Public Notice: One Ring to Rule Them All
MoPac South one big link in a toll road loop
Oy, where to start in this big tangled mess? You may recall the brouhaha several months ago when the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority announced its plans for a massive expansion of MoPac South, including two new toll lanes each way from Cesar Chavez down to Slaughter Lane, and a double-decker bridge over Lady Bird Lake (see "Public Notice: On the Waterfront," May 8). The ugliness of that particular element caught a lot of folks' attention, there was a lot of negative feedback to CTRMA and the Texas Dept. of Transportation, and, well, the plan remains pretty much the same. But the thing is, an ugly bridge is only a small bit of the bigger picture; there's a lot more to dislike about the greater MoPac tollway plan.
The legal contest to the plan centers around the environmental studies which are required for any project this size. Thus far, these have been done piecemeal; CTRMA has studied the effects of each section of the MoPac expansion – from I-35 far north, all the way down to Slaughter Lane – as if they were stand-alone projects, and not part of an overall plan to add continuous tolled lanes along the entire length of the west-side highway. In particular, CTRMA has refused to include the effects of the controversial SH 45 SW, connecting MoPac South across to I-35 South, saying that they are not currently planning on building that connector, so need not include its effects in any studies of traffic or environmental impacts.
Now, however, the local anti-toll-road group Keep MoPac Local has revealed that in January, TxDOT and CTRMA issued a bond prospectus for refunding the bonds on TxDOT's toll roads, promising Wall Street that Phase II of 45 SW would be completed by 2025, completing a western toll loop, and presumably guaranteeing a quantum jump in toll revenue by pushing traffic west through the Barton Springs recharge zone.
Nor is the damage purely environmental. With MoPac South currently ending just south of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, it serves primarily local commuters in western Travis and Hays counties, and already suffers some of the worst congestion delays in the area. CTRMA's own studies indicate that the toll lanes would be used primarily by inter-regional and interstate traffic, and would be for "special occasion" use for most residents. Meanwhile, congestion in the non-tolled lanes would get worse, by a factor of 50-100%. As a traffic expert hired by Keep MoPac Local puts it, if MoPac South is connected to I-35, "then traffic on MoPac will 'explode' and you simply cannot add enough lanes to accommodate all of the traffic."
Keep MoPac Local is hosting a public meeting at Austin High on Monday, Nov. 9, 6-8pm, with County Commissioner Brigid Shea and City Council Members Kathie Tovo and Leslie Pool and CTRMA hosts a MoPac South Environmental Study Open House the following day, 3-7pm Tue., Nov. 10, at the Palmer Events Center. More info at www.keepmopaclocal.org and www.mobilityauthority.com.
The Hill Country Alliance's Rainwater Revival is back for its sixth edition, Sat., Nov. 7, 10am-4pm, at Dripping Springs Ranch Park, off RR 12, across from Dripping Springs Elementary. The free, daylong event is part festival, part educational series, and "always a celebration of the ease, sweet taste, and wisdom of harvesting rainwater." Speakers include Richard Heinichen, Mayor of Tank Town and co-constructor of the Austin Chronicle Bubbleplex, John Dromgoole, The Natural Gardener, a Home & Business Owners Rainwater Harvesting Panel, plus vendors, and exhibitors, local food, live music, kids events, and more. Full info at www.hillcountryalliance.org/rainwaterrevival.
The 39th Annual Historic Hyde Park Homes Tour is Sunday, Nov. 8, from 11am-5pm. This year's theme is "Celebration of Small Houses" – seven houses averaging under 850 square feet – focusing on affordability, sustainability, the small house movement, living simply, and preserving the small house stock through our local historic district. Tickets are $20 at www.hydeparkhomestour.org or on that day at Lucien, Stirling & Gray Advisory Group, 4005 Guadalupe. Parking will be available at several marked locations near 40th and Guadalupe; stroll or bike to the houses, using a booklet with details on the houses and the tour route.
EAST at the Library: Beginning Monday, Nov. 9, stop by any Austin Public Library location to pick up a free East Austin Studio Tour catalog, and visit these eight APL branch locations that are official EAST venues for the entire month of November:
• Ruiz Branch, 1600 Grove
• Carver Branch, 1161 Angelina
• Willie Mae Kirk Branch, 3101 Oak Springs Dr.
• University Hills Branch, 4721 Loyola
• Terrazas Branch, 1105 E. Cesar Chavez
• Cepeda Branch, 651 N. Pleasant Valley
• St. John Branch, 7500 Blessing
• Windsor Park Branch, 5833 Westminster
The Center for Maximum Potential Building Systems (Max's Pot) – a local nonprofit that develops innovative systems for healthy, sustainable communities – is holding several events to celebrate "40 Years of Serious Commotion" on Nov. 5-6: a cocktail party Thursday evening at Trace at the W Hotel, and a symposium, exhibit, and reception at the Center on Friday. See www.cmpbs40.org for info and tickets.