Traffic congestion in Four Points got a lot of attention during the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization’s public comment period for its 2017-2020 Transportation Improvement Program.
Nearly 90 percent of the comments — or 129 of the 145 total — that CAMPO received during its open comment period that ended June 29 were issues involving RM 620 and RM 2222, said Brian Thompto, who was at the CAMPO transportation policy board meeting last week on July 6.
“The CAMPO board did receive the message from the public,” Thompto said. “We don’t have the funding yet, but it is clear that this project needs funding and seems important to them.”
The local feedback helped put RM 620/RM 2222 improvements back on the CAMPO list of potential near-term projects that could be fast-tracked if funding is identified. The local, Four Points improvements were removed from the 2017-2020 plan recently due to lack of funding.
All projects in the Transportation Improvement Program or TIP must have funding available and be scheduled to begin construction in the four-year TIP window, said CAMPO’s spokesperson Doise Miers.
“While the RM 2222/620 bypass project does have authority for preliminary engineering as it is in the planning stages, it doesn’t currently have construction funding; therefore, it does not meet the criteria to be included in the main list of projects in the 2017-2020 TIP,” Miers said.
However, it is included in appendix G of the 2017-2020 TIP along with other projects that have preliminary engineering, studies, and development work to complete before being eligible to be included in the main body of the TIP document, Miers explained.
The Texas Department of Transportation Austin district is the RM 2222/620 bypass project sponsor and continues work to develop the project.
“Once construction funding is identified for this project and it is ready for construction, TxDOT will submit this project to CAMPO for inclusion in a future TIP, or if it progresses quickly, as an amendment to be included in the 2017-2020 TIP,” Miers said.
So even though the proposed improvements to RM 620 and RM 2222 are not funded at this point, “great things did happen because the right amount of attention was given about this intersection,” said Thompto, chairman of Steiner Ranch Neighborhood Association and director of community relations and mobility with the West Austin Chamber of Commerce, formerly the Four Points Chamber.
“It was good to see, a lot of discussion on 620 and 2222,” Thompto added, referring to last week’s CAMPO meeting. He said there were several good questions that kept popping up.
Brigid Shea, Travis County Commissioner in Pct. 2, questioned, “Why shouldn’t this important project be in the position to have funding.”
Another question was, why aren’t improvements on RM 2222 and RM 620 already on the top of the list to get funding from CAMPO. The answer was that CAMPO already has a list of prioritized projects.
But Thompto found out that this priority list was formulated in 2011 and has not been updated.
“The list from 2011 hasn’t been re-scrubbed, hasn’t been vetted since then in the context with other projects and needs,” Thompto said.
He was glad to see others at the CAMPO meeting show concern that these critical, Four Points roadway improvements should be on the high priority project list.
“Ultimately we need the city to provide primary funding that will allow the other parts like CAMPO, TxDOT and the county to add funds to get this done in a timely fashion,” Thompto said.
“There are projects waiting for funding for 20 years, we can’t wait that long” he said. “The first, best-step is for the city of Austin to step up to move forward with the bond, and provide sufficient funds for 620/22222.”
$720 million transportation plan
The $720 million transportation plan that was proposed on June 23 at the Austin City Council meeting has $101 earmarked for “regional mobility improvements” including work on RM 620 and RM 2222, Loop 360, Anderson Mill and Parmer Lane.
Calling this bond election will require another vote in August before it could be put on the November ballot. At the August meeting, the mayor and council will work on the language in the measure, decide on final funding allotments and pinpoint the improvement projects to be included.
“The only issue as we get closer to August is did they allocate enough money to 2222/620,” Thompto said.
The RM 2222 and RM 620 roadway improvements include expanding RM 2222 to add a lane in each direction from McNeil Drive to west of River Place Boulevard, expand the RM 2222/River Place Boulevard intersection to allow concurrent lefts, fork the RM 620/RM 2222 intersection with separate traffic flowing north vs. south, and adding additional lanes to RM 620 northbound toward RM 2222 that will connect to RM 2222 through a new connector, bypass.
The council is in the stage where members are working on the language. “They’ve been in a state of refinement. We need to watch very closely so 620/2222 improvements can be implemented in a timely manner.”
Email support for Four Points improvements:
• Before August, contact the mayor and city council members supporting the transportation plan and allocations for projects specifically along RM 620 and RM 2222. To send feedback to all members, go to: www.austintexas.gov/email/all-council-members or email them individually.