Monday, January 22, 2007

"Public input is sometimes ignored."

Public Speaks Out Vs. Toll Road Plan At CAMPO Meeting

Jan 22, 2007

KXAN NBC (Austin)
Copyright 2007

If public input means anything, then phase two of the toll road plan in Central Texas will never get off the ground.

Phase two is the project that would add tolls to existing roads, including parts of highways 71, 290, 183 and 360. And the final public meeting in front of the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization board was held Monday night.

It was a packed house, and the majority of people were there to oppose the phase-two toll road project. But public input is sometimes ignored.

An overwhelming majority of those polled were against the phase-one toll road project, and CAMPO went ahead with the project anyway.

Amidst a field of boos, freshman state senator and former Austin mayor Kirk Watson, D-Austin, was named the new chairperson of CAMPO. Earlier in the day, Watson told KXAN he thinks the phase-two toll project should die.

"We should pull down all of the roads that are in the phase-two toll plan, because I, frankly, do not believe that this has been handled well," Watson said.

That skepticism from the public, and the distrust of the representatives that make up the board, echoed loud and clear at Monday night's meeting.

"Their campaigns get special interest dollars," said Sal Costello with the Austin Toll Party. "Their sisters and brothers get special contracts, like Dawnna Dukes' sister got a contract, more than one. So, yeah, they do benefit. They're ignoring the public."

The crowd was booing Watson because they say that when he was mayor, he re-allocated nearly $70 million in bond money away from public roads and into the toll road project on SH-45 and 130.

The CAMPO board votes in early February.

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