by BRAD ROLLINS
Local and regional officials have resolved a conflict with the Federal Highway Administration over whether construction of Cement Plant Road overpass in Buda qualifies for nearly $7.3 million in funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Hays County Pct. 2 Commissioner Jeff Barton said.
The bridge would connect the Buda truck bypass, officially named Robert S. Light Street, on the west to Hillside Terrace and residential neighborhoods on the east. In June, the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization board voted to fund the overpass out of $29.1 million it had to dispense from federal stimulus package transportation money.
Since then the Cement Plant Road overpass has “died and come back to life three or four times,” Barton said, most recently when FHA officials said the project did not qualify for stimulus money. CAMPO and Texas Department of Transportation officials maintained that it does qualify for stimulus money.
“The threat came from a narrow, bureaucratic interpretation of arcane rules,” by the FHA, Barton wrote local leaders on Sept. 17. The county maintained the project’s benefits are “‘operational’ and not designed to create ‘additional capacity.’ This may seem like a distinction without a difference to you, but definitions matter in determining whether we can qualify under existing environmental approvals or have or go through a lengthy process that would, in effect, disqualify us as ‘shovel ready.'”
Federal officials have since said the overpass is eligible for stimulus funding, Barton said.
“There are few details to work out still but I think we’re all confident that we’ve dodged the bullet and that the remaining details are just that: minior issues and paperwork that can and will be resolved,” Barton wrote.