$5.88 million in credits slated for two Georgetown road projects

In May the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organizationu2019s policy board approved the 2019-22 TIP, Several of the projects could affect residents and travelers in and around Georgetown.

In May the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organizationu2019s policy board approved the 2019-22 TIP, Several of the projects could affect residents and travelers in and around Georgetown.

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Funding the future
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What are transportation development credits?
Georgetown road projects on FM 2243 and Williams Drive are included in a new wave of multimillion-dollar funding from the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization.

Earlier this spring, CAMPO’s policy board approved about $400 million in state and federal funding to be channeled into transportation projects in Central Texas over the next four years, including a number of projects near Georgetown.

FM 2243 and Williams projects are slated to receive $4.5 million and $1.38 million, respectively, through a federal funding tool called transportation development credits, or TDCs. Credits are created as a region spends funds from toll revenue on other transportation projects, according to CAMPO.

The millions of dollars in regional projects were selected May 7 as part of CAMPO’s 2019-22 Transportation Improvement Program, which is adopted every two years and lists federally funded and state-funded transportation projects in the agency’s six-county region of Bastrop, Burnet, Caldwell, Hays, Travis and Williamson counties. Regionally significant projects are also included in the program.

Local projects

The planning organization’s policy board is made up of 20 members, including 18 elected officials and representatives from Capital Metro and TxDOT, according to CAMPO’s website. Georgetown Mayor Dale Ross is a member of the board.

Williamson County is slated to receive $8.9 million in funding for a $158.3 million project constructing a new roadway along RM 2243 from Toll 183A in Leander to I-35 in Georgetown.

Williamson County Precinct 2 Commissioner Cynthia Long serves on CAMPO’s transportation policy board. She said TxDOT is finishing a high-level schematic for RM 2243.

“Utilizing that work, Williamson County, working with the cities, will take the design to the level of detail necessary to gain environmental clearance for what is planned to be a controlled-access roadway—i.e. no traffic signals— in the future,” Long said.

All of the projects included in CAMPO’s 2019-22 TIP total approximately $442.7 million, over the around $400 million allocated in funding.

“It’s a common practice to ‘overprogram’ in case a project isn’t ready in time, a project costs less than expected, or some other situation that would result in not using the full $400 million,” CAMPO Community Outreach Manager Doise Miers said. “This is done so CAMPO has other projects at the ready, and we don’t lose any potential ‘extra’ money to another [metropolitan planning organization] region in the state.”

Selection process

CAMPO is the region’s transportation planning agency and is responsible for distributing funding to regional projects, including improving and building roads, adding pedestrian and bicycle connections, improving transit, and improving safety and operations of roadways.

From December through mid-January, jurisdictions in CAMPO’s region as well as agencies such as the Texas Department of Transportation submitted transportation projects to be considered for the 2019-22 TIP, according to CAMPO documents.

The selected projects can receive funding from state and federal dollars, including from voter-approved propositions 1 and 7. The plan identified transportation projects that will begin construction work in 2019-22.

Jurisdictions and agencies had the opportunity to submit projects in six categories: roadways; operations and intelligent transportation systems, such as dynamic message signs; transit; active transportation, such as walking and biking; transportation demand management; and other nontraditional projects. Projects were scored in their individual categories.

CAMPO staff received a total of 140 project requests for funding, amounting to about $1.5 billion in funding needs, said Ryan Collins, CAMPO short-range planning manager, at the Feb. 12 policy board meeting.

The largest requests were for $126.5 million and $106.1 million from Williamson County for new roadways in the eastern part of the county, but the average request was for about $8 million, Collins said.

CAMPO staffers sifted through projects, rating each one on performance, such as a project’s impact on congestion and mobility, its regional impact and safety measures; a cost-benefit analysis; and project readiness, meaning how far along it is in the development process. Projects received an overall score, and the highest-ranking projects were recommended for funding, according to CAMPO documents.

After scoring the projects, CAMPO staffers presented the final list to residents at a series of open house events as well as posted the list online.

CAMPO’s policy board voted to adopt the new 2019-22 TIP at a meeting May 7, setting the stage for a variety of new projects over the next four years.

Transportation Credits

Georgetown projects on FM 2242 and Williams were among $13 million in transportation development credits approved by CAMPO’s board.

Last summer the agency updated its policy on using the credits for regionally significant projects as well as those in disadvantaged communities that have a higher percentage of minorities.

Projects approved in this round of credit requests were all included in the 2019-22 TIP. The credits will serve as a jurisdiction’s local funding match for the federally funded projects in the TIP. However, the jurisdiction must then spend funds initially intended for the project on another similar project, according to CAMPO.

For projects that receive transportation development credits, the federal government’s more stringent construction standards—such as using reinforced concrete instead of asphalt for roadways—can lead to increased project costs and project rescoping in order to stay within budget.

“Sometimes we have to rescope the project so much that it looks like a different project that did not go out for public comment,” CAMPO Executive Director Ashby Johnson told the organization’s board during a meeting in August 2017.

Additional reporting by Evan Marczynski