Green Light for CAMPO 2035 Plan
Long-range plan includes SH 45 Southwest project
The recent resignation of Joe Cantalupo, executive director of the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, raises questions about agency leadership for its new long-range vision and direction. On Monday, the CAMPO board voted 17-2 to approve a new 25-year plan that signals a historic shift in priorities. The CAMPO 2035 Regional Transportation Plan is a hybrid approach that divides resources between traditional Texas road-building and a new activity center approach that favors mixed-use density on transit corridors (see "Point Austin," April 16). The agency controls spending of all federal transportation dollars that flow through the Texas Department of Transportation for a five-county region; only projects written into its 25-year plan (which anticipates funding of more than $28 billion) can be funded.
The 2035 plan as passed Monday included the contested State Highway 45 Southwest tollway but did not fund it. Travis County Commissioner Karen Huber successfully fought off a last-minute change to swap "letting years" by moving the SH 45 construction start date ahead to 2015 (from 2020) and move the Oak Hill "Y" construction date back to 2018 (from 2015). In a May 21 memo, Cantalupo had recommended the revised time frames based on the likelihood of getting federal funds; Huber argued that need, not funding, should drive priorities. Commissioner Sarah Eckhardt made a successful motion, which passed 13-6 (despite a climate-skeptic speech by Williamson County Commissioner Cynthia Long), to reinstate into the plan's policy language a goal to "implement a transportation system that reduces CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions."
As a transitional solution and a political compromise, the 2035 plan pleased no one completely. But Cantalupo urged: "Don't let the weaknesses of the plan knock us off the vision. We can't expect to change the way we've been doing transportation planning in the region, forever, with one plan cycle." He added, "It may very well need to be revised annually to ensure we stay aligned with federal funding transportation criteria." As U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan announced May 21 at the Congress for the New Urbanism's CNU18 in Atlanta, those criteria now include location efficiency and LEED-ND (green neighborhood development) standards. Both align with the CAMPO activity center concept, said Cantalupo, because the concept "emphasizes the links between land use and transportation and other types of infrastructure. ... If we continue to link those things and address them all together, we're going to get more efficiencies out of what we have and be a little gentler on the planet." In winning competitive federal transportation dollars, he said, "We're going to be in much better shape because we've adopted this plan."
Cantalupo praised the board for passing the plan: "It was not easy for them." And he had only positive things to say about his two-year tenure at CAMPO: "It's very hard to leave here. I love this job, I love the back and forth, I love the chaos, and I love the staff – the staff is wonderful." He'll stay in Austin, where he has taken a more remunerative position as area manager for the local office of Parsons Brinckerhoff; the international firm consults with private and public-sector clients on major transportation, power, water/wastewater, environmental, and urban/community development projects.
Cantalupo said he's been telling people: "You'll still see me. I'll just have a different business card." He hopes to work on projects that implement the CAMPO 2035 plan, although he wasn't ready to name any. The PB website lists a number of projects incorporating sustainability principles similar to the CAMPO activity center model. For example, PB directed the Mayoral Task Force on Transit-Oriented Development for the Washington, D.C., Office of Planning; consulted on the Bay Area Livability Footprint in the San Francisco/Oakland Bay Area; and developed the Achieving Region 2040 Centers strategy for the Portland, Ore., area, to help it implement a similar mixed-use regional and town centers plan.