Jollyville salamander studies await access for FP Traffic Committee’s Road to Vandegrift project

By CASSIE MCKEE, Four Points News

Jollyville Plateau Salamander  Credit: City of Austin

Jollyville Plateau Salamander    Credit: City of Austin

The Four Points Traffic Committee’s Road to Vandegrift campaign has hit a roadblock as it awaits access to do studies of the Jollyville Plateau salamander, which was recently placed on the extinction list.

Representatives from Leander ISD and Four Points Traffic Committee met with officials from the Texas Department of Transportation on June 24 to discuss plans for the proposed new road to Vandegrift High School.

Pam Waggoner, LISD School Board President and Four Points Traffic Committee founder, said the proposed improvements would make a big difference for those traveling in Four Points but there is still plenty of opposition for the new road.

537“We suspect that opposition will come from a variety of people involved in different ways with the Balcones Plan,” Waggoner said. “We believe that their main concern is to avoid creating a precedent for future uses within infrastructure corridors. There will also be concern given the proximity to the recently listed Jollyville Plateau salamander.”

She said LISD officials still need permission from Travis County to access the property to do studies on the Jollyville salamander since it was put on the extinction list after the Four Points Traffic Committee began their campaign.

The red line represents the proposed Road to Vandegrift on this Texas Department of Transportation map.

The red line represents the proposed Road to Vandegrift on this Texas Department of Transportation map.

“We need access from Travis County to their lands within the infrastructure corridor and coordination with United States Fish and Wildlife Service on monitoring protocols,” Waggoner said. “The studies would be conducted by biologists employed by SWCA who are covered by an endangered species scientific research permit from USFWS.”

She said the study could take up to three months. FP Traffic Committee requested access to the infrastructure corridor from July through September.

“The proposed studies are necessary to help LISD construct and operate its desired access road in a manner that avoids, minimizes and mitigates the impacts of any take of listed species to the maximum extent practicable,” Waggoner added.

She said the number one goal of the FPTC is the safety of local students and staff entering and exiting the VHS and FPMS campuses, especially in the event of an emergency.

“As a parent and a trustee, my sole reason for wanting this road into VHS and FPMS is safety,” Waggoner said. “While I feel we have an adequate evacuation plan in case of an emergency, it could only be improved by having a second escape route. It is without question this road is needed and should be built. In fact, the BCCP covenants allow for this kind of progress.”

Waggoner said she urges Four Points community members to continue attending meetings by TxDOT and the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization to voice their support for the project.

TxDOT Spokesperson Kelli Reyna said the agency will continue to work with officials and citizens to develop feedback and ideas for development, but stressed that funding is still the determining factor.

“Currently, no funding has been identified and no decisions are final for any of the proposed improvements, at this time,” Reyna said.

In May, TxDOT unveiled a regional transportation plan which included plans for a new road to be built off of Four Points Drive behind Four Points Middle School and VHS. The plan also includes another turn lane onto McNeil Drive from RM 2222, and additional lanes on RM 2222 from McNeil Drive to River Place Boulevard.