Tollway in Southwest Austin could face further delays

Tollway could face further delaysMid-October could mark a turning point for the SH 45 SW project—a proposed 3.6-mile toll road that would connect Loop 1 with FM 1626 in Hays County.

In September a federal judge denied a motion by the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the Keep MoPac Local Coalition. That group is made up of residents who want transportation authorities to look at SH 45 SW and other area projects as a whole and not individually. Now the parties must await a new ruling that will mean the difference between breaking ground and facing further delay.

Moving forward

Bill Bunch, executive director of Save Our Springs Alliance, which is part of the coalition, said in mid-October there will likely be a preliminary injunction hearing. If the judge grants the coalition an injunction, that could delay the project.

Coalition members cite concerns, including environmental impacts and how expanding Loop 1 would affect Austin High School, Bunch said.

“What we’re after under the law is not anything that says, ‘You can’t ever build this,’” he said. “It’s, ‘You have to do an honest study comprehensively looking at the whole thing rather than ... putting on blinders and looking at each piece in isolation.’”

The coalition wants to prevent clearing the SH 45 SW right of way until a trial on the merits of the case can take place, he said.

Preventing clearing could push back the project by a year, Mike Heiligenstein, Mobility Authority executive director, told Community Impact Newspaper.

“It would be a disappointment to have to have another year’s delay on something that is so badly needed,” Heiligenstein said.

But if the judge rules in favor of the Mobility Authority, construction could begin by late October, he said.

Hays County Commissioner Mark Jones said SH 45 SW could benefit his constituents in Precinct 2, which includes Buda and parts of Kyle.

“It could save [drivers] anywhere from 25-40 minutes a day,” he said.

Shady Hollow resident Pamela Baggett said Brodie Lane was not built with the capacity and safety features necessary for the amount of cars that drive on it today and that SH 45 SW should be built now.

“We have been dealing with this now for almost 30 years,” she said.

Plans for SH 45 SW date back to before 1997, when voters approved $3.5 million to buy land for the road, Travis County Commissioner Gerald Daugherty said, adding the design for the road is environmentally sound.

“This road is needed even more than [when] it was first talked about just because of the growth that we have,” he said.

Among the entities opposing the road is the Friendship Alliance of Northern Hays County. President Rob Baxter said the group represents people who live along FM 1826 and West Hwy. 290 who will be negatively impacted by SH 45 SW if it is built.

“We’re not rock-solid environmentalists,” Baxter said. “The big picture is this roadway is just going to clog up MoPac. MoPac needs to be widened ... in order to accommodate traffic.”

  Daugherty says he looks forward to seeing whether the judge grants an injunction.

“We’ll just wait and see,” Daugherty said.

By Kelli Weldon
Kelli joined Community Impact Newspaper as a reporter and has been covering Southwest Austin news since July 2012. She was promoted to editor of the Southwest Austin edition in April 2015. In addition to covering local businesses, neighborhood development, events, transportation and education, she is also the beat reporter covering the Travis County Commissioners Court.


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