CAMPO votes to divert $633M away from Central Texas projects to I-35

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — Ar discussion is heating up among the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization.

Among the CAMPO, theres not a consensus on how to best serve commuters coming into Austin from different parts of Central Texas. On Monday, CAMPO voted to divert $633 million from regional construction projects to the I-35 Capital Express Project instead.

The I-35 overhaul has a price tag of $4.9 billion.

The I-35 Capital Express Central project proposes to add two non-tolled managed lanes in each direction along I-35 from U.S. 290 East to State Highway 71/Ben White Boulevard. The project also includes additional safety and mobility improvements.

“When we as a policy board were first brought the I-35 opportunity, we were told the state would do I-35, the project on 183 and a project at Anderson Mill and RM-620,” said Council Member Jimmy Flannigan. “That was the vote we made last May. The state came back and said, ‘Well actually no.”

Flannigan is among the handful to oppose CAMPO’s June 8 decision. Out of the 22 CAMPO board members, six voted against the decision to defer funds.

KXAN’s Frank Martinez

“Ultimately, I couldn’t live with the compromises being offered,” said Flannigan.

This decision pulls money from major regional projects like reconstructing RM 620, and intersection changes to Anderson Mill along with many others.

KXAN’s Frank Martinez.

“There are folks who live out there, and they are stuck in an environment where there is one way in and one way out,” said Flannigan.

Travis County Commissioner Brigid Shea says the decision to postpone those projects is based on “terrible public policy” and goes against the “independent, unbiased scoring system they used for the regional projects.”

“This is a matter of politics, rather than good policy. They didn’t like the result of the independent, unbiased scoring,” said Shea. “They came up with the other method to score the project the majority wanted to fund. I’ve had beef with CAMPO for a while now. The most congested areas are on the losing end.”

Flannigan adds to Shea’s statement that “It’s not about who lived next door to those projects, but how they connect as a whole.”

On April 30, the Texas Transportation Commission voted to allocate $3.4 billion to the I-35 project. Monday, the commission added $633 million from those surrounding projects that are now postponed. In August the commission plans to vote on an additional $300 million.

TxDOT sent this statement to KXAN on Wednesday:

I-35 through the Austin area is home to five of the 100 most congested roadway segments in Texas. The population in the Austin region is expected to double by 2045, and local transportation leaders have deemed I-35 the region’s top priority.

Action taken by CAMPO this week is a necessary component of a funding plan that includes $3.4 billion allocated in the Unified Transportation Program to the Central project by the Texas Transportation Commission in April. 

TxDOT will continue to develop the projects on the deferral list to get them ready to go out for bid, as construction funding becomes available.

Flannigan says the projects aren’t necessarily canceled, the source of their funding is just up in the air now.

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