Wednesday, April 29, 2009

"Specific communities are being forced to bear the weight of this burden and won't reap its benefits."

Complaint alleges U.S. 290 East toll road violates civil rights act


The Elgin Courier
Copyright 2009

The proposed toll road along US 290 East discriminates against low-income and minority populations in Austin, according to a complaint filed with the Federal Highway Administration.

Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (TRLA), the leading provider of legal aid in Texas, in conjunction with the SOS Alliance and the Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment, filed the complaint on behalf of three Travis County residents and the Bluebonnet Neighborhood Association.

Filed against the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority (CTRMA), and the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO), the complaint argues that the toll road project violates Title VI of the Civil Rights Act by having a disproportionate impact on the low-income and minority communities that surround and use the highway.

"The toll road will create a class distinction between those who are and are not able to use it," said TRLA attorney D'Ann Johnson. "Low-income residents will be forced to either use congested frontage roads or spend an unreasonable amount of their income on tolls."

According to the complaint, the project would impose economic hardships, increase health and safety risks and increase traffic in the neighboring communities. The complaint also argues that previous reviews of the toll road project have underestimated the impact it will have on neighboring communities and low-income residents who currently use U.S. 290 East for their commute.

Added Johnson, "The impacts of this toll road will not be felt equally among Austin residents. Specific communities are being forced to bear the weight of this burden and won't reap its benefits."

A copy of the complaint can be found at

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