Two weeks ago EOW posted on the upcoming series of “Open Houses” planned by the county commissioners seeking input on their 25 year transportation plan. Please see the current information on the county web site as the dates have changed.
- Precinct 1 – Monday, March 30, at the Rattan Creek Community Center, 7617 Elkhorn Mountain Trail, in Austin.
- Precinct 4 – Tuesday, March 31, in the Taylor Public Library Meeting Room, 801 Vance Street, in Taylor.
- Precinct 2 – Monday, April 6, at Pat Bryson Hall, 201 N. Brushy Street, in Leander.
- Precinct 3 – Tuesday, April 7, at the Central Maintenance Facility, 3151 S. E. Inner Loop, in Georgetown.
- County-wide open house – Thursday, April 16, from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m., in the Commissioners Courtroom in the Williamson County Courthouse, 710 S. Main Street, in Georgetown.
It is in the best interest for the future of Williamson County if we all show up to at least one of these meetings. That said, this is Williamson County, and we must be extremely skeptical of any plan that is being put forward by our one-party government that takes so much money from those that profit from transportation and development in this county.
A couple of interesting recent developments regarding transportation in the county came up this week. First, as reported by Philip Jankowski in the Taylor Daily Press (TDP) the upcoming plan will not come cheap, Report: $1.8 billion for transportation by 2035.
With projections that Williamson County’s population will top one million by 2035, a report by transportation consultants to the county projected more than $1.8 billion in transportation spending over the next 25 years.
The report indicates no matter what commissioners do in regards to road infrastructure, traffic will continue to get worse. The transportation plan recommends the construction of 116 miles of new roadways and 354 miles of roadway lane expansion to mitigate congestion.
Even if all those projects are pursued, the amount of “highly congested roadways” will grow from its current level of 17 percent to 32 percent according to the report. If none are pursued, 59 percent of roads in the county would become highly congested during rush hour.
The sky is falling, the sky is falling. Please, please commissioners, act quick, on this 25-year plan and save us.
Commissioners will consider approving the plan in early May. After which, the county will submit the plan to the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, the Austin-area regional transportation organization, which is also currently creating a 25-year plan.
Is it just me, or does it seem ludicrous to anyone else that the WCCC wants to decide on the fate of transportation in Williamson County over the next 25 years in a little over two months? You may also be wondering how they plan on getting that $1.8 billion. Well hold on to your hat, or wallet, all you conservative GOP voters out there, County backs car fee, and increasing the local gas tax too.
Williamson County Commissioners showed their support Tuesday for pending state legislation that would allow the county to pay for bonds with a gas tax or automobile registration fees.
The Local Option Transportation Act was authored by State Sen. John Carona (R-Dallas) and is currently being reviewed by the Transportation and Homeland Security Committee.
Commissioners voted unanimously to be included as an eligible local government entity, should the legislation be passed.
If the bill passes, Williamson County Commissioners have the power to call public elections to create new taxes or fees to fund transportation projects. Any new tax or fee would have to be voter approved. Possible funding sources could be a 10 cent gas tax, an additional annual vehicle registration fee for the county or one-time fees to new residents to the county.
“It gives local governments and local counties additional ways to get money by going to the voters. Everything has to be voter approved in a very transparent process,” Steven Polunsky, a spokesman for Carona’s office, said.
The bulk of commissioner’s discussion involved a vehicle registration fee in addition to the state registration fee. Commissioners could levy an annual fee between $10 and $60 on each of the 400,000 cars registered in Williamson County. Such a fee would garner between $4 million and $24 million of annual revenue to finance transportation bonds.
Here’s EOW’s take on the Carona’s plan, Enough of the half-measures and tinkering. In essence what the WCCC is doing is allowing a consultant to come up with this grandiose 25 year plan for transportation, and attempting to use fear and scare tactics, to trick county residents into voting for tax and fee, same as taxes, increases to pay for it. And the beauty, for the politicians, is that they put the burden for approving the money on the taxpayer. That’s what they wanted to do but it appears state Sen. Steve Ogden (R-Bryan) has, at least for now, blocked that option, Transportation bill clears first hurdle; opposition still lurks.
Williamson County, near Austin, would be excluded from the bill under another amendment adopted on behalf of Senate Finance Chairman Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, who is cool to the legislation and whose district includes the county.
In a vacuum, if you discount the last 17 or so years, there’s nothing inherently wrong with this so-called “local option” plan that’s being put forward. But we must remember that this huge hole we now have in our transportation funding infrastructure, in Texas and Williamson County, is because it has been neglected for the last 17 or so years. We’ve been sold a bill of goods over that time that we can have everything if we just lower taxes, and use toll roads instead. But as the cliche says, if something seems to good to be true it usually is, Forget Toll Roads Let’s Raise The Gas Tax – It’ll Save You Money.
Of course no one’s seen the plan yet, and we will likely get to see very little of it, and even less influence over it, before it’s approval in early May. I would advise everyone, but especially thos who own land in Williamson County, to show up at least one of these meetings and seriously scrutinize what your elected officials, and those who fund their campaigns, are proposing to do in your county over the next 25 years. As anyone in Liberty Hill can tell you our county elected officials don’t have a good recent tract record.