Travis County Commissioners Court unanimously supported building SH 45 SW during its Oct. 22 meeting.
The court approved a resolution by a 4-0 vote; Precinct 1 Commissioner Ron Davis was absent.
The vote followed more than an hour of public comment regarding the long-delayed roadway.
Several residents of the Shady Hollow neighborhood in Southwest Austin restated their support and emphasized the need for SH 45 SW; several environmentalists questioned how the road will be funded and what effects it will have on nearby groundwater resources.
Precinct 3 Commissioner Gerald Daugherty, a vocal advocate for the road, read the resolution.
"I don't think there is any question in anyone's mind that—even if they are not support of this road—that there is a need for a roadway like this in [transportation plans] and for it to be built and to move forward," he said.
SH 45 SW is a proposed 3.6-mile, four-lane limited-access tollway that, if built, will connect MoPac to FM 1626.
It was first discussed in the mid-1980s as part of a greater loop concept encircling Austin. In 1997, Travis County voters approved a standalone ballot proposition to use road bonds to purchase rights of way for SH 45 SW.
Work on the roadway has slowed for a variety of political, environmental and financial reasons.
In June, the Texas Department of Transportation and the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority started a new environmental study that is expected to be completed in 2015.
Carol Vance, president of the Shady Hollow Homeowners Association, said she hoped that there would be no further derailment of progress on the project.
Shady Hollow resident Pam Baggett said that Austin was the only city in Texas without a loop.
She said that it was more environmentally responsible to have traffic move quickly onto MoPac on a road with eco-friendly features than to keep traffic on a Brodie Lane, which is a two-lane road south of Slaughter Lane that has no environmental protections.
Shady Hollow resident Allen Barr said SH 45 SW would improve safety on Brodie Lane and near Bowie High School and Bailey Middle School.
Representatives from the Austin Chamber of Commerce and the Real Estate Council of Austin voiced their support for SH 45 SW.
Beth Ann Ray, vice president of regional infrastructure for the Austin Chamber of Commerce, said SH 45 SW was important for the regional workforce and delivering goods and services.
Bill Bunch, executive director of the Save Our Springs Alliance, said the organization has opposed SH 45 SW since it was first suggested in the 1980s.
He said the new environmental study is not yet complete and that the SH 45 SW subcommittee of the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization has not yet identified how to finance it.
It is assumed that SH 45 SW would be funded through local and state funds as well as toll revenue, Hays County Precinct 2 Commissioner Mark Jones told Community Impact Newspaper during an Oct. 8 open house.
Bunch also warned that building SH 45 SW would violate the city of Austin's federal permit protecting endangered species in Flintridge Cave in the Balcones Canyonland Preserve.
He argued that TxDOT traffic modeling suggested that SH 45 SW would increase traffic on MoPac and Brodie Lane and would divert traffic to areas over the aquifer.
Bunch said transportation authorities should improve Brodie Lane instead.
SOS Alliance Secretary Roger Baker claimed the road would increase sprawl in Hays County.
Sarah Eckhardt, former Travis County Precinct 2 commissioner, said it is no secret that she has opposed SH 45 SW.
She urged the court to use its influence to support Lone Star Rail and to build the road to minimize environmental impacts.
Eckhardt said it was understandable that residents of Travis and Hays counties want a way to get from their homes to work but that residents need to live and move throughout the environment without destroying it.
Daugherty addressed the timing of holding the vote when Davis, who has voted against the roadway, was not present.
Daugherty said he had asked Davis if he wanted the court to delay the vote so he could be present and said Davis raised no objection to moving forward without him.
Precinct 2 Commissioner Bruce Todd said he had helped create the Balcones Canyonland Preserve during a prior stint on the Commissioners Court, and he also referenced the debate prior to the building of MoPac.
Precinct 4 Commissioner Margaret Gomez said the court asked for the public's opinion back in the 1990s and had received their answer.
She said she supported economic development and the safety of children, referencing Brodie Lane.