both House and Senate transportation committee chairs (South Texas House Democrat Terry Canales and East Texas Senator Robert Nichols). A letter from Canales and Nichols urged that significant transportation funding decisions be put on hold until the amount of damage to the state budget from the TWO crises, COVID and oil and gas, can be assessed.
Longtime independent “Road Scholar,” Roger Baker, has followed transportation in Texas for decades. He explains why TxDOT can’t just bail out the IH-35 expansion: “TxDOT is drowning in $32 billion in debt. That’s about $1,000 for every Texan.”
What are TxDOT and CAMPO smoking?
It’s the same old cigar from backrooms inhabited by the well-connected interests who cannot ever seem to control themselves, even in a pandemic.
Austin real estate developer, Brian Rodgers, spent years trying to reorient his colleagues and public officials towards multiple and proven sustainable growth strategies. But years of deafness followed by the COVID-19 and the oil crisis may well bring this “hyper-growth” era to a screeching halt.
Get informed. Review these articles: This Aug. 8 article in the Austin American-Statesman, this April 15 article by Roger Baker on the Rag Blog, and this May 1 article from the Austin Monitor. Most important, visit some of Rodger’s efforts “Costs of Growth” page at LIV.