What's Up With 290's Expansion

CTRMA, TxDOT working together

Expanding U.S. 290 East from U.S. 183 in northeast Austin past State Highway 130 in Manor will present the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority with a set of circumstances quite different from the U.S. 183-A project through Williamson County.

If the CTRMA was ever handed a "slam dunk" toll project, it was U.S. 183-A. The environmental study was complete, at least half the schematics were done, and a good portion of the right-of-way had been purchased by local jurisdictions. As Chair Bob Tesch liked to say, the CTRMA could "hit the ground running." And, unlike projects to the south, local leaders welcomed the project. Leander expects the crossroads of the toll road and commuter rail to drive new development in the city. The project should be ready for traffic as soon as 2007, about when portions of SH 130 will open.

The CTRMA's second project will expand and extend an existing freeway out past Manor. This project, unlike 183-A, will be a joint venture with the Texas Department of Transportation. TxDOT will complete the environmental study and right-of-way acquisitions, then hand the project over to the CTRMA for design and construction. The expanded roadway will remain within the TxDOT road system.

At last week's CTRMA meeting, engineer Everett Owen noted that the major components of 290 East – environmental study/schematics, the toll revenue study, and the comprehensive development agreement with a developer – would happen in tandem. The project will not be ready for construction for at least 18 months – plenty of time for Austin City Council Member Brewster McCracken's regional toll road study to be completed.

Mindful of the opposition to other toll road projects, the CTRMA already has begun meetings with community leaders in Elgin and Manor. Executive Director Mike Heiligenstein said Elgin leaders, in particular, are interested in the economic development potential of the future toll project.

Meanwhile, the 11-member steering committee for McCracken's proposed regional toll road study will meet for the first time Nov. 9. The study's project budget is $344,000, collected from a number of local jurisdictions, including the CTRMA.

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transportation, US 290 East, US 183, Highway 130, Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority, US 183-A, Bob Tesch

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