Save our Springs Alliance sues Mobility Authority over MoPac South traffic report

Save our Springs Alliance lawsuit Bill Bunch, executive director of nonprofit Save Our Springs Alliance, said his organization filed a lawsuit Sept. 29 against the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority to release the traffic and revenue study completed in 2013 on the MoPac South project.[/caption]

Nonprofit Save Our Springs Alliance filed a lawsuit Sept. 29 against the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority to release a 2013 traffic and revenue study completed on the proposed MoPac South project.

SOS Executive Director Bill Bunch addressed the Mobility Authority board Sept. 30, explaining the need for the public to have access to the T&R study.  If the Mobility Authority releases the study, Bunch said the nonprofit would drop the lawsuit.

“This [study] is information, it’s data, it’s technical expert analysis that is driving your staff’s decisions and almost certainly was the fundamental piece of the picture that drove this agency to request an expansion of the proposed toll lanes on south MoPac from one lane in each direction to two lanes in each direction,” he said.

The Mobility Authority, which is overseeing construction of variable-priced toll lanes on MoPac from Parmer Lane to Lady Bird Lake, is going through the process of analyzing solutions for MoPac South from the lake to Slaughter Lane. Those solutions include adding one or two variable-priced toll or express lanes in either direction.

SOS filed a Public Information Act request for the T&R study on April 9, and the Mobility Authority responded April 30 that it believed the information was excluded from disclosure through the act because the study is a draft and will change.

“On the traffic and revenue [study], it’s been upheld several times by the attorney general that it is not subject to disclosure,” said Mobility Authority Executive Director Mike Heiligenstein, adding he has not yet seen the lawsuit. “We have maintained that policy. In particular in this case, we have so many iterations that anything we put out there right now relative to what we call sketch level is going to be significantly changed.”

SOS sued the Mobility Authority in 2014 to release the T&R study on the SH 45 SW project, and the Mobility Authority did release that information, which Bunch said was useful.

The Mobility Authority completed the traffic and revenue study in 2013, and Heiligenstein said the agency would not be able to get financing on a project with a T&R that is older than six months. He said with all the growth in population and employment Austin has had in two years it makes the study stale.

“People will draw conclusions based on an old T&R that may or may not be representative of what we end up choosing,” he said. "I that think that it would be disingenuous to release to the public information that we know will see a significant change.”

Heiligenstein said the Mobility Authority is already considering additional five concepts and other improvements for MoPac South, including adding direct connector ramps at the intersection with Hwy. 290 and reconfiguring the southbound exit ramp to Bee Cave Road. Many suggestions came from the community as well as from the cities of Austin and Rollingwood, Austin ISD and Travis County.

“What we end up with will be different than what we started with,” Heiligenstein said. “There are some tweaks we are going to do. All of those impact traffic and revenue.”
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By Amy Denney

Amy has been reporting in community journalism since 2007. She worked in the Chicago suburbs for three years before migrating south and joined Community Impact Newspaper in September 2010. Amy has been editor of the Northwest Austin publication since August 2012 and she is also the transportation beat reporter for the Austin area.


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