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“Think traffic on Mopac is bad now, imagine 30,000 more cars per day once SH45 SW is built”

Is this what Austin needs? We don't think so.

meridia

Don't be fooled. Stop 45 SW and the conversion of Mopac into a second I-35!

State highway planners are trying to pull a fast one on Austin. At different times they talk to the public about five separate toll projects in southwest Austin, but they rarely connect the dots. The reality will be a massive 12-to-16 lane, partially tolled highway loop from I-35 south of Austin west to Mopac and north to Lady Bird Lake and beyond.

 

Once it’s completed, and the traffic floodgates open, we can kiss Austin’s quality of life goodbye. As traffic expert Mike Brown says, if South Mopac is connected to I-35 by constructing the proposed SH 45 SW, then traffic on Mopac will “explode” and you simply cannot add enough lanes to Mopac to accommodate all of the traffic. (continue reading here)

September Update  -- And what you can do!

Send an email message to Governor Abbott and other state and local officials today.

Have your neighborhood or civic group pass a Keep Mopac Local resolution like this one.

Donate to support the Keep Mopac Local coalition – fully tax-deductible.

The federal lawsuit filed in February by two former Austin mayors, the Friends of the Wildflower Center, Save Barton Creek Assn., Save Our Springs Alliance, Susan and Jerry Jeff Walker, and others now heads toward a likely hearing on preliminary injunction in mid-October.   TxDOT’s partner, the CTRMA, awarded a construction contract for the SH 45 SW portion of the 45SW/Mopac toll loop on July 27th.  CTRMA lawyers say their current plan is to begin clearing the toll road right-of-way on or soon after October 24th.
 
Absent a preliminary injunction from the court, this construction would be allowed to proceed – starting with the cutting down of hundreds of trees, many of them decades old oaks and ash juniper.  These trees provide important habitat for the endangered Golden-cheeked warbler, a migratory songbird that nests in Central Texas woodlands and nowhere else in the world.

In August TxDOT sought to legalize this destruction of warbler habitat by requesting to come under the county wide endangered species permit jointly held by the City of Austin and Travis County.  That request was rejected by the City, and, as reported by the Statesman, TxDOT now says it will forge ahead regardless of harm to the endangered songbird.

The primary claim in the federal lawsuit is that TxDOT and CTRMA improperly “segmented” the environmental review of the 45SW/Mopac toll loop expansion into three separate studies so as avoid a comprehensive analysis of the environmental impacts of and potential alternatives to the three-part project.  However, a second claim is that building SH 45 SW requires federal approval that has not been secured because of the resulting harm to the endangered songbird and the listed-endangered Austin Blind and Barton Springs salamanders.


Plaintiffs in the case won the first round on September 6th when U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel denied the Defendants' Motions to Dismiss the case.  Read the Statesman story and the Austin Monitor coverage at the links. The court's order is here.


This is just the first round.   Next Judge Yeakel will decide if Plaintiffs are entitled to discover agency documents relevant to TxDOT's decisions to chop up the toll loop into four separate pieces for purposes of environmental analysis.  TxDOT and CTRMA have opposed all discovery of agency documents which they have not deemed part of the official "administrative record." 


While CTRMA pushes for a late October start date, it still does not have approved financing from the Texas Transportation Commission.  CTRMA also does not have an approved TCEQ Water Pollution Abatement Plan for the SH 45 SW construction. 


The best way to keep up with new developments as they unfold  is to sign up for the Save Our Springs Alliance email news list here

April 2016 Update – What you can do!

Send an email message to Governor Abbott and other state and local officials today.

Have your neighborhood or civic group pass a Keep Mopac Local resolution like this one.

Donate to support the Keep Mopac Local coalition – fully tax-deductible.

The citizen campaign to stop the backdoor conversion of Mopac into a second I-35 continues to gather steam. In late February citizen leaders and civic groups working with the Keep Mopac Local coalition filed suit in federal court to stop the toll loop project without required federal environmental studies and approvals. Read the lawsuit here and the press release here.

The suit was filed by citizen activist Shudde Fath; Austin music community stalwarts Susan and Jerry Jeff Walker; aquatic biologist Dr. Laurie Dries; former Austin mayors Carole Keeton and Frank Cooksey and civic groups Save Barton Creek Association, Friends of the Wildflower Center, Mopac Corridor Neighbors Alliance, The Friendship Alliance of Northern Hays County, Save Our Springs Alliance, and Clean Water Action.

The lawsuit against TxDOT and its toll road partner, the CTRMA, will not likely be resolved until late fall or possibly early next year.

More recently, Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt wrote a stern letter to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service urging them to inform TxDOT and the CTRMA of their obligations under the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. In previous letters analyzing the situation, USFWS made it clear they agreed with this perspective, but used sufficiently mushy language for TxDOT to ignore the Service’s position.

We’ll now see if USFWS will be a bit more blunt on the matter. It should be, armed with the new information that Golden-cheeked warblers have returned to mapped warbler habitat on and immediately adjacent to the proposed route for SH 45 SW Phase I. City biologists have confirmed the presence of warblers with multiple observations. TxDOT funded research by biologists for Texas A&M predict even more birds are or will be nesting on and along the SH 45 SW right-of-way (without the road, of course). The harm that will be done to the listed “endangered” songbirds triggers a legal mandate to secure Service approval for “incidental take” of songbirds prior to construction. So far, TxDOT has ignored this legal mandate. The new information and the lawsuit should change this matter.

Two other developments have arisen to give pause to TxDOT’s governing board in moving forward in the face of these mounting legal problems. There is a growing anti-toll road movement among both Republic and Democrat state officials that makes it harder for the Texas Transportation Commission and Governor Abbott to continue debt-financing of unpopular toll roads. There is also now a push to “untoll” SH 130, so that it will serve its role of relieving congestion on I-35. This is a much preferred option over pumping more than a billion dollars into converting Mopac into an I-35 relief route passing through established neighborhoods in central south and north Austin.

There is also a growing call to protect the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center from the noise, air, water, and visual pollution that would come with building the 45SW/Mopac toll loop and diverting 30,000 cars and trucks per day past the Wildflower Center. The Friends of the Wildflower Center group (not affiliated with the University of Texas or the UT-owned Wildflower Center) is standing up to protect the Center from the proposed toll loop. The group consists of former Wildflower Center board members and current Wildflower Center volunteers and donors. This action by true friends of the Wildflower Center is necessary because UT is not authorized to take action against its sister state agency, TxDOT.

For more information check out the Friends of the Wildflower Center website and take a minute to send a message to Governor Abbott to protect Lady Bird’s legacy.

For more information: Contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Send an email message to Governor Abbott and other state and local officials today.

Have your neighborhood or civic group pass a Keep Mopac Local resolution like this one.

Donate to support the Keep Mopac Local coalition – fully tax-deductible.

The federal lawsuit filed in February by two former Austin mayors, the Friends of the Wildflower Center, Save Barton Creek Assn., Save Our Springs Alliance, Susan and Jerry Jeff Walker, and others now heads toward a likely hearing on preliminary injunction in mid-October.   TxDOT’s partner, the CTRMA, awarded a construction contract for the SH 45 SW portion of the 45SW/Mopac toll loop on July 27th.  CTRMA lawyers say their current plan is to begin clearing the toll road right-of-way on or soon after October 24th. 

Absent a preliminary injunction from the court, this construction would be allowed to proceed – starting with the cutting down of hundreds of trees, many of them decades old oaks and ash juniper.  These trees provide important habitat for the endangered Golden-cheeked warbler, a migratory songbird that nests in Central Texas woodlands and nowhere else in the world.

In August TxDOT sought to legalize this destruction of warbler habitat by requesting to come under the county wide endangered species permit jointly held by the City of Austin and Travis County.  That request was rejected by the City, and, as reported by the Statesman, TxDOT now says it will forge ahead regardless of harm to the endangered songbird.

The primary claim in the federal lawsuit is that TxDOT and CTRMA improperly “segmented” the environmental review of the 45SW/Mopac toll loop expansion into three separate studies so as avoid a comprehensive analysis of the environmental impacts of and potential alternatives to the three-part project.  However, a second claim is that building SH 45 SW requires federal approval that has not been secured because of the resulting harm to the endangered songbird and the listed-endangered Austin Blind and Barton Springs salamanders.

Plaintiffs in the case won the first round on September 6th when U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel denied the Defendants' Motions to Dismiss the case.  Read the Statesman story and the Austin Monitor coverage at the links.   The court's order is here.

This is just the first round.   Next Judge Yeakel will decide if Plaintiffs are entitled to discover agency documents relevant to TxDOT's decisions to chop up the toll loop into four separate pieces for purposes of environmental analysis.  TxDOT and CTRMA have opposed all discovery of agency documents which they have not deemed part of the official "administrative record." 

While CTRMA pushes for a late October start date, it still does not have approved financing from the Texas Transportation Commission.  CTRMA also does not have an approved TCEQ Water Pollution Abatement Plan for the SH 45 SW construction. 

The best way to keep up with new developments as they unfold  is to sign up for the Save Our Springs Alliance email news list here. 



Future View

Proposed toll loop showing three segments of proposed Mopac toll lanes (1,2,3) and two segments of proposed SH 45 SW toll road (4 and 5) and interim "alternative" loop, expansion of FM 1626.

<p style="text-align: justify;"><strong><em>“If you connect Mopac over to Interstate 35 by building SH 45 Southwest, traffic on Mopac blows up.”</em>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; --Mike Brown, transportation engineer, Metro Analytics</strong><br /><br />(For the fun part, go straight to our new, short videos of transportation engineer Mike Brown talking about what building SH45 SW would do to Mopac traffic, and of rainfall runoff flowing into the spectacular Flint Ridge Cave. TxDOT and Travis County have a legal obligation to protect Flint Ridge Cave as a preserve, yet the proposed road would pass directly above the cave and cut through the bowl that drains to the mouth of the cave.)<br /><br />Here’s a more detailed summary of where we are as of late October 2014:<br /><br />In October, 45SW proponents pushed to tie up $15 million in non-voter approved Travis Co. debt for the proposed 45SW aquifer toll road before a new Commissioner’s Court takes office in January.&nbsp; <br /><br />But otherwise, the project – and the larger 45SW / expanded Mopac loop – faces growing public opposition and legal hurdles. The toll road authority (CTRMA) and TxDOT hope to gain approvals for the project in early 2015 and initiate construction in late 2015, but that plan seems less likely every day.</p>
<hr id="system-readmore" />
<p style="text-align: justify;">The U.S. Fish &amp; Wildlife Service, the City of Austin, and experts for the Keep Mopac Local coalition and Save Our Springs Alliance all filed lengthy technical objections to literally hundreds of scientific and legal deficiencies in TxDOT’s environmental review of the proposed SH 45 SW toll road.&nbsp; <br /><br />Read the U.S. Fish &amp; Wildlife Service comments on TxDOT’s draft environmental review <a href="/phocadownload/fwssh%2045sw%20deis%20comments-1.pdf" target="_blank"><strong>here</strong></a>.<br /><br />Wade through the more than 500 comments of the City of Austin <a href="/phocadownload/coa%20comments%20on%20deis.pdf" target="_blank"><strong>here</strong></a>.<br /><br />Read comments from KML consultant Dr. Lauren Ross, environmental engineer, <strong><a href="/phocadownload/dr.%20ross%20eisreview20140813%203.pdf" target="_blank">here</a></strong>.<br /><br />Read comments from conservation biologist, Dr. Hayley Gillespie, <strong><a href="/phocadownload/gillespie_es_sh45eis_comments.pdf" target="_blank">here</a></strong>.<br /><br />Read comments from KML transportation experts Norman Marshall and Mike Brown <strong><a href="/phocadownload/marshall%20sh%2045%20deis%20comments%20v1.pdf" target="_blank">here </a></strong>and <strong><a href="/phocadownload/shared%20solution%20alternative%20to%20mopac-sh45sw%20loop%20august%202014.pdf" target="_blank">here</a></strong>.<br /><br />TxDOT claims it expects to complete a final environmental review by January 2015 and then initiate final project design. But new caves are being found along the right of way and basic field research has yet to be completed.<br /><br />On October 16th a 6-to-1 Austin City Council majority voted to instruct city lawyers to explore the City’s legal options on the proposed 45SW/expanded Mopac loop. On the same day the Council also instructed city transportation staff to report back in November on ways to improve traffic flow on Brodie Lane.&nbsp; Since traffic counts show that roughly 80 percent of traffic on Brodie south of Slaughter Lane is local, neighborhood traffic, the council observed that improvements to Brodie would be helpful regardless of the future of the proposed SH 45 SW.<br /><br />Also of note, while TxDOT and CTRMA continue to push the piecemeal extension of 45SW and expansion of Mopac in separate but simultaneous environmental and public input processes, their mopacsouth.com website has not been updated since April and their sh45sw.com website has not been updated since August. (So much for keeping the community informed.)<br /><br />Please stay informed here at KeepMopacLocal.org. And if you have not already, please send a message to our state and local officials urging them to halt the proposed 45 SW project until there is a comprehensive study of the environmental, traffic, and financial costs of the entire, proposed 45SW/expanded Mopac loop – from I-35 at SH 45 SE across to the southern end of Mopac and up to Cesar Chavez.<br /><br />The real project is a loop. This basic fact should be acknowledged and studied before diverting more traffic from I-35 to Mopac. An honest study will tell&nbsp; us that we should keep mopac as a local commuter traffic rather than convert it to an Interstate 35W alternative.</p>
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Mike Brown on SH45

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Mike Brown of Metro Analytics tells the truth about SH45.

Brigid Shea


Travis County Commissioner Brigid Shea.

Jim Harrington


Jim Harrington, Texas Civil Rights Project Executive Director.

Attorney Marisa Perales


Attorney Marisa Perales.

Clark Richards


Clark Richards, son of the late Governor Ann Richards.

Flint Ridge Cave Recharge


Video showing the Flint Ridge Cave recharge feature.

SOUTH MOPAC NEIGHBORS' ALLIANCE

For more information and daily updates, please visit the South Mopac Neighbors' Alliance Facebook page.

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