AUSTIN (KXAN) — Tuesday night people will get a chance to weigh in on a controversial proposed stretch of road South of Austin. The Texas Department of Transportation and Texas Regional Mobility Authority are hosting the last open house for the proposed State Highway 45 Southwest project.
TxDOT said the goal behind SH 45 SW is to help ease traffic in Southern Travis and Northern Hays County where more and more people are moving to. The toll road would connect FM 1626 to Mopac.
“With the population growth in these counties it’s really imperative that we continue to look for ways to improve mobility and reliable travel times in this area,” said Kelli Reyna, spokesperson for TxDOT. ” We really want people to come out tell us what you think so let us know your comments so if this project were to move forward we could incorporate all of your ideas into it so we can have an environmentally safe and sensitive project.”
TXDOT Public Hearing
- Tuesday July 29, 2014
- 5:00 p.m.
- Bowie High School
- 4103 W Slaughter Lane
TxDot said it just recently completed the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) which looks at how the project would impact the environment and surrounding communities.
“We have found in the studies that we’ve done by implementing some of the best management practices for water quality protection measures we have found that we could actually reduce some of the pollution out there so we do feel that if this project were to move forward we could do It in an environmentally sensitive manner,” said Reyna.
She said that would include building retention ponds, filtration strips and grassy swales before and after construction to help with runoff. Part of the project would be in the Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone and TxDOT said it wants to do everything it can to protect it.
Critics believe the project won’t help traffic and will hurt the environment.
“It makes traffic worse than better by diverting I-35 commuters to Mopac which is overwhelmed that makes no sense from a transportation perspective,” said Bill Bunch, Save Our Springs Alliance Executive Director. The advocacy group said it also believes the state’s DEIS is “premature” and doesn’t offer real alternatives to the project.
“It says over and over through a 1,000 pages that impacts to traffic to the environment to the community would be negligible, but there’s no analysis that supports that. To the contrary the project will dump tens of thousands of more cars onto Mopac when Mopac is already overwhelmed so it’s a terrible idea for traffic and transportation and then the project will cross the Barton springs Edward recharge zone and literally dozens of caves and sink holes and poses a major pollution threat to the aquifer and the springs,” said Bunch.
He suggested alternatives to avoid building a road like improving current roadways on Manchaca, Brodie and I-35. He also suggested having bus routes in the area and more ride sharing programs.
TxDOT said on it’s website that the, “DEIS identifies a preferred alternative, the final selection of the preferred alternative would occur only after a public comment period including a public hearing, consideration of comments, and evaluation of environmental effects.”
Once it receives input Tuesday night, it will analyze them and draft a summary and seek an environmental finding. Reyna said the department hopes to have that finding before 2015, a few months before determining if the project will move forward.
Travis County Commissioners approved the project back in March. Bunch believes there’s a push to get the project finished because the current support and thinks with the election around the corner, some new members may take action to stop the project.