Public can weigh in on ending Lone Star RailA regional transportation planning agency starts a series of public meetings Aug. 29 to allow residents to weigh in on removing the proposed Lone Star Rail District line from the agency’s 2040 long-range plan.

On Aug. 8, the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization transportation policy board, which comprises local elected officials, approved a resolution initiating steps to conclude the environmental impact statement, or EIS; cease funding; and remove the $2.09 billion rail plan from CAMPO’s 2040 long-range transportation plan. The final decision to end LSRD will be taken during CAMPO’s Oct. 10 meeting.

Removing LSRD from the plan requires an amendment to the plan. As part of the amendment process, CAMPO will host nine public open houses, and the comment period will be through Sept. 26. A public hearing on 2040 plan amendments is set for Sept. 12.

Halting LSRD comes after Union Pacific Corp. terminated an agreement with LSRD in February that would have allowed the rail project to use the freight company’s existing lines and relocate regional UP freight to a new line to be built east of I-35.

CAMPO officials met with LSRD in the spring to see if there were any other viable routes, but board members expressed concern about a lack of progress in the project despite the spending of $30 million in state and federal funds.

“I want to put Lone Star in the rear-view mirror,” said Will Conley, a Hays County commissioner and chairman of the CAMPO board. “We have to have the responsibility to work with those in our region, the local jurisdictions, the Texas Department of Transportation and our friends at the [federal government] to develop and find the best solution to move forward.”

He said part of the approved resolution calls for asking the state of Texas to enter into a formal relationship with CAMPO and the Alamo Area Metropolitan Planning Organization to discuss other multimodal options between San Antonio and Georgetown.

The board also approved Aug. 8 an amendment to the resolution by Austin Mayor Steve Adler for a meeting with UP, TxDOT and members of the executive committees for CAMPO and AAMPO by Oct. 9. The goal would be to see if there are any other viable options in the existing EIS along UP’s line, he said.

“I want to use every good-faith attempt,” Adler said. “It sends a message to UP that we are headed in that direction and want to have that last conversation.”

Travis County Commissioner Gerald Daugherty said he supports ending LSRD but not trying to meet with UP once more.

“Union Pacific has just indicated for 12 years now that they really don’t have a lot of interest in waiting around for an organization. It’s not that Lone Star hasn’t tried,” he said. “We need to send a message that we are ending the funding from CAMPO tonight.”