November 06, 2013

TxDOT wants to cut losses on 130, toll I-35 in Austin

Well, this would be a new level of teh stupid: The Texas Department of Transportation’s Commission is considering proposals to add tolls to portions of IH-35 within Austin and converting the SH-130 toll road to a free-use road. 

I am assuming that our state's transportation leaders have broached such stupidity for political reasons, namely the possible bond default by Cintra/Zachry, Rick Perry's best buds since Trans Texas Corridor days, on the currently tolled Texas 130 of 80mph speed limits and no more than 80 cars per hour of traffic.

Anyway, here's the nut grafs, followed by my response:
TxDOT and local officials are considering more than $1 billion in possible projects that could relieve some of the congestion on I-35 through Austin, including adding toll lanes and redesigning frontage roads. Last month, the Austin City Council approved allocating $2 million toward TxDOT’s expenses to “evaluate creative solutions to reduce congestion and improve safety and mobility along and across I-35.” Redesignating a portion of SH 130 as I-35 and tolling those lanes remains an option, officials said.

“That’s what we’ll be looking at in the next nine to 18 months,” said Robert Spillar, transportation director for the city of Austin. “I think we need to consider every tool available to better manage I-35.” He stressed that he was not advocating for swapping a tolled highway and a non-tolled one.

First, where the hell are you going to put those toll booths for those lanes? And, unless it's going to be one fee for several straight miles of road, that question is double in spades for downtown, double-decked I-35.

Ditto on other things. I don't see how you can get much relief from redesigning frontage roads, because there ain't much room for that, either.

Second, unless you jacked the toll price for I-35 high, high, high, even if 130 now becomes free, I can't see this cutting downtown Austin traffic that much. And, if you do that, you need to upgrade mass transit to downtown, find new space for more Park-and-Ride lots, etc.

The problem, of course, is the city's exorbitant growth rate, combined with geography, especially being at the edge of the Hill Country on the west side.

Austinites like to compare their city to San Francisco, or maybe elsewhere in Silicon Valley. Due to the geographic issues, on freeways, L.A. is a more apt comparison.

And, the population issue is ridiculous. Travis County is expected to about double in 20 years, and Williamson to triple.

"Growth for growth's sake is the theology of the cancer cell." — Ed Abbey

As for TxDOT's side, outside of any Cintra/Zachry politics, this has to be its dumbest move since proposing that it double-deck the LBJ on the north side of Dallas.

I'm also suspicious of timing issues. Yes, a constitutional amendments election isn't high profile, but did TxDOT folks hope they would get some news camouflage?

And, per Burnt Orange Report, I wonder if this is the state's attempt to help salvage the private parties' credit rating.

No comments: