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Intersecting Ideas: Getting a Comprehensive Transportation System on Track

Transportation is a subject that’s spawned controversy in Central Texas for years, with passionate advocates and equally engaged critics. But the long-held consensus in our region has been that we need a comprehensive, multimodal transportation system — including roads, rail, express and local bus service, and routes for walking and biking— to address our current and future mobility challenges.

Reflecting this consensus, the CAMPO 2035 plan that guides our regional transportation investments includes several rail elements, in addition to the existing Capital Metro Red Line commuter rail service:

  • Commuter rail to Manor and Elgin (the Green Line or “Sausage Link,” using the right-of-way owned by Capital Metro);
  • A Round Rock/Pflugerville/Georgetown rail link connecting to the Red Line, for which the Mobility Authority oversaw a feasibility study concluded earlier this year;
  • The City of Austin’s proposed “urban rail” service, connecting Downtown, the Capital Complex, and UT on an “airport-to-airport” (Mueller to Bergstrom) alignment; and
  • Lone Star Rail District’s proposed inter-city passenger service from Georgetown to San Antonio, which would use the Union Pacific right of way that parallels MoPac.

These transit services are critical to implementing the CAMPO 2035 plan’s growth concept, which would allow Central Texas to channel more of our future population and employment growth into designated activity centers, including the urban core of Austin as well as surrounding communities. But bringing these transit options to life will require overcoming the same hurdles that confront nearly every major transportation investment in our region. Funding is tight, our needs are great, and our region is growing faster than we can build the roads and transit services that meet those needs.

That’s why it’s critically important that we make sure our regional plans for and investments in rail and other transit are carefully coordinated and efficient. We need to make sure we have an overall regional system that provides effective mobility, shapes future growth, and supports Central Texas’ goals for economic development and environmental stewardship.

How will we pay for building and operating this system? How will we ensure that it functions seamlessly to provide travelers with the connections they need? Who will be responsible for planning, operations and maintenance, and how do different agencies collaborate to perform that work? How does this system fit with our other transportation investments — our roads, sidewalks and trails, and bike routes? And how will we develop around transit stations to take advantage of the value these investments can create? These are all questions that must be addressed through ongoing regional dialogue, constant collaboration and transparency.

As our name suggests, the Mobility Authority’s scope of services involves more than just highways. Our role, mission and goals all support helping and adding value to the region’s transportation systems, whatever the mode. This does not suggest the Mobility Authority should get into the business of running rail or bus lines. But I do believe we can play a useful role as a convener and collaborator with our partner transportation agencies in Central Texas to make sure we organize and implement an integrated rail system, for several reasons.

As a regional agency serving all of Travis and Williamson counties, the Mobility Authority is well-positioned to work with all the jurisdictions and agencies that are currently exploring rail and transit options. Our own system of tolled highways — the current 183A, the in-progress 183A Extension and Manor Expressway, and the proposed MoPac Improvement Project — operate in the same corridors that are being or could be served by rail. To maximize the impact of successful mobility projects we believe transit systems should be developed in close coordination with all other modes of travel.

We have a long range transportation plan in the form of the CAMPO 2035 plan, with a wide range of multi-modal transportation projects submitted by various entities who are committed to working together to create a comprehensive regional transportation system. The Mobility Authority believes working together is critical to ensuring our future transportation network is affordable, efficient and effective. In parthernship with the City of Austin, Capital Metro, the Texas Department of Transportation, CAMPO and many others, we are working to pull together a regional symposium or workshop to study and discuss this critical issue. The Mobility Authority stands committed to facilitating the solution to our region’s mobility challenges.

7 years ago by in Uncategorized | You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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