By RICH KEITH, Four Points News
The Texas Department of Transportation chief — in charge of nearly 200,000 miles of roads in Texas — encouraged guests at the Four Points Chamber of Commerce lunch to get involved in order to see changes.
“The only way to make changes in your roads is to become involved in the meetings where decisions are being made,” said Phil Wilson, TxDOT Executive Director and River Place resident. He was the guest speaker at last week’s Chamber luncheon.
“There is a new Texan moving here every seven minutes, and they are not bringing their roads with them; they are bringing their cars,” Wilson said.
Chamber attendees asked how the Four Points area can get the road infrastructure it needs, given it has poor representation compared to city and near-city locations.
“Every road project starts with a conversation with local people involved,” Wilson said. “Having a seat at the table is the way to start.”
Texas uses Metropolitan Planning Organizations, made up of county elected officials, city elected officials, and appointed city officers.
Capital Area MPO or CAMPO is the Austin area group.
Wilson said most Texas roadways take some 10 years from concept to reality, which includes environmental clearance (which in Austin can take longer than other areas because of the endangered species and preserves), right of way and land acquisition, the design phase and public comment periods.
Wilson suggested that local residents keep talking with the City of Austin.
“It is up to local communities to start the process,” he said.
Toll roads are “one tool in the toolbox,” and can be a viable option to look at for places like Austin, Wilson said.
He said while there are only 600 toll road miles in Texas, his agency has to take care of 190,000 so-called lane miles of regular roads.
When asked whether any toll roads will ever become free roads, Wilson said “no”. An experiment was done in the 1950s and 1960s in Dallas but today’s realities are different.
“When the lifecycle of a toll road is ended, it’s time to build a new one,” Wilson said.
Thus by the time Texas 130 is paid off in the future, a new road will be have to be built within three to five years, he said.
“Operation and maintenance is an extreme cost point. When you have $4 million to $5 million in shortfall, you need every dollar you can get,” he said.
Road to VHS, a local road project
Leander ISD President Pam Waggoner was at the Aug. 15 Chamber meeting.She is leading the Four Points Traffic Committee to seek approval for building a secondary access road from Vandegrift High School and Four Points Middle School campuses to the intersection of River Place Boulevard and Four Points Drive.
This access road would divert some of the 6,000 trips a day from RM 2222 and McNeil Drive and provide essential emergency access and a secondary evacuation route.
Per Wilson’s charge, these are the next three meetings to move the Four Points Traffic Committee’s proposal forward.
- Sept. 4: BCCP Scientific Advisory Meeting
- Sept. 10: BCCP Citizen Advisory Meeting
- Sept. 18: BCCP Coordinating Committee Meeting
Meeting times will be announced and sent to all who sign up at http://www.4pointstraffic.com/
“Recommendations from these meetings will determine whether this cause moves to the next level or not,” Waggoner said. In addition, citizens comments to the mayor and the committee will be taken.