Group files lawsuit to stop South MoPac, SH 45 SW projects

AUSTIN (KXAN) — As developers continue to move forward on the project to build toll lanes on MoPac South Expressway and SH 45 SW, a group composed of former Austin Mayor Carole Keeton, Friends of the Wildflower Center and Save Our Springs Alliance, among others, are making sure the project stops in its tracks.

On Thursday, a lawsuit was filed in federal court seeking an injunction on the construction on MoPac South, as well as the toll lanes on State Highway 45 SW and the Intersections project at Slaughter Road and LaCrosse Avenue. The lawsuit claims the agencies in charge of the projects, the Texas Department of Transportation and the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority, launched the projects without “undertaking any advance look at the cumulative environmental consequences of their action and without considering any alternatives to their South MoPac endeavor.”

Three sections of the various projects on South MoPac and SH 45 SW.
Three sections of the various projects on South MoPac and SH 45 SW.

Both agencies say an environmental study was conducted as required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The study looked at potential social, economic and environmental impacts of the proposed improvements. In December, TxDOT issued a “Finding of No Significant Impact” for the MoPac intersections project, which allows the project to move into final design phase.

The lawsuit contends, TxDOT did not take a “hard look at the cumulative environmental consequences” of the project. The plaintiffs are seeking to stop any work on the South MoPac project, including the entirely new tolled roadway until the agencies have complied with NEPA. The lawsuit also says the intersections projects at Slaughter Road and LaCrosse Avenue shouldn’t be allowed because it would run near the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Plaintiff Save Our Springs says the projects will “cause direct harm to the conservation, aesthetic, and natural heritage values of this land and the waters that fall on and recharge the Edwards Aquifer on this land.” Another plaintiff, the Friendship Alliance of Northern Hays County claims the extension of MoPac South with the proposed SH 45 SW will do more harm than good by making traffic “significantly worse” and encourage “more unmanaged growth in Northern Hays County.”

The MoPac South project plans to add tolled express lanes and an elevated double-deck over Lady Bird Lake. In December, the Texas Transportation Commission gave preliminary approval on the final $60 million needed to complete the portion of SH 45 SW, which is expected to start construction this summer.

Former Austin Mayor Carole Keeton wants CTRMA to take a step back and look at how this project could potentially lead more traffic around Austin High School.

“I’m also a staunch believer in protecting our most precious resources in this city. Wildflower Center, Lady Bird Lake and Austin High School where our children and our children’s children are going to school for generations to come.”

Citing studies, planners say that if nothing is done, travel time on MoPac during rush hour from Slaughter Lane to Cesar Chavez Street could be 30 minutes longer in 20 years.

KXAN has reached out to TxDOT and CTRMA for a response but have not heard back.

 

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