Why is there a land run on eco-sensitive sites in Travis County?
In May 2014, CAMPO opened the FYs 2015-2019 STP-MM Call for Projects. In response, the City of Lakeway resurrected an idea, that according to the Austin-American Statesman July 4th, 2014, had died nearly a quarter of a century ago. Under the encouragement of Lakeway City Council Member Joe Bain, who was driven to this idea after facing traffic trying to attend a Round Rock Express Baseball game, the City of Lakeway proposed building an elevated 6-lane toll road that would cross Lake Austin, bisect two nature preserves, including land owned by the Nature Conservancy, and divide pre-existing residential neighborhoods. They requested $3 million dollars be allocated to do a feasibility study of this $750 million dollar proposed project. CAMPO voted, on June 9th, in the affirmative to put that proposal on its auxiliary list for long-range transportation plans and further review prior to final approval.
Quickly, our fellow neighbors banded together to address the issue and created a STOP THE TOLL ROAD committee. The committee is comprised of residents from both Sienna Hills and Barton Creek West as well as individual land owners along Bee Caves Road and residents of Bee Caves. And, at CAMPO’s September 8th meeting, they spoke out against this proposed expressway.
The project, should it move forward, would traverse through many existing residential neighborhoods, require a new western bridge over Lake Austin, traverse Water Quality Protection Lands, bisect areas designated in the Habitat Conservation Plan, and run through areas designated in the City’s Balcones Canyonlands Conservation Plan. It would not, however, sit anywhere inside the jurisdiction of the City of Lakeway.
It is discouraging to see which projects are being considered in our County these days. First, the mega-sportplex is proposed to be built atop the foothills of our hill country on land known to be environmentally sensitive with endangered species habitat. And, now, an elevated toll road is being proposed to bisect lands already under conservation plans.
With both come mass traffic on Ranch to Market (RM) 2244, a road designated by the City of Austin as Hill Country Road Corridor with a Scenic Vista (Ordinance 25-2-1103/1101). With both come lights at elevated heights polluting our previously pristine dark skies. And, with both come large scale environmental compromise of eco-sensitive sites.
Why are these sites being selected? Why are our elected officials, from the local school board to the County, not responding with a decisive “No” to proposals that are at odds with common sense and environmental protection? The answer is unclear.
What we do know is that the foothills of our Hill Country have a very unique and multi-faceted ecological footprint. And, our land, water, and skies are finite resources; they cannot be duplicated once eliminated. There can be no mitigation, retrospectively offered, that will be sufficient enough to repair the damage proposed to be done. That is why we are coming together now. Together, we are stronger. Together, we make a difference.
It is with deep appreciation for our neighbors’ pro-active efforts, to oppose this project and to protect these environmentally sensitive lands, that the Westlake Neighborhood Alliance recognizes and supports their hard work.
Please take a few moments to learn more about the STOP THE TOLL ROAD committee and how you can participate before it’s too late. Visit their website, or you can click here to send an email for more information. Public comments to CAMPO are very important. Monday, October 6th at 12 PM is the deadline for concerned citizens to let CAMPO know their thoughts. Please see CAMPOTEXAS.org website.