CAMPO commits $633 million to fund I-35, delays decision on specific choices for project deferrals

A $4.3 billion project on I-35 will add managed lanes through downtown Austin. To fund the project, the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization will defer $633 million worth of projects that had previously been approved. (Amy Denney/Community Impact Newspaper)
A $4.3 billion project on I-35 will add managed lanes through downtown Austin. To fund the project, the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization will defer $633 million worth of projects that had previously been approved. (Amy Denney/Community Impact Newspaper)

A $4.3 billion project on I-35 will add managed lanes through downtown Austin. To fund the project, the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization will defer $633 million worth of projects that had previously been approved. (Amy Denney/Community Impact Newspaper)

The Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization has bought itself some time to choose a specific list of projects to defund in order to funnel money toward I-35.

The Texas Transportation Commission is scheduled to vote April 30 on securing $4.3 billion to add managed lanes on an 8-mile stretch of I-35 through downtown Austin, from US 290 to Hwy. 71.

A portion of that funding—$633 million—will be diverted from local projects CAMPO has already funded.

Determining the specific projects that will be deferred in order to prioritize I-35 has been a source of contention among the CAMPO board, a planning organization composed of local government officials from across the Central Texas area.

On April 20, the day CAMPO was initially set to vote on the local projects to defer, the board instead voted to commit to the overall $633 million figure and to delay the vote on the specific projects until its June 8 meeting.


Tucker Ferguson, Austin district engineer for the Texas Department of Transportation, said he recognized the community importance of all the projects that could be up for deferral. He said the extra time will give the board to evaluate all the information to make some hard decisions.

“Every project we have on the list is important to the community because if they weren’t important to somebody, they wouldn’t be on the list in the first place,” Ferguson said.

CAMPO staff put together a draft list of projects to defer totaling $591 million ahead of the board’s April 6 meeting, but the relative weights of projects will change when staff adds scores to some projects. That process will happen in May ahead of the June decision.

“We are going to give those [projects] scores and be able to rank them against everything else. We feel we can go back, score the unsecured projects, slot them in and give you a true apples-to-apples comparison," CAMPO Executive Director Ashby Johnson said.

The initial draft included deferrals of projects in Western Travis County along RM 620 and Loop 360. Canyon Creek neighborhood resident Randy Lawson argued those should be prioritized and kept on the list to begin construction because the roads are overcrowded with traffic.

“Deferring these critical RM 620 projects that have already been approved, such as the 620-Anderson Mill Road intersection, and also many of the Loop 360 improvements, is just unacceptable, in my humble opinion,” Lawson said.

Travis County Commissioner Brigid Shea told her fellow board members she is concerned about the state’s funding sources for the I-35 project due to the volatility of TxDOT's revenue sources during the coronavirus pandemic. Earlier on April 20, U.S. oil prices fell below zero—and oil and gas taxes are one of the sources of revenue the state draws from.

The Texas Transportation Commission is scheduled to meet April 30. In a March 16 letter, Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, and Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, wrote to the commission asking it to delay adoption of the plan, which would lock the I-35 funding into place.
By Jack Flagler
Jack is the editor of Community Impact Newspaper's Central Austin and Southwest Austin editions. He began his career as a sports reporter in Massachusetts and North Carolina before moving to Austin in 2018. He grew up in Maine and graduated from Boston University, but prefers tacos al pastor to lobster rolls. You can get in touch at jflagler@communityimpact.com


MOST RECENT

The program, which began this week in San Marcos, gives Amazon and Whole Foods employees and contractors direct access to COVID-19 vaccinations. (Courtesy Amazon)
Amazon begins rollout of statewide vaccination clinics for employees

The program, which began this week in San Marcos, gives Amazon and Whole Foods employees and contractors direct access to COVID-19 vaccinations.

Photo of a home for sale
Central Austin housing market remains steep as area median home price reaches all-time high

Home prices in the Austin-Round Rock area have climbed more than 28% in the past year.

Residents ride bikes on Shoal Creek Boulevard in this photo from February 2020. Austin Water is taking on a project to replace water and wastewater lines in the Allandale neighborhood. (jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
Water line construction project begins in Allandale neighborhood

Once the improvements are made, customers can expect water and wastewater outages typically lasting a few hours as their service is connected to the new lines.

Austin FC supporters celebrate the official announcement of the team in January 2019. (Amy Denney/Community Impact Newspaper)
How, where to watch historic first Austin FC match April 17

Check out this list of breweries, pubs and restaurants around Central Texas that are hosting watch parties for April 17's inaugural Austin FC game.

Z'Tejas' chorizo dumplings are served on the Arboretum location's porch. (Iain Oldman/Community Impact Newspaper)
Z'Tejas to open in Avery Ranch; butcher, deli to open in Dripping Springs and more Central Texas news

Read the latest business and community news from the Central Texas area.

Maj. Vito Errico, left, and Maj. Jason Zuniga are co-directors of Army Futures Command's Software Factory, for which the first cohort of soldiers started in January. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
From a rifle to a keyboard: Army Futures Command opens Software Factory at downtown ACC campus

Twenty-five soldiers started in January as part of the Software Factory's first cohort. Gen. Mark Milley, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will be at the Rio Grande campus for a ribbon-cutting April 15.

Mobile Loaves & Fishes leaders and Community First Village residents unveiled the planned third and fourth phases of the Austin development for the formerly homeless April 14. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin's Community First Village for the formerly homeless announces 127-acre, 1,400-home expansion

Officials with the community, which is intended for residents who have experienced chronic homelessness, said that two new expansion phases are expected to begin development in 2022.

Photo of a sign that says "Travis County"
Travis County establishes new emergency rental assistance program for 2021

The program will provide $10.7 million in aid to county residents struggling to pay rent due to the pandemic.

Plank Seafood Provisions opened inside The Domain in late March. (Courtesy Richard Casteel)
Seafood spot opens in The Domain; All Star Liquor now serving Georgetown and more Central Texas news

Read the latest business and community news from the Central Texas area.

Federal funding is set aside for public schools to address effects of the pandemic. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Why Texas has not yet distributed $18 billion in federal funds intended for public schools

As budget decisions loom for school districts across Texas, state leaders are holding on to federal funds intended for public schools to use in addressing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas said power outages are not expected April 13, while requesting energy conservation. (Iain Oldman/Community Impact Newspaper)
UPDATE: ERCOT call for energy conservation ends April 13 without need for power outages

An ERCOT official said "tight" supply and demand conditions arose on the state's electric grid April 13 due to forecasting issues amid planned, seasonal maintenance outages by some power generators.