Updated 03/18/2013 07:50 PM
Senate bill to allow transit planners to hold funds
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Local transportation planners are working to have control of their money, but critics say a power grab is at hand.
The Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization—or CAMPO—would benefit from a bill in the Senate which would allow them to keep revenues from local road projects and allot the money to future plans.
Currently, CAMPO is loaning money to the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority to build toll lanes on MoPac. That money will then be paid back over time.
Vincent May with Texans Against Tolls doesn't trust the motives of transit planners.
"It opens up the door to transportation projects that the people really don't want," he said.
May says that list includes rail projects—namely an expansion of MetroRail and creation of Urban Rail in Austin's core and the Lone Star Rail between San Antonio and Georgetown which is still in planning.
Vice Chair Sarah Eckhardt says CAMPO is leading the charge on toll lanes along MoPac, but the laws on the books were written before the days of Central Texas tolls.
"CAMPO is loaning money to the local tolling agency to build those lanes on MoPac,” she said. “If this bill was to become law, that money would be able to stay in the coffers of CAMPO so it could build lanes on I-35."
Eckhardt says involving the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority and TxDOT is too much red tape.
"Rather than having to rely on the RMA or TxDOT, we'd be able to receive those funds regionally generated and then utilize them regionally," Eckhardt said.
Mays said that goes against the core purpose of CAMPO, which is to plan projects.
"Other organizations like TxDOT or Capital Metro would build the transportation projects,” he said. “CAMPO wants to eliminate them and take total control,"
CAMPO leaders say they represent more people in Central Texas than the groups that handle the money now, but critics question the lack of oversight this move would create.