El Paso gears up for RMA vote
By David Crowder
El Paso Times
The creation of the Camino Real Regional Mobility Authority and the appointment of six board members will be up for approval at Tuesday's El Paso City Council meeting.
The establishment of the mobility authority has been under discussion for well over a year and is seen by many in El Paso as a controversial move because of the power the authority could wield - particularly the power to impose tolls on new traffic lanes and roads.
It is also regarded by some as the only way El Paso will ever see the kinds of major highway and transportation projects that the Texas Department of Transportation has funded but which the state is now saying it cannot afford without local support - tolls.
South-West city Rep. Beto O'Rourke was surprised to learn that Mayor John Cook was bringing the issue up this week.
"I didn't know the RMA issue was going to be on the agenda," O'Rourke said. "Yes, the council did commit to do this. It's one of the most viable answers to the transport situation here.
"Politically, it's probably not the greatest time, but we don't always get to choose that."
West-Central city Rep. Susie Byrd, another member of the council majority that has supported the establishment of a mobility authority, agreed the council is committed to it.
"We need to do it," she said. "The RMA is a tool we can use as a community to build the mobility capacity we need in El Paso. We are about to see some huge growth and we don't have the resources through TxDOT to do it.
"We can wait for 30 years for TxDOT to meet the demand, or we can do like every major border community has and take the reins and build the capacity on our own."
The authority would have to be careful about the use of tolls, she said, and maintain the existing free routes while allowing the construction of tolled roads and lanes for trucks and other traffic wanting to get through or around the city quickly.
Opponents have focused on the toll issue and referred to the imposition of tolls as a tax on the driving public and have also spoken against the creation of an appointed board to run the authority.
"I think one of the real critical things is putting the finest people on this board - people with the highest ethical standards and intelligence and skills - to really make good decisions," Byrd said.
Cook sought nominees from members of City Council and has apparently passed over some of the recommended individuals in proposing three nominees for six board positions.
David Crowder may be reached at email@example.com; 546-6194.
# What: El Paso City Council meeting.
# When, where: 9 a.m. Tuesday, City Council Chambers, second floor, City Hall.
# On TV: The meeting will be broadcast live and replayed at 7 p.m. Tuesday on cable Channel 15.
# Information: www.ci.el-paso.tx.us or 541-4127.
Mayor John Cook's nominees for six seats on the Camino Real Regional Mobility Authority:
# Position 1: Ike J. Monty, Stuart R. Schwartz, David Marcus.
# Position 2: J.O. Stewart, Marisa Barrio, Tedd F. Richardson.
# Position 3: Wayne Windle, Ann Herkenhoff, Ann Rush.
# Position 4: Brenda Ehrlich, Dr. Heramb K. Singh, Tanny Berg.
# Position 5: Steve Yellen, Yusuf E. Farran, Ralph Adame.
# Position 6: Dr. Tony Payan, Belen Robles, Scott McLaughlin.
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