Opposition to proposed elevated double-deck bridge mounting

Rollingwood resident Wendi Hundley said she walks her three children to Zilker Park daily for fresh air and exercise along Lady Bird Lake. She said she is opposed to the section of the proposed MoPac South project that would add an elevated, double-decked toll road over the lake.

“We use the park all the time, and if the toll road is built there would be lanes of traffic,” Hundley said. “It will forever change this metropolitan area.”

She also said she fears vehicles will be diverted through her neighborhood adjacent to the proposed project when the roadway becomes full.

“Once you build [the tollway], you can’t take it away,” Hundley said.

Rollingwood City Council heard Hundley’s testimony April 15 before unanimously approving a resolution opposing the double-decked, elevated bridge and agreeing to work with the city of Austin and Travis County to determine an alternative to the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority bridge proposal.

A public forum at Austin High School was held March 30 by environmentalists as well as Rollingwood and Austin residents opposing the project.

As a result of this community feedback, CTRMA Executive Director Mike Heiligenstein stated in a May 1 web post that the agency will hold another open house this summer, extend the project study by three to six months, and host neighborhood meetings to share information.

Rollingwood weighs options

At its April 15 meeting, Rollingwood City Council reviewed options to oppose the double-deck bridge that the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization approved April 13 to be included in its 2040 draft plan.

“I was left with the impression that the reason [CAMPO] needed the elevated bridge over Lady Bird Lake is that they were taking two express lanes down to one express lane,” Rollingwood Mayor Thom Farrell said. “And they said to us, ‘We don’t have any other way to route the traffic.’”

The City Council discussed hiring a lobbyist to help further advance their opposition to the double-deck toll road but decided to consult with an attorney first to determine the city’s rights.

Farrell said the city of Rollingwood needs to work with Austin’s Transportation Department to introduce a plan that can handle the same traffic capacity but without the upper deck.

“I think the city of Austin is willing to look at this with us as an alternative because they have just as much to lose on this as we do,” he said.

Double deck OK’d by CAMPO

The MoPac South proposal, including an elevated, double deck bridge across Lady Bird Lake, was approved by CAMPO’s Transportation Policy Board April 13 as a proposed amendment to its draft 2040 plan.

Travis County Commissioner Brigid Shea said she opposed the measure, opting for board members to incorporate an earlier plan that included only one lane in each direction on the tollway crossing the lake. She said the change to two lanes in each direction adds a double-deck bridge over the lake to accommodate the total of four lanes.

Shea said her concerns about the proposal focus on the road’s technical feasibility, effect on connecting roadways and environmental compliance.

“It just strikes me that if any of the other communities here learned of a pretty dramatic change to a toll road project in the middle of their downtown, and asked for a consideration to not vote to put it in the [2040] plan, or rather vote for the less-intense version and allow more time to study the impact of it, we would support that,” Shea said. “That’s a reasonable request, it seems to me.”

CAMPO’s policy board will vote on the draft 2040 plan May 11.