What's Doing on Austin's Roadways

What's Doing on Austin's Roadways

Contrary to what was once popular belief, it turns out that Austin's road map for future toll-road projects wasn't cemented in asphalt after all. See the black dotted lines along this map? Transportation authorities peg them as planned projects, but time, money, and the current political climate have rendered them more, shall we say, flexible than they were when the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization unveiled the plan -- to an angry chorus of boos -- three years ago. Today, the equally flexible Sen. Kirk Watson has taken the reins of the CAMPO board with promises of a more inclusive, forward-thinking transportation process. That means the map you see now may look very different next year. For now, here's what's on the drawing board:

U.S. 290 East: A toll road from U.S. 183 to the new State Highway 130 (under construction) is still on deck, while the existing 290 lanes will remain toll-free. Construction on the toll-road portion is expected to start in 2008.

SH 71 East (Ben White Boulevard): What seemed like an endless construction nightmare for South Austin residents is now a smooth dream of a ride to the airport for frequent flyers and others looking to get away. There's one catch: Road honchos still aim to toll drivers on a portion of the highway, although there is no official word on when they'll start collecting.

SH 45 Southwest: Environmental opposition notwithstanding, this project is still scheduled to start next year. What better place to build a four-lane toll road than this environmentally sensitive Southwest Austin spot?

Highway 290/71 West: CAMPO Chair Watson has ordered warring factions (Oak Hill stakeholders, among others, vs. TxDOT) into a mediation process to try to resolve differences of opinion on design, noise control, and overall aesthetics. The idea, which everyone agrees on, is to unclog the daily bottleneck on the route from Austin to suburbia.

Loop 360 (Capital of Texas Highway): Once slated for tolling, the (tentative) plan now calls for an environmental study to determine some viable options for what to do with this increasingly congested north-south roadway. Mass transit, anyone?

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