On Aug. 8 the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization transportation policy board, which comprises local elected officials, approved initiating steps to conclude the environmental impact statement, or EIS, cease funding and remove the $2.09 billion plan from CAMPO’s 2040 long-range transportation plan. The final decision to end LSRD will be taken during CAMPO’s Oct. 10 meeting.
This move comes after Union Pacific Corp. told LSRD in February it terminated an agreement with LSRD that would have allowed a commuter rail project to use the freight company’s existing lines and relocate regional UP freight to a new line to be built east of I-35.
CAMPO officials met with LSRD in the spring to see if there were any other viable routes, but board members expressed concern about a lack of progress in the project despite the spending of $30 million in state and federal funds.
“I want to put Lone Star in the rear-view mirror,” said Will Conley, Hays County Commissioner and chairman of the CAMPO board. "We have to have the responsibility to work with those in our region, the local jurisdictions, the Texas Department of Transportation and our friends at the [federal government] to develop and find the best solution to move forward.”
He said part of the approved resolution calls for asking the state of Texas to enter into a formal relationship with CAMPO and the Alamo Area Metropolitan Planning Organization to discuss other multimodal options between San Antonio and Georgetown.
The board also approved Aug. 8 an amendment by Austin Mayor Steve Adler to meet with UP, TxDOT and members of the executive committees for CAMPO and AAMPO by Oct. 9. The goal would be to see if there are any other viable options in the existing EIS along UP’s line, he said.
“I want to use every good-faith attempt,” Adler said. “It sends a message to UP that we are headed in that direction and want to have that last conversation.”
Travis County Commissioner Gerald Daugherty said he supports ending LSRD but not trying to meet with UP once more.
“Union Pacific has just indicated for 12 years now that they really don’t have a lot of interest in waiting around for an organization. It’s not that Lone Star hasn’t tried,” he said. “We need to send a message that we are ending the funding from CAMPO tonight.”
San Marcos Mayor Daniel Guerrero, who was the lone dissenting vote, said he is disappointed in the CAMPO board’s vote and hoped there would have been a different approach to commuter rail.
The San Marcos City Council voted July 5 to reaffirm support for LSRD, and Guerrero said he voted against initiating the process to cease funding and conclude the EIS for that reason.
“It’s still a project that I think is necessary for the region,” he said. “It’s just a matter of identifying a means to be able to get to that end. I think the approach CAMPO is taking from a fiduciary standpoint is the right approach. I would have hoped Lone Star Rail would have found a means to be able to develop some type of strategy to get us closer to an agreement that CAMPO would have been more accepting of.”
To amend the CAMPO long-range plan, the agency will host nine public open house events, and the comment period will be open Aug. 29-Sept. 26.
CAMPO will host a public hearing on the removal of the LSRD line from the plan, as well as any other amendments, on Sept. 12. The board will vote on those amendments during its Oct. 10 meeting.