Tuesday, October 14, 2008

CTRMA's 290 East Toll scheme gets ditched (for now)

290-East Toll Proposal Booted From CAMPO Meeting


590 KLBJ Radio
Copyright 2008

The number 7 may be considered lucky for most people, but for the group operating the 183-A toll road in Cedar Park, CTRMA, which stands for Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority, Monday was not their day to be placed seventh. Perhaps if they had scheduled their proposal to use extra toll fees as collateral for expanding U.S. 290 east during a CAMPO meeting that did not fall on a full-moon night, they may not have attracted such a massive group of the public, howling about more toll roads.

But the howling did not stop with the public during the meeting, which was held in a highly unusual place, a lecture hall, one floor below the usual conference room at UT's Joe C. Thompson Center. One CAMPO board member banged the drum of what she considered fair and legislating in the spirit of public perception of an embattled decision-making body.

Over the weekend, Travis County Commissioner Sarah Eckhardt e-mailed an extensive open letter to her colleagues on the CAMPO board. CAMPO stands for Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization.

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The issue is whether a proposal to divert some funds from 183-A tolls for use as collateral received its share of public hearings, as part of CAMPO's covenance, enacted last year to control the growth of toll roads when the board's public relations was at an all-time low.

"It was on the agenda tonight for a vote," said Cynthia Long, Williamson County Commissioner and CAMPO board Vice Chair. "This has been in a public meeting. We had a Finance Committee meeting where this was publicly discussed. We had a CAMPO workshop last week where this was publicly discussed."

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"This is not new information. This is just an opportunity to provide yet a little bit more dialog," she said.

"I am not a fan of toll roads," Eckhardt said, when asked by KLBJ. "[The CTRMA proposal] was placed on the agenda Wednesday. I was out of town until Wednesday night and when I saw it, I tap-danced as fast as I could to get something out by Friday evening that was credible, well-researched and would be helpful in addressing the issue.

"I think the bottom line is that a year ago, at the absolute trough of public opinion for CAMPO, we unanimously passed a series of covenants and we simply weren't following that transparency process," she added.

News Radio 590 KLBJ asked Commissioner Long if a vote by CAMPO would potentially violate the board's own covenants.

"I have no idea. I mean, I'm not an expert on the covenants. That's a question for someone else who is," she told us.

"I'm extremely familiar with the covenants and there's absolutely no doubt in my mind that the proposal falls under the covenant. It requires a two-thirds vote," Eckhardt said, interviewed separately.

Eckhardt and Long did not discuss the issue at all with media present Monday night.

"There is some reason to believe 290 east is going to be a very good performer. But of course there is going to be the other issue that they are separated by 14 miles and have no significant overlap in ridership," Eckhardt said.

The CAMPO board will likely revisit the issue at a later date.

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