Clearing the Road
SH 130 is a step closer to becoming a reality. This morning, Thursday, September 30, the Texas Transportation Commission is expected to approve an agenda item that provides development funds for the 89-mile-long toll road that will run parallel to I-35 east of Austin. The vote allows the Texas Dept. of Transportation to reimburse the Texas Turnpike Authority for any costs that the authority incurs while planning the new roadway. "We haven't given them a set amount, but we're asking them to pay the costs as we pursue these projects until we are ready to sell bonds," explained Mark Cross, a spokesman for the authority.
Planned to extend from Seguin to Georgetown, the toll road should take some of the traffic off I-35. It will also provide a new rail corridor that will allow the state to move freight traffic off the Austin-to-San Antonio rail line currently owned by Union Pacific. Moving that freight traffic is essential if there is to be regular passenger rail service between Austin and the Alamo City.
But SH 130, which is opposed by local environmentalists, is still several years away from becoming a reality. Before construction on the $1 billion road project can begin, the state must submit an environmental impact statement to federal authorities. The state has begun working on the EIS and will begin holding public hearings on the report next spring. State officials hope to submit the final EIS to federal authorities in the fall. If the EIS is approved, the state will begin relocating utilities and acquiring right of way. If the EIS is approved next year, state officials believe construction on the project could start by around 2003.