Monday, April 9, 2012

Highway to the sky

Anyone who’s given the proposed Central Texas Airport a second thought has wondered just how FM 969 and FM 1704 could handle the traffic that would be generated by such a large project. Well, the revised Environmental Information Document (EID), likely at the USACE’s request, FINALLY addresses ground transportation issues:

“The construction of the CTA general aviation airport will generate additional traffic on FM 969. This may include, but not be limited to: construction personnel commuting to and from work and the delivery of construction equipment and materials intermittently.”

Note the careful wording that limits this assessment to the ‘construction phase’ of the project. No mention of what impact the ‘operational phase’ would have. In any case, the additional traffic will not only slow things down. It’s going to be downright DANGEROUS!

To alleviate congestion near the site, road ‘improvements’ are in the works. So not only will there be more traffic but short-term construction to deal with as well:

“In coordination with TxDOT, CTA will be making initial improvement to FM 969 and FM 1704 in the immediate vicinity of the proposed project during the Phase 1 construction activities. Expected improvements include controlled intersections and additional turn lanes.”

More long range traffic solutions mention the CAMPO 2035 Plan which includes upgrading FM 969 to a four-lane divided arterial from US 183 to Webberville and a Bastrop County Comprehensive Transportation Plan which would do the same for FM 969 and FM 1704. These projects are a loooong way off. But inquiring minds will wonder just where the money is coming from to implement these grandiose plans.

Yup, according to the EID, taxpayers are on tap to foot the bill. Please note the conditional tense in the last sentence:

“All Bastrop County taxpayers, including the CTA, pay a Road and Bridge Tax. The funds collected by the County are distributed to each County Precinct according to the amount of roadways and bridges within the Precinct. With the expected increase in real property tax value, and the economic growth associated with the CTA, Bastrop County and the affected Bastrop County Precinct should realize an increase in Road and Bridge Tax funds.”

So if Road and Bridge Tax revenue is inadequate, what other options are there? Maybe yet another toll road? Or a municipal bond to cover the cost?

A similar situation is currently playing out in Travis County with the developer of the F1 project. This statement from an April 5 article in the AAS - Circuit of the Americas seeks assistance from Travis County for roadwork - should give taxpayers pause:

“In his application for the development incentive, circuit President Steve Sexton wrote, “While we are asking for road incentives, you may still decide that the value of our proposal to county citizens is worthy of an abatement or rebate also.”"

Ah . . . developers LOVE those three magic words - incentives, abatement, rebate. If the CTA project moves forward, Bastrop County will likely be hearing a lot of them. Hold on to your wallets . . .

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