CAMPO is still taking public comments on their 25 Year Transportation Plan, comments are being taken online until 5 PM Friday May 14th. All the information including copies of the plan so far can be found HERE.
Ben Wear has this recent article on the plan, CAMPO 2035 plan includes reduced road spending and much more for rail, other transit.
The new plan includes a much higher percentage of rail and other transit spending than its predecessor and a sharply reduced amount for maintaining highways. In the introduction, the plan claims to embrace a new philosophy of transportation planning based on encouraging dense centers of development rather than continuing suburban sprawl willy-nilly.
But even those working on the plan say the focus on centers — not an emphasis of previous plans — will make little real-world difference. The plan is only as accurate as its assumptions about the future, they said, and making predictions about the next quarter-century is inevitably an exercise in guesswork.
“To borrow a Hemingway phrase, it’s pretty to think we can plan 25 years in advance,” said Hays County Commissioner Jeff Barton , a Democrat who serves on the CAMPO board. “There’s value in the exercise, but we shouldn’t kid ourselves.”
What’s in the plan matters, however, because under federal law a transportation project can’t get federal dollars — almost all highway and transit projects are at least partially funded by the federal government — unless the project is in the long-range plan. But the 19-member CAMPO board, made up mostly of local elected officials from Travis, Williamson, Hays, Bastrop and Caldwell counties, can amend the plan at any time. And there will be another wholesale rewrite five years from now, five years after that, and so on.
And as we see later in the article there are some differences between Travis and Williamson and how they intend to proceed in the future.
$10.9 billion for highway and road expansion, a 6.5 percent decrease from the 2030 plan. And the drop would be much greater but for an aggressive forecast by Williamson County — some CAMPO members from other counties say unrealistically aggressive — that it will spend $4.3 billion on new roads. The plan assumes that Williamson County voters will approve $425 million in road bonds every other year from 2011 to 2027.
Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe, chairman of the CAMPO board, said having all that money in the plan, along with dozens of projects tied to it, would give Williamson County an unfair advantage in getting federal funds in future years. Travis County, by contrast, estimates it would have $1.1 billion for new or expanded roads over the next 25 years.
“We have to increase ours, or Williamson County has to reduce theirs,” Biscoe said. “I expect that to be discussed on May 24.”
Williamson County Commissioner Cynthia Long, vice chairwoman of the CAMPO board, said it’s a matter of need.
“What we’ve seen is very low tolerance among our citizens for congestion, and we are responding to that,” Long said. “Rather than asking why Williamson County’s number is so high, I would ask why Travis County’s number is so low.”
There was also this part which was pointed out by Texas TURF, Austin’s toll revenue projections cut in HALF.
$5 billion of state, federal and toll revenue for roads, down almost 56 percent from the $11.3 billion in the 2030 plan. That reflects the diminishing power of gas taxes to pay for new roads, a trend made worse in Texas because the state Department of Transportation in recent years has borrowed heavily against future gas tax revenue to pay for projects now completed. And the estimate of surplus toll revenue (what’s available after paying debt service and operations costs) from Central Texas turnpikes is down sharply, from $3.2 billion in the past plan to $1.3 billion.
As a result, local governments would contribute a greater portion of road spending, including state highways that historically were exclusively TxDOT’s province.
“That’s something we’re going to have to address at the state level,” Barton said. “And soon.”
That is not surprise because toll estimates, otherwise known as T&R (Traffic and Revenue) forecasts, are almost always inflated by consultants to make toll roads look too good to pass up.
Also remember that TxDOT is having it’s Austin hearing on their Statewide Long-Range Transportation Plan 2035 on Thursday May 13th.
4 p.m. – 7 p.m.
TxDOT Austin District Office
7901 North IH 35
Austin, TX, 78753