CAMPO board debates methods of subregional planning efforts in Central Texas

The Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization will create a committee for transportation planning in western Travis and Williamson counties and eastern Burnet County. This includes the entire length of RM 620.

The Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization will create a committee for transportation planning in western Travis and Williamson counties and eastern Burnet County. This includes the entire length of RM 620.

CAMPO study area The Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization is creating a committee to study mobility in western Travis, southwest Williamson and eastern Burnet counties. This map is a draft study area.[/caption]

Most drivers will not notice when they drive between counties, and that is where the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization assists with transportation planning among jurisdictions.

In spring 2015, jurisdictions in western Travis County felt the area was neglected by transportation planning and sought to target more efforts on congested roads such as RM 620, Loop 360 and RM 2222.

“Nobody’s done [new road options] in western Travis County for 20, 25 years,” Lakeway Mayor Joe Bain said May 9 during the CAMPO policy board’s meeting. “… Right now there are thousands of rooftops going up right along side [Hwy.] 71.”

That study area soon expanded to southwestern Williamson and eastern Burnet counties. Last June the CAMPO policy board—comprising elected officials and other stakeholders in Bastrop, Burnet, Caldwell, Hays, Travis and Williamson counties—identified $750,000 in federal funding for a CAMPO committee called the Midwest Subregional Study to analyze mobility in the area bounded by Hwy. 71, Loop 360, US 183, RM 1431 and Hwy. 281.

Because the Texas Department of Transportation already had corridor studies underway on RM 620 and Loop 360, the board elected to wait on kicking off the study until those studies were complete so the new committee would not duplicate those efforts.

Bruce Byron, TxDOT Austin District project manager for the Loop 360 and RM 620 studies, said the agency expects to have a final draft of the studies complete in August. He said he could update the board on the process so far at the next meeting and come back in August with a comprehensive presentation.

“This thing is fairly far along, and we don’t see anything that would preclude the initiation of the western Travis County study, in fact we think the two would be very compatible,” TxDOT Austin District Engineer Terry McCoy said.

Since identifying the need for a CAMPO committee, Travis County started working on its first transportation plan and will begin a public engagement process this summer, said Scheleen Walker, long-range planning manager for Travis County. The county previously used CAMPO’s regional long-range transportation plan.

Walker said as the region has grown and federal and state funding opportunities decreased, the plan became more regional in nature. She said the county wants the public to help fill in the gaps on existing plans, and a draft will be ready in 2017.

“It’s time for us to come in and do a transportation plan and include those lower-level roadways,” she said.

Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt said she took issue with the Midwest Subregional Study area because other areas of Travis County have transportation needs.

“What I fear with this western Travis County subregion is this is really some members of CAMPO asking CAMPO staff to override what Travis County is doing in regards to planning,” she said.

CAMPO policy board chair Will Conley, who is also a Hays County Commissioner, said the new committee needs to work with Travis and Burnet counties as they both create transportation plans to include the plans in the new study.

“We need to go back and have staff work with CAMPO, Burnet and the cities and figure out where we are not duplicating efforts and where the MPO can help in coordinating some of these subregional issues,” he said.
By Amy Denney

Managing Editor, Austin metro

Amy has worked for Community Impact Newspaper since September 2010, serving as reporter and senior editor for the Northwest Austin edition as well as covering transportation in the Austin metro. She is now managing editor for the 10 publications in the Central Texas area from Georgetown to New Braunfels. She enjoys spending time with her husband, son and two cats.