By CASSIE MCKEE, LYNETTE HAALAND, Four Points News
Officials from Leander ISD will meet with representatives from the City of Austin and Travis County this week to hear their proposals regarding the construction of a new 1-mile road through the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve to Vandegrift High School and Four Points Middle School.
Pam Waggoner, Leander ISD School Board President and leader of the Four Points Traffic Committee advocacy group, is ready for the Jan. 23 meeting.
“We are not discouraged. We plan to continue working to build this road along side the improvements we want to 2222,” Waggoner said. Those potential improvements would include another lane along RM 2222 and improving the road’s intersection with McNeil Drive.
Meanwhile, LISD is also moving forward with plans to file its own permit with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that would allow construction of a new road. She said the district hopes to have the application completed later this month.
The USFWS can give a permit to lay the road through the preserve. It is called an incidental take permit which is required for nonfederal entities to do projects that could harass, harm or kill the endangered species in federally protected areas like the Balcones, the law states.
LISD retained noted environmental attorney Alan Glen to work with them on this. The 1-mile stretch of land is owned by different parties including Travis County. “We may need to purchase private land, that could be by easement or fee title,” Glen said.
USFWS permits require the builder to create a conservation plan, which Glen said the district is working on. He added even if officials get the green light from USFWS, the process can take two years or longer, and LISD would still need city approval or a partnership with the county to build the road.
Background on Four Points Traffic Committee
The traffic committee first announced its efforts for the new road in spring of last year. Waggoner has been a vocal advocate for the new road, saying it is necessary to provide second entrance and exit for the school in the case of emergency or natural disaster.
The mission of the Four Points Traffic Committee is to protect the community, students and environment by planning and building a secondary access road from VHS and FPMS campus to the intersection of River Place Boulevard and Four Points Drive. The committee says the 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.
Members of the committee spoke at a meeting of the Balcones Canyonlands Conservation Plan (BPCC) Coordinating Committee, which has authority over the land preserve, in the fall to show their support for the new road. The committee earned its hearing time due to the overwhelming community support of the Four Points Traffic Petition, signed by more than 3,000 local residents.
The BCCP Coordinating Committee, led by Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell and Travis County Precinct 3 County Commissioner Gerald Daugherty, did not vote on the issue.
Waggoner said the committee was asked in December to slow down its efforts and allow the city and county to gather information and create some alternate proposals that would solve some of the congestion issues around the intersection of RM 2222 and McNeil Drive, and also allow emergency access and a secondary evacuation route.
She said the group has laid low since then but is now eager to hear the city and county proposals.
“I will have to see what their ideas are,” Waggoner said. “It’s all up in the air.”
Waggoner said a community meeting is planned for later in the month.