Initial comments of the Save Our Springs Alliance on CTRMA’s “Virtual Meeting” for the restart of its proposed Mopac South project
Extend the comment period at least 30 days. The comment period fell entirely over the holidays. CTRMA’s MopacSouth.com website for the project says in bold at the very top “Latest News 08/08/2017”, which of course tells the reader that nothing is going on worthy of attention. Much of the remaining information on the site is also confusing. Extending the comment period and correcting the misinformation will help ensure robust and full public input.
Prepare a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). As proposed, the project would add 16 to 32 lane-miles of impervious cover within the Recharge Zone for the Barton Springs segment of the Edwards Aquifer. The project will have substantial adverse impacts on Barton Springs, the Edwards Aquifer, Zilker Park, Lady Bird Lake, the Hike and Bike Trail, Austin High School, the Barton Creek greenbelt, and the endangered Barton Springs and Austin blind salamanders. Given the size of the project and ecological sensitivity of the area, the project will have unavoidable and significant environmental impacts. Preparing an Environmental Assessment in pursuit of a “finding of no significant impact” demonstrates bad faith for the entire environmental review process.
Do not build a double-decker bridge over MoPac, Zilker Park, Lady Bird Lake, and Austin High School. Avoid taking any park land or encroaching on Austin High School property.
Fully evaluate a “no build” or “very limited build” alternative that improves traffic flow using the existing pavement, including dedicating an existing inside lane to rush hour “high occupancy vehicles” (HOVs) and public transit, utilizing ramp metering, and updating traffic modelling that recognizes a post-covid world where tele-commuting, flexible work schedules and other technological and societal changes have largely eliminated the necessity of spending more than half of a billion dollars trying to accommodate previously predicted “single occupancy vehicle peak hour demand” increases.
Update the traffic modeling data and give the public another opportunity to give input before selecting a “preferred alternative.” The Open House materials indicate that the traffic data uses the 2009 model that supported the long-range 2035 CAMPO regional plan. The materials further state that it will be updated to 2045 data at a later point (presumably after the initial public comment period has ended). CTRMA should update MoPac information with current data and a functional traffic model—and allow public comment on that analysis. The 2035 model, now more than 10 years old, was problematic then and virtually useless now.
Updated traffic modeling should include COVID traffic counts and the best current information on projecting traffic flows, recognizing that improved transportation technology will greatly increase efficient use of the existing pavement. The giant leap forward in telecommuting means a different world in the future. Neither the 2035 Model nor the 2045 model has any conception of this new world. Both also ignore the “induced demand” problem that has shown, time after time, that expanding roadways in urbanizing areas fails to reduce congestion to any significant degree.
Analyze real alternatives to added toll lanes. The six “alternatives” offered are all variations on one concept—adding toll lanes to MoPac South. Analyze a range of alternatives that make better use of existing pavement and take into account changing traffic patterns. Specifically, analyze an alternative that involves converting inside existing lanes to rush hour HOV lanes with little or no additional pavement as an option in the analysis—and pursue in the interim as a test solution for very little money.
Do not ignore the challenge of getting Mopac traffic from the off and on ramps at Cesar Chavez all the way into and out of downtown.
Analyze the climate change impacts of building more capacity for single-occupancy vehicles, as well as climate change impacts of increased concrete.
Buy mitigation land to offset increases in impervious cover from the project and from induced impervious cover from secondary development.
TAKE ACTION NOW!!
The comment deadline for the initial comment period is this Friday, January 7th. (Of course, CTRMA was so respectful of public comment that it played the standard trick of setting the public comment period to run over the holidays.) Please take a look at the above comments and then please write your own official comments here or email MoPacSouth@ctrma.org, using ours for guidance. Most importantly, please ask that the comment period be extended for at least 30 days following the publication of current relevant traffic data and analysis.
This resurrected really-bad-idea is being pushed forward with traffic data and analysis that is more than 10 years old. If built, it would convert Mopac from a local commuter highway into a western alternative for I-35 (think I-35 West). Its construction and operation pose a major threat to Barton Springs, Zilker Park, Lady Bird Lake Park, the Butler Hike & Bike Trail, Austin High School, and the Barton Creek greenbelt. We fought it off once and with your help we can do it again.