Saturday, October 30, 2004

Ric Williamson sends his sympathy to Austin tollers

South MoPac might be able to go toll free, panel hints

Barrientos, Sonleitner, Wynn get sympathy from commissioners

October 29, 2004

Ben Wear
Austin American-Statesman
Copyright 2004

The Texas Transportation Commission sent some pretty thick smoke signals Thursday that it will go along with an emerging plan to refrain from charging tolls on MoPac Boulevard (Loop 1) at William Cannon Drive. But it was still smoke.

Certainty, in the form of explicit promises to replace that lost toll revenue with state money for sound walls or other projects on MoPac (Loop 1), will have to wait for another day.

But state Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos, D-Austin, Austin Mayor Will Wynn and Travis County Commissioner Karen Sonleitner got a double helping of sympathy and bonhomie when they spoke at the commission's monthly meeting.

"It's safe to say that all five of us (commissioners) have grieved for you," commission Chairman Ric Williamson said to Wynn, who's the target of a recall effort because he joined 15 other members of the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization board in a July vote authorizing tolls on seven new or expanded Central Texas roads. Frontage roads on those highways would be free.

Barrientos said the South MoPac toll road "has probably been the most discussed, or cussed, part of this plan." He said a better approach has been found: tolling a fourth lane added to each side of MoPac (without widening it) from Town Lake to Parmer Lane. "To do that, we're going to need your help."

Wynn delivered much the same message.

If Barrientos and Wynn were vague in expressing just what help they wanted, the commissioners were encouraging but equally vague in offering to help.

"We're going to say, 'Look, we're your partner. We're here to do all we can," Williamson said.; 445-3698

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