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Imagine Twelve Lanes of 24-hour, Interstate-35 Traffic on Mopac That’s the plan – if we don’t take action now

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The proposed 12-lane Mopac toll plan includes a mile long double-decker bridge over Lady Bird Lake, through Zilker Park, and wrapping around Austin High School.  If built, it would dump toll paying commuters on already overloaded Cesar Chavez and West Fifth streets, while sending the rest of the traffic north to 183 and beyond, including back to I-35.  The proposal would add more than 60,000 new car trips per day onto Mopac, diverted from Interstate 35 by way of the proposed SH 45 SW toll road.

 The renderings above show the proposed double-deck toll lanes crossing Lady Bird Lake and on top of the Roberta Crenshaw hike-and-bike bridge, next to Austin High School. The pictures don’t show it all, but they do show some of the worst aspects of the proposed Mopac/SH 45 SW toll loop – enough to unite Mopac commuters, Austin High School parents and faculty, Mopac neighbors and all of those who love Lady Bird Lake, Zilker Park, and Barton Springs as the Keep Mopac Local coalition. 

 Send an email message to our elected officials and consider a tax-deductible donation to support the Keep Mopac Local campaign.

The threat posed by the double-decked toll bridge to one of the most beautiful and iconic spots in Austin is directing public attention to the larger plan to convert Mopac from a local commuter highway to an Interstate 35 bypass.

The Mopac-to-I-35 loop project has been intentionally obscured by the fragmented, piecemeal action by our local toll road agency, the “CTRMA.” The CTRMA is still pretending that it is only looking at five pieces, or segments, of tolled roadway, that those pieces just happen to connect, end-to-end but they aren’t really building a Mopac/SH 45 SW toll loop.

As shown on the map linked above,  the five segments are (1) Mopac north of Cesar Chavez (under construction, one new toll lane each way), (2) Cesar Chavez to Slaughter Lane (the now proposed 4 toll lanes, 2 each way, including the double-decked flyovers), (3) Slaughter Lane to SH 45 SW, called the “Mopac Intersections” project, (4) Phase I of SH 45 SW from Mopac to RM 1626, and (5) Phase II of SH 45 SW, from RM 1626 to I-35 and the SH 45 SE toll road. TxDOT is also building a Mopac bicycle bridge over the Barton Creek Greenbelt: when completed it will allow TxDOT and CTRMA to claim another lane for auto traffic, for a total of twelve (12) lanes.

This is a terrible idea that will convert Mopac into an alternate I-35. It will make Austin uglier while making traffic worse.  This is a classic case of myopic toll road planners damaging a city in order to ”save" it.  

It’s the wrong toll road in the wrong place at the wrong time.   Unplanned growth has produced big traffic problems for Austin, but this scheme won’t help; it will actually hurt the city.

While other cities are dismantling freeways along their waterfronts, Austin will be pouring pavement on its own – and forcing the expansion of Cesar Chavez into Lady Bird Lake park.  Other cities, including Dallas, are working to remove ugly, polluting double-decked freeways within their urban areas, the CTRMA wants us to build a new one on top of Zilker and Lady Bird Lake parks and Austin High School. If built, it will do profound harm to our national image, as well as degrading the city’s beauty and our quality of life.  This is a classic case of killing the goose that laid the golden egg in the name of toll road “progress.”

TxDOT’s own studies show that if their proposed Mopac/45SW toll road plan is built , they will divert a river of traffic from I-35 to MoPac, which will become the alternate route for regional north/south traffic through Austin.  As an I-35 bypass, a Mopac/SH 45 bypass would be nine miles shorter than the SH 130 bypass. For interregional traffic going to and from US 183, the proposed Mopac/SH 45 SW toll loop would become the preferred route.

CTRMA argues that the four extra toll lanes are being proposed as a means of easing Austin traffic. In reality they will choke Central Austin traffic by pouring tens of thousands of extra cars onto Caesar Chavez and Fifth Streets, which cannot handle the traffic increase.  Because there’s not enough right-of-way on Fifth, the only way to “fix” this nightmare will be to widen Cesar Chavez St., paving more Lady Bird Lake park land and further ruining the tranquility and beauty of the lake.

 We are being asked to sacrifice our heritage and ruin the city’s quality of life so we can move Hays County toll traffic into the city faster and cut ten minutes off the drive time  between San Antonio and Dallas.   

“Pave Paradise and Put Up A Parking Lot” should be the honorary title of the South MoPac/SH 45 SW toll loop. It’s everything that Austin’s not supposed to be – paving our most treasured river front property, paving our most favored and iconic central city park, paving Austin High School, paving the Barton Creek Greenbelt, and paving endangered species habitats and critical recharge lands for the soul of Austin, Barton Springs.

It doesn’t have to be this way! It’s time to tell the CTRMA and all of our local officials to stop the piecemeal study and construction of the Mopac/45SW tolled loop. The 4-toll lane Mopac proposal and the SH 45 SW Phase I segment should both be put on the shelf until we have an honest, comprehensive study of the entire Mopac/45SW loop project.

 
 

May 2015 Update

On Monday May 11th, our transportation deciders, the "CAMPO" board, voted 19-0-1 to approve a $35 billion "Long Range Plan" for the Austin five county region. Thanks go to Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt for at least abstaining and refusing to support this wasteful road map to failure. CAMPO and TxDOT's own experts admit that the plan will lead to worse congestion in the future, despite billions in new construction, much of it slated for building toll roads and adding toll lanes to existing highways.

Thanks also go to Austin Council member Ann Kitchen for putting language into the so-called "2040 plan" directing that ongoing Mopac studies evaluate options that would improve traffic flow without building four (4) toll lanes and a double-decker bridge over Lady Bird Lake.

Despite over 2000 letters, emails, and petition signatures, the 2040 plan also includes the proposed conversion of Mopac into Interstate 35 by way of building the SH 45 SW toll road. We don't know why City of Austin and Travis County representatives who campaigned against SH 45 SW and the expanded Mopac toll loop voted for the final 2040 plan.

This is just another step in a larger and longer battle over the 45SW/Mopac toll loop project. Thanks to CTRMA's proposed double-decker bridge monstrosity, voters and community leaders are waking up to the toll agency's push to convert Mopac into Interstate 35 West. This battle will continue in the months and years ahead. Please stay tuned and stay engaged. Read SOS Alliance Executive Director Bill Bunch's guest editorial in the Monday's Statesman here. Together we can win a better, more affordable and more sustainable future for Austin and the Hill Country.

   

March 2015 Update

March 2015 Update

“If you connect Mopac over to Interstate 35 by building SH 45 Southwest, traffic on Mopac blows up.”

 

--Mike Brown, transportation engineer, Metro Analytics

Consultant to KeepMopacLocal.org


The campaign to Keep Mopac Local is now heating up. The next six months will likely determine whether the Austin community has a real voice in deciding whether or not Mopac is converted into Interstate 35 West -- bringing interstate-scale traffic and noise into west and southwest Austin. Your voice and participation are needed to keep Mopac local, keep I-35 traffic on I-35, and protect Barton Springs.

Limited transportation dollars should be spent first improving I-35 and supporting development in our preferred growth corridor, between I-35 and SH 130.

Our friends at TxDOT and CTRMA are slowly being exposed for their “hiding in plain sight” ruse of building a Mopac expansion/SH 45 SW tolled loop while pretending that they are not building a tolled loop. For public consumption and environmental review purposes, they have chopped up the

They only look at each piece, pretending as if they stand alone and do not add up to the real, tolled loop project. By looking only at the pieces, they assume the whole will be built without ever actually examining the proposal as a loop.

Recent press attention to the divide-and-conquer approach was triggered by CTRMA and TxDOT hosting an “open house” meeting on that portion of the tolled loop that would run from Cesar Chavez across Lady Bird Lake and down to Slaughter Lane. The proposal includes a double decker bridge over the lake to accommodate “direct connector” lanes funneling traffic to Cesar Chavez and downtown. You can view proposed detailed designs and design schematics from the February 26th meeting here.

Please take a minute today at this link and send a single email to TxDOT, CTRMA, and our local officials. Urge them to study the whole loop proposal as one project, before building any part of it; to keep I-35 traffic on I-35, to keep Mopac a local commuter highway, and to not build a double decker toll bridge over Lady Bird Lake.

Read more...

   

Mike Brown on SH45

Mike Brown of Metro Analytics tells the truth about SH45.                  view larger

Brigid Shea

Travis County Commissioner Brigid Shea:

Jim Harrington, Texas Civil Rights Project Executive Director

Jim Harrington, Texas Civil Rights Project Executive Director

Attorney Marisa Perales

Attorney Marisa Perales:

Clark Richards, son of the late Governor Ann Richards

Clark Richards, son of the late Governor Ann Richards

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