Thursday, June 18th the Austin City Council approved an allegedly final $5.6 million pay increase for the contractors who built the Billion Dollar Mistake on the Lake, aka Water Treatment Plant No. 4. The payment was approved as a "settlement" of a dispute with the water plant contractors - and demonstrated yet again that the Austin Water Utility staff misled both the City Council and the public by insisting that the contract called for a "Guaranteed Maximum Price" and that the "Construction Manager at Risk" would be stuck with any cost overruns.
Last night our transportation deciders, the "CAMPO" board, voted 19-0-1 to approve a $35 billion "Long Range Plan" for the Austin five county region. Thanks go to Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt for at least abstaining and refusing to support this wasteful road map to failure. CAMPO and TxDOT's own experts admit that the plan will lead to worse congestion in the future, despite billions in new construction, much of it slated for building toll roads and adding toll lanes to existing highways.
Thanks also go to Austin Council member Ann Kitchen for putting language into the so-called "2040 plan" directing that ongoing Mopac studies evaluate options that would improve traffic flow without building four (4) toll lanes and a double-decker bridge over Lady Bird Lake.
Despite over 2000 letters, emails, and petition signatures, the 2040 plan also includes the proposed conversion of Mopac into Interstate 35 by way of building the SH 45 SW toll road. We don't know why City of Austin and Travis County representatives who campaigned against SH 45 SW and the expanded Mopac toll loop voted for the final 2040 plan.
Thank you to everyone who wrote, called, and spoke up against the Mopac 4 toll lane loop this last week or two. Your action made a difference.
Last night the City Council voted 9-to-2 on a resolution calling for CAMPO to not set the 4 toll lane option as the preferred option, but to study the 2-lane and misnamed "no build" options on equal footing. The toll agency, CTRMA, continues to push hard for the 4-toll scheme with the double decked bridge. The resolution, if followed by CAMPO, would have CAMPO vote on the final configuration after all of the studies are completed.
Last Wednesday US Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) officials sent letters to Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt, Travis County Commissioner Brigid Shea and Austin Mayor Steve Adler stating that there were still serious endangered species questions that the toll agency and TxDOT had failed to address in the agencies’ “state” environmental studies on the proposed 45SW.