Wednesday, August 22, 2007

"No city in the country has ever shifted its plan from freeways to tollways, and that's exactly what this plan is."

CAMPO To Hear From Public On Toll Roads

Aug 21, 2007

KXAN NBC (Austin)
Copyright 2007

The Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, or CAMPO, will vote in October on plans to toll a large portion of the city's freeways.

The Texas Department of Transportation said it doesn't have the money to build roads fast enough to meet congestion problems, and the agency is giving residents two months to voice their opinions.

They're free roads now, but they aren't free from heavy traffic.

"If it's tolled, it's built earlier; if it's non-tolled, it takes more time to build," said Michael Aulick, executive director of CAMPO.

Under consideration for tolls are U.S. Highways 290 and 183, and State Highway 71 on the east side of Austin, in addition to the Y at Oak Hill and a portion of Interstate 45 in South Austin.

The projects total $2.5 billion, and TxDOT estimated it is at least $1 billion short.

"Every week that number changes from their perspective," said Sal Costello of the Texas Toll Party. "I think last week it was $500 million."

Costello said he's tired of CAMPO's attempts to try and pass toll roads.

"No city in the country has ever shifted its plan from freeways to tollways, and that's exactly what this plan is, that's what it's always been," Costello added.

Yet if CAMPO decides to make drivers pay, the group won't to be able to take away the people's ability to travel for free, because new roads would include free frontage roads.

"It'd seem like it'd be easier to do it just some other way, or something like that, rather than trying to shove this toll road down our throats," said Austin resident John Borrello.

To that end, at least one CAMPO board member said he wants to see how many drivers would benefit before he can vote.

"If we build these roads, we need to make sure they're providing congestion relief where congestion relief is needed," said Jeff Mills, a CAMPO board member.

Congestion versus tolls depends on how fast drivers want to go either away.

There are four public meetings before the board votes Oct. 8:

* Tuesday, from 4 to 9 p.m., at Covington Middle School, 3700 Convict Hill Road, Austin.
* Thursday, from 4 to 9 p.m., at Kyle City Council chambers, 100 W. Center St., Kyle.
* Aug. 29, from 4 to 9 p.m., East Communities YMCA, 5315 Ed Bluestein Blvd., Austin.
* Aug. 30, from 4 to 9 p.m., Allen R. Baca Center, 301 W. Bagdad Ave., Round Rock.

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