A Symbolic ‘No’ to SH 45

Council passes resolution opposing toll road

Yellow dotted line indicates SH 45 route across aquifer
Yellow dotted line indicates SH 45 route across aquifer

City Council last week reaffirmed its opposition to the construction of the SH 45 toll road with a resolution that passed 6-1. Mayor Lee Leffingwell cast the only no vote.

The early morning vote was taken at the end of a long meeting, and the deliberation on the dais was prolonged somewhat with an unsuccessful attempt by Council Member Bill Spelman to include an amendment supporting the acquisition of mitigation property should SH 45 continue as planned.

But resolution sponsor Kathie Tovo and co-sponsors Laura Morrison and Sheryl Cole were not interested in a Plan B amendment, which they believed would diminish the city’s objections, however symbolic those objections might be.

The city has no formal say in the project, but it does own watershed protection lands near the planned route of the toll way, which, studies show, would add thousands of additional vehicles to an already congested MoPac.

Travis County Commissioners have fast-tracked the project, with help from the Texas Department of Transportation, CAMPO, and Hays County, whose commuting residents would stand to benefit the most.

Spelman said he was introducing the amendment at the request of George* Cofer, executive director of the Hill Country Conservancy. The conservancy is attempting to acquire a tract of undeveloped property straddling the proposed route. As Spelman explained it, Cofer would be able to purchase the property for preservation if SH 45 is built.

“Although I’m extremely unhappy with the fact that [County Judge Sam Biscoe] and Commissioner [Gerald] Daugherty think this road needs to be built – I don’t think it does, and I think even Commissioner Daugherty is having second thoughts as to the value of the road, other than his own political purposes – I am least encouraged that if they move forward … at least they’ll do the right thing and mitigate like crazy.” Spelman was referring to Biscoe’s and Daugherty’s repeated vows to make the road as environmentally sensitive as possible.

Morrison called Spelman's proposed amendment “a complete non sequitur” in relation to the rest of the resolution. In any case, the amendment failed 4-3 with Tovo, Morrison, Cole and Mike Martinez voting it down.

Before the final vote, Leffingwell said he regarded the resolution as virtually meaningless, given the steps already taken to build the road. “If it is not built, it won’t be because of this resolution,” he said.

*George Cofer was mistakenly identified as Bill Cofer in this original report.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

City Council, SH 45, aquifer, Travis County Commissioners, Bill Spelman, Lee Leffingwell, Kathie Tovo

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