by BRAD ROLLINS
Responding to a last minute flurry of local requests, the regional transportation planning authority on Monday night added dozens of Hays County projects totaling at least $633 million to its program of new and expanded roads and other facilities for the next quarter century.
Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization’s board voted 17-2 to approve a final version of its 2035 master plan, a roadmap for transportation spending that is rewritten every five years. A number of roadways included in previous versions did not make the draft of the updated plan resulting in a late-hour push to have them included.
“It was a really good night for Hays County,” Hays County Pct. 2 Commissioner Jeff Barton said.
In addition to getting the Hays County projects added – and thus preserving their eligibility for future federal funding – officials also headed off an abortive effort from some Travis County leaders to remove Texas 45 Southwest from the plan. The 3.6 mile road, estimated costs for which range between $69 million to $92 million, would connect MoPac (Loop 1) in Austin to FM 1626 providing a preferred route for commuters who frequently cut through residential areas on Brodie Lane. In addition to the usual impediment – lack of funding – construction of the road has also been slowed by environmental opposition.
Travis County Commissioner Karen Huber had launched a campaign to take the road off the drawing board but that effort lost backing as Monday’s crucial votes drew nearer and Huber ultimately did not move to remove SH 45 SW.
Huber and former Sunset Valley Mayor Jeff Mills voted against the overall plan, advocates of which point out greatly increases projected funding for public transit-related efforts including buses and commuter rail.
Hays County Judge Elizabeth Sumter and San Marcos Mayor Susan Narvaiz voted with the majority for the new program, including the addition of projects in Buda, Kyle and San Marcos.
These include widening parts of U.S. 290, Texas 21, Ranch Road 12, RM 150, the Old Bastrop Highway and, in Kyle, building a new loop around the city. The plan also includes environmental and preliminary engineering studies for Texas 45 SW between FM 1626 and IH-35, which would connect the MoPac-to-1626 segment of SH 45 SW with the segment already built between IH-35 and the Texas 130 toll road.
Most of the local additions were encompassed within Hays County’s requests but the city of Buda submitted its own expansive list of projects, which totaled $149.3 million. These included expanding to four lanes parts of FM 967, FM 2001, FM 2770 and West Main Street; expanding West Goforth Street to two lanes with shoulders, hike/bike lanes and sidewalks; and building East Main Street and Robert S. Light Blvd. as new arterials. The city of San Marcos also requested $11 million to widen Hopkins Street between Interstate 35 and C.M. Allen Parkway.
As it happens, it was Sumter’s last meeting on the CAMPO board. On Tuesday, Pct. 3 Commissioner Will Conley and Pct. 1 Commissioner Debbie Gonzales Ingalsbe sponsored an item that would replace Sumter with Conley as Hays County’s representative on the board.
When the issue came up at the commissioner court’s weekly session, Sumter, who lost the Democratic Primary in March to Barton, said she would step aside and moved to name Conley, the court’s only Republican, as her replacement.
“It is time to hand the reins over,” Sumter said, prompting a round of praise from her colleagues.
Conley’s appointment could portend a fight for the position in January depending on election outcomes.
Barton, who represented the county on CAMPO as a commissioner in the 1990s, faces San Marcos physician Bert Cobb for county judge with two of four commissioner spots up for grabs – Barton’s to-be-vacated seat and that of Pct. 4 Commissioner Karen Ford.
Consequently, the court’s composition could change overnight from four Democrats and one Republican to the reverse. Or Republicans could win a majority of a court led by a Democratic judge.
San Marcos Mercury Editor and Publisher Brad Rollins writes about Hays County for the Hays Free Press where this story was originally published. It is reprinted here through a news partnership between the Free Press and the Mercury.Email | Print